PSA: You needn’t replace to iOS 15
Enlarge / It’s okay to hit the pause button on iOS 15 if you want to.
Apple today releases iOS and iPadOS 15 following the announcement at WWDC earlier this year and the usual public beta. The new software will run on every single iPhone and iPad that could run iOS or iPadOS 14, except for the iPad Air 2 from 2014 and the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus from 2015 back.
Ordinarily, this would mean the end of iOS 14. If Apple patched a major zero-day vulnerability in iOS next week, you had to move to iOS 15 over the past few years to get the fix on whether or not you wanted to use the rest of the features. But as of this year, that will no longer be the case. If you want to postpone the iOS 15 update by a few weeks or months, you can do so without missing any important security updates. This is because Apple plans to continue updating iOS 14 – not just for old devices, but for any phone or tablet running iOS 14 or iPadOS 14.
This update policy change brings iOS and iPadOS closer to macOS. Apple is providing feature updates for the latest macOS version and important security updates for the two previous macOS versions for a total of three macOS versions at the same time. Apple doesn’t commit to the same policy with iOS (and the macOS policy is nowhere specifically mentioned as Microsoft does with its software versions), but security updates for even a different version of iOS are an improvement.
Enlarge / Apple will continue to release security updates for iOS 14, at least for now.
There are many reasons why you might not want to install an x.0 version of a new operating system once it comes out. Most of Apple’s major software updates are usually tied to the September launch window set in stone for new iPhones, and early releases can contain serious bugs that Apple was unable to fix before the software shipped. You may be concerned about the performance of new software on your old device (although it’s been years since a new version of iOS made older devices feel excruciatingly slow, which is one reason we’re not getting iOS 15 on old devices as usual testing ). Or maybe you want to wait for the apps you rely on to be updated for the new operating system, just in case one of Apple’s changes affects important functionality.
This policy change also extends the life of devices that cannot be upgraded to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS. You might not have noticed, but for the past two years Apple has quietly released iOS 12 updates just for security for the 2013 iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and iPad mini 2, and the 2014 iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Neither of these devices made the cutoff for iOS 13, but people who didn’t have to or couldn’t buy a new device could continue to use it without worrying about corrupting core functionality or putting their data at additional risk. It’s a responsible move from a company that has had more software support than the best Android phone manufacturers for years.
We’ll see if this affects the adoption rate of new iOS versions, and how aggressively Apple tries to get people to upgrade from iOS 14 to iOS 15 over time. On the Mac, the first update offered to you for old versions of macOS will be to upgrade to the next version, if your Mac supports it – you’ll need to click the Other Updates button to see the security updates available for Mojave or Catalina to display.
If you can install iOS 15, this is probably what you want. There are always a few features worth upgrading for, be it FaceTime screen sharing, iPad home screen widgets, or even new emojis. And you won’t be able to run iOS 14 forever. Apple will end it at some point, and third-party apps may also no longer support it as their developers’ attention shifts to iOS 15 and newer versions. It’s just nice to have the opportunity to wait a while if you want to skip the bugs and teething troubles that come with most brand new operating systems.