How Fast Will iPhone And iPad Hardware Become Obsolete?

Apple and Microsoft support old computers for many years, only dropping them from the next operating system release when it's absolutely necessary. Would iPhones, iPads, Androids, Windows phones and tablets be supported for so long, or would they die fast?

According to this email from Steve Jobs, the original iPhone won't be supported "in the future".

iPhone OS 4 doesn't support the first iPhone. And, as you can see in Steve's mail, they won't support it in the future. I can't blame Apple for such a decision. After all, the original iPhone - and the iPhone 3G - are very limited machines in processor power and operating memory. You can't hold back the operating system because of outdated technology. The problem is that, in the traditional computing world, things don't get outdated so fast.

The New Computers

Jobs's succinct reply made me think again about how this future computing world is going to be. Would your iPhone 3GS be supported by iPhone OS 5, which will probably come out next year? What about iPhone OS 6 in 2012? What about the iPad? And what about the Android mobile phones or their incoming tablet?

Nobody knows yet what the obsolescence rate for these new devices is going to be. In general, mobile phones used to have a much shorter life than computers. People always wanted the next generation, so the mobile phone world has been in a permanent fast-forward, a search for the best display with the best battery life and the most multimedia features in the thinnest package possible. When the iPhone came out, the mobile phone became an easy-to-use mobile computer, with hundreds of thousands of applications that soon were an indispensable part of the device.

In fact, the iPhone became the main machine for many people. The iPad - as well as its rivals from Google and Microsoft - is only going to emphasise this new era of mobile computing, in which the desktop metaphor will fade away for the majority of the population - consumers that will move into a new world of simple devices, applications and cloud storage.

Fast Forward

But these new computers are evolving a lot faster than desktop and notebook machines. At least for a few years, as things stabilise, new integrated processors and components will keep improving and coming out at a faster rate than in traditional computers. They are also a lot cheaper, which will make a faster upgrade cycle possible for many consumers out there. In fact, it could be argued that these devices will become almost disposable in the near future.

Until that time comes, however, we may have to deal with seeing our new computers becoming obsolete at a faster rate than ever before. The first victim of this race is going to be the original iPhone, but many more will follow. [Steve Jobs email via MacStories]

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