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I’m working on an app for iPhones and android devices. I’m trying to figure which smartphones the app will run in.

In the case of the iPhone, I’ve seen that developers tend to develop the app so that there’s support up to a certain iphone (ie. Iphone 6). For example, most apps are not compatible with the iphone 4s.

If an app is a simple calculator with just a few simple square buttons, why is it that the app is designed to run in only the latest iphones?

This calculator only has a few buttons, so what does the latest iPhone have that an older one (ie. Iphone 4) does not have?

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TL;DR

It is ultimately the developer's choice of which older device to support, based on their time, effort, and the current adoption percentage of those devices.


Explanation

This actually boils down to one or all the below reasons:

  1. The API (Application Programming Interface) that is used for developing apps.

    • As Operating Systems evolve, the platform developers (Apple for iOS, Google for Android) drop support for older devices, like iPhone 4S and such. This is because the device(s) reach their designated software support period set by the platform developers or simply because they might not be powerful enough to handle new API's.
    • As newer API's are added, apparently the newer devices will be able to use them in the app code. So when the developer decides to make use of the brand new API, older devices cannot use them, and API usages based on OS version needs to be added to the app code which is more effort, more error-prone, more testing involved than just developing for the latest and the last 1 or 2 OS versions.

      • But this totally depends on the developer whether to support them or not. For example, WhatsApp just recently announced dropping support for iOS 8.0, and Twitter dropped support for iOS 10.0.
  2. The developer, for some reason doesn't want to support older (i)Phones.

    • It could be his/her/organisation's choice, may be due to the amount of work that is involved in adding support for older phones whose number of users will be way too less. The adoption percentage of iOS 12 and iOS 13 combined is 91% (as of October 2019), so adding support for very older phones running iOS 9.0 and below which people might not be using at all seems like an effort not worth putting.

    • Most developers follow the unwritten rule of supporting the last 2 iOS versions and the current one for their apps. That will just make their lives a bit easier.

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You need to spend time understanding the demographics of your target market and make decisions based on that.

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