Last month Apple announced to its app developers that it will soon no longer be accepting updates for any apps that haven’t been developed for iOS 7. This means that anyone still running an older version of the iPhone and iPad software will no longer be able to benefit from updates to their favourite apps or even be able to get the latest bug fixes available.

As a result  we need to start developing our SwitchboardFREE and Con-Flab apps for the latest devices only and we can’t help but wonder what our customers are going to think of this.

It leads to the question, “Is this this right attitude to take with app development and should we adopt the attitude across all development platforms?”

 

Pros of not developing for older devices

Reduction of development time and freedom to work with the newest technology
Well the obvious pro is that as developers we of course always want to work on the latest and greatest technology. The most painstaking part of our jobs has always been taking our wonderful new apps that just work beautifully on the latest devices and downgrading them for backward compatibility. This exact same problem exists not just on mobiles devices but also on web browsers and computer systems. Making everything backward compatible means having to develop with one foot in the past and getting rid of that will not only speed up development time but will also mean that we can use the latest technology and expand the functionality of our apps, websites and programs.

Force everyone to stay up to date
When nothing is backward compatible then we are forcing the user to continually update their devices if they want to get the full range (or possibly even basic range) of functionality from the apps that they need to use. Say goodbye to issues like the infamous problem of developing for older versions of Internet Explorer and say hello to auto updating systems like Google Chrome. The argument can be made that in a world where technology advances as fast as it does, then auto updating systems and the loss of backward compatibility is the logical next step and an innevitable move forward.

 

Cons of not developing for older devices

People like what they know
The sad fact is that our users like to use what they know. They have proved this time and again (once more take a look at the old IE development problem) and maybe we have to be realistic about the fact that if we stop developing for backward compatibility then we are going to be losing customers. We can’t all have a customer base as loyal as Apple and for us mere mortal developers we run the risk of losing older customers who don’t like being forced to do anything.

Sometimes people can’t update
There are times, especially when it involves buying expensive new devices, when people simply can’t update. The iPhone 5c, the cheapest version of the current iPhone, has a starting price of £469. When a device that is two or three generations old is no longer able to properly run the latest updates and with that kind of price tag on modern devices, how can we expect our customers to continually update their systems to keep up to date with us? Again people are going to be looking for the cheaper versions out there and we are going to lose customers to the people who do cater to backward compatibility needs.

 

Conclusion

The conclusion we have come up with is that backward compatibility is still a very real need.

In an ideal world all updates would be free, easy and automatic which would make backward compatibility a thing of the past. In a world with so much diversity as ours however, we need to cater for those who simply haven’t caught up yet. As developers we are just going to have to deal with the headaches for now and wait for the time when all devices will force updates as Apple seems to want to do, but until then backward compatibility is still a real need that we must cater for.