Apple should cut the iPhone X loose with iOS 17 - here's why

iPhone X charging port
(Image credit: Future)

If you've been following along with the news this week you probably already know that there is mass confusion about whether Apple is about to make the iPhone X and iPhone 8 essentially obsolete. At least, obsolete in terms of software updates.

Things all started when one leaker said that both the iPhones — plus the iPhone 8 Plus of course, and a handful of iPads — would not be supported when iOS 17 rolls around later this year. The update is expected to be announced during the WWDC23 event on June 5.

But then, just hours later, another leaker said that was completely wrong. Apple's aging iPhones will get iOS 17, just like they got iOS 16 last year. We're in the midst of a good old-fashioned leak-off, and it's all just far too confusing.

I will say this though. The leaker that contradicted the first, the one that says iOS 17 will support all the same devices that run iOS 16 today? They also leaked the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island. So, right now at least, they seem most likely to be on the money.

But I'd argue that Apple should cut the older models loose. It's time. Let me explain.

Five years is a lot of years not to sell an iPhone

Stack of iPhones from the original iPhone to the iPhone 8

(Image credit: iMore)

This is arguably at the bottom of my three-pronged approach to why iOS 17 should not support the iPhone X and iPhone 8. But these things tend to come in threes, so here we are.

The iPhone X ushered in a new wave of iPhones sans Home Buttons. By contrast, the iPhone 8 was there to give people something comfortable. I went iPhone X, as you might expect. But I know some who stuck with the familiar shape and interaction the iPhone 8 brought along. They weren't ready for things to change, see.

But that was in 2017, a long, long time ago. Apple's said to be ready to revamp the iPhone SE and do away with the Home button for good.

If people are still rocking those iPhone X and iPhone 8 handsets there's a good chance that they are very much due for an upgrade. They don't need to throw their five-year-old model in the trash and rush out to buy the best iPhone they can find. Far from it. But those models are missing out on so much, thanks in part to that creaking A11 Bionic chip. And that's before we get into the many camera upgrades we've seen since then.

Time to put jailbreaking to bed

One of the reasons some people like to keep their iPhone X or iPhone 8 around is to jailbreak. Those phones are jailbroken at the bootrom level thanks to the A11 chip, meaning that Apple can't patch them using software.

That in turn means that, so long as the jailbreaking tool of choice has been updated for the new software, every version of iOS installed on an iPhone X or iPhone 8 can be jailbroken. The actual mechanics of the jailbreak are already done. And they have been for years.

Now, even the biggest jailbreaker will admit that the scene isn't what it once was. Apple has removed the need in recent years as it continues to add new features to iOS. Multitasking and widgets are two examples of reasons people used to jailbreak their iPhones. Both features exist in iOS by default today.

There's one reason to jailbreak that isn't going away though. That's, unfortunately, piracy. There are plenty of bad reasons for Apple to stick to its App Store method of software installation and management, but piracy is a good one. And jailbreaking allows people to pirate apps and games with surprising ease. But by making it less appealing to stick to older iPhones while still running the latest software, Apple puts the pressure on. Do you want to steal a $0.99 app, or get the fancy new features?

They've got to go eventually

Apple A16 chip

(Image credit: Apple)

Finally, we're back to that A11 Bionic again.

Apple will very likely ship the iPhone 15 Pro with the A17 Bionic later this year. It'll surely be the fastest chip ever put inside an iPhone. And the same was said about the A11 Bionic in 2017. But today? Today, it's getting long in the tooth.

That's fine, but Apple could well start hitting the limitations of that chip if it hasn't already. The day Apple starts to struggle to implement features or experiences because the A11 Bionic can't keep up is the day it shouldn't be supported. I'd argue it's a year too late, but iPhone X and iPhone 8 owners might disagree there.

In short, Apple has to drop support for its old iPhones eventually. Why not with iOS 17?

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.