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How to check if your iPhone model is obsolete (and what to do if it is)

Is your iPhone model obsolete?

You can assume that it could never become obsolete and see how Apple reckons each model as "state-of-the-art" at launch. But nothing lasts forever. Apple actually maintains a list of "vintage and obsolete" products that it updates every year.

Specifically, the "vintage and obsolete" mark means that Apple has stopped hardware support for these devices. But, as we will explain, Apple tends to cancel software updates for the smartphones before it stops hardware support. Thus, it may be worth upgrading to a new iPhone before becoming a digital antique.

What are really "Vintage and Obsolete" iPhones?

  iPhone 4 in the setup screen
Image Credit: VanveenJF / Unsplash

Apple distinguishes between "vintage" and "outdated" devices. But for most purposes, these labels are only identical.

An "obsolete" iPhone is one that Apple has stopped all hardware support for in all regions, without exception. This means that repair shops and other service providers cannot order outdated repair parts.

A "vintage" iPhone is essentially the same as an outdated iPhone. The only difference is that anyone who bought the device in California can still get hardware support when it breaks. Importantly, the "vintage" mark also applies to Mac products purchased in Turkey.

This means that if you bought your iPhone in one of the 49 other states in the United States (or elsewhere in the world), you won't get any help from Apple. In that case, you may also consider that the iPhone is obsolete.

Is my iPhone out of date?

You can check if the iPhone is obsolete by visiting Apple's regularly updated list of vintage and obsolete products. With regard to the iPhone, Apple tends to update it once a year. This usually happens around September and October (revealing the latest iPhone model).

To save you time, here are the iPhone models Apple currently classifies as "obsolete":

  • iPhone
  • iPhone 3G [19659015] iPhone 3GS 16GB, 32GB
  • iPhone 4 CDMA, 16GB, 32GB

And here are the iPhone models that Apple has classified as "vintage":

  • iPhone 3GS 8GB
  • iPhone 4 CDMA 8GB
  • ] iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 5

As we mentioned, "Vintage" iPhones effectively obsolete unless you bought your in California. Models bought in the Golden State can still receive hardware support from Apple.

It is worth pointing out that Apple has rules to classify a product as obsolete or vintage. "Vintage" devices are those that ran between five and seven years ago. "Discontinued" here means that Apple has stopped producing and selling that device. For example, the iPhone 5 was discontinued in September 2013, and therefore received the "vintage" mark in October 2018.

Apple states that the "obsolete" label applies to devices terminated over seven years ago. However, it still classifies the iPhone 4 as obsolete, although this model was also discontinued in late 2013. It therefore appears that Apple does not always follow its declared obsolete device policies. It can lead to obsolete status on certain phones early.

What can I do if the iPhone is obsolete and destructive?

 Cracked obsolete iPhone

If your iPhone is obsolete and needs a hardware repair, Apple won't fix it for you. Licensed repair services that source new parts from Apple are also out. This includes work like a new battery, replacing the charging lock, installing a new home button, replacing the chip or getting a new camera lens.

Having said that, you may still be able to get the iPhone fixed (if you really wanted to) by finding replacement parts yourself. By searching eBay, for example, you may be able to find what you need. You can then take them to a workshop to get the job done. It is also possible that some repairers may find necessary parts themselves (from a source other than Apple). However, you run the risk of using sub-pairs of components that can work.

Of course, this will probably be an expensive and time-consuming process. If you have an old iPhone 4 or 5 that breaks, you're probably best off spending your money on upgrading to a new phone. If you don't want to buy a brand new device, look at buying a used or refurbished iPhone

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. This will probably cost less money than repairing your current phone.

Do I need to upgrade my iPhone before it's obsolete?

Although the iPhone is neither "obsolete" or "vintage", it may still be a good idea to upgrade to a newer model. For example, even though the iPhone 5 was obsolete only in October 2018, Apple stopped software support for it in September 2017. When iOS 11 was released, the iPhone 5 was not compatible.

Because of this, the iPhone 5 missed out on important software updates that make it safer and add features. Because they couldn't update to iOS 11, owners of the iPhone 5 could potentially endanger themselves.

This is why it is wise to upgrade your iPhone even before Apple decides it is "obsolete". When it stops receiving new software updates, it can't keep up with newly discovered errors and software issues.

So what is the typical iPhone life cycle? The iPhone 5 was released in 2012 and stopped receiving software updates in 2017. However, the iPhone 4 was released in 2010, but it stopped receiving software updates with iOS 8, released in 2014.

In other words, an iPhone can be "obsolete" in software terms after four or five years. This suggests that in order to take advantage of the latest operating system and functionality, you might want to consider upgrading when the iPhone reaches its fourth birthday.

Nevertheless, if you are the kind of person who gets fired by the latest hardware and specifications, then it may be worth upgrading to a new iPhone model even earlier. Have a look at our discussion on the best time to buy a new Apple device

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to help you decide.

Explore more about: Apple, Hardware Tips, iPhone, iPhone Tips, Smartphone Repair.

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