Considering Apple’s history of obsolescence, the iPhone 3GS has had an incredibly long lifespan.
The first iPhone, launched in 2007, came with iOS 1 (then called iPhone OS), and it received upgrades for the following two years to iOS 3 before being cast into the shadows. The iPhone 3G launched with iOS 2 and was dragged into the 4.x era before Apple finally gave up trying to solve the performance issues dogging the device.
From past evidence, therefore, it appears that iPhones generally last about three years before being unsupported.
First launched in the summer of 2009, the 3GS came loaded with iOS 3 and over the past three years it’s been kept up to date to the present day with iOS 5.1.1. History tells us that it should be coming to the end of its life, with iOS 6 only being released for the iPhone 4 onwards.
In fact, the iPhone 3GS is different. A small icon at the bottom of Apple’s iOS 6 Preview microsite shows that the phone will be receiving the new update this autumn. I guess as it’s still possible to buy one from an Apple Store, the company is forced to continue support, else they’d be selling something which would already be obsolete.
However, this long lifespan will start to present some difficulties for users. As most people know, lithium rechargeable batteries only last for around three years before the cells start to break down and become unusable. For anyone who bought a 3GS in 2009 – or perhaps owns a second hand device purchased then – this may already be causing a problem, with instant shut downs, slow performance and a battery percentage which skips numbers as the battery discharges through the day.
Apple offers a solution to this problem with its own battery replacement service, although it has a huge problem – it means you’ll be without an iPhone for a week. For anyone who uses a phone regularly, being without one for more than a few hours is just impractical. For this service, Apple will charge you £55 – which is about a quarter of the phone’s current value.
Recently, I found a company called Lovefone which can replace 3GS batteries while you wait. For this, they’ll only charge £34 and since having my phone serviced, it’s been much better. Perhaps it also has something to do with the amount of dust inside which had built up over three years!
As for the future of the 3GS, iOS 6 will almost certainly mark the end of the device. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the 3GS doesn’t survive the whole of the iOS 6 era, as the iPhone 3G was dropped after 4.2.1 while other devices continued up to 4.3.5 before iOS 5 was released. There are already rumours suggesting that stocks are running low, as Apple prepares to replace its low budget option with the iPhone 4 instead.