Apple hasn't forgotten about your older iPhone or iPad
There may be shiny new iPhones coming out at the end of this week, but not everyone is ready (or wants) to upgrade. That's fine, since iOS 7 will be released to the public tomorrow, giving users of some older hardware a shiny new OS. But for those of you on older devices who may be worried about being left behind as apps adapt to the redesigned OS, don't worry -- Apple hasn't forgotten about you.
Over the years, as each new version of iOS came out, older devices would naturally be left out. On a practical level, they lacked the hardware specs to keep up with the new features and demands introduced by each iteration of the operating system. However, as new versions came out, they also missed out on being able to download new apps, or updated releases of apps, due to version requirements. If you already had the app on your older device you were fine, but if you reset it or deleted the app you would not be able to re-download it.
However, it looks like things are changing. A user over on Reddit discovered that Apple is now letting you download the last compatible version for your device. To test the validity of this claim, Engadget attempted to download some apps on their older devices and says they "successfully installed an older version of Instagram to an iPhone 3GS with iOS 4.3.3 and Twitter to an iPhone 3G running iOS 4.2.1." So if you have an older iPhone or iPod touch you wanted to use as a GPS or media player, you may want to dust them off, because you can now re-download those missing apps again,or even add a few you didn't have before.
Understandably, it can't be said for sure how long Apple will keep this going. iMore says "there's no official confirmation on anything from Apple," which means this may be a short-term thing. iMore also has concerns about app APIs (how an app communicates with a service) and an older app version will understandably be using an older API. If you're running an older version of Twitter on your device and it's using a deprecated API, how will the app function?
We're not recommending you buy an iPhone 3GS to use as your primary device; that's not the point here. If this is something Apple keeps going on for the long term it will be a huge benefit to their users, granting their devices longer lifespans that let them use the device for years to come. Users will be able to more comfortably wipe their devices and start over without fear of losing access to a beloved app.