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The Fall Of The 32-bit iOS Has Some Drastic Changes In Store For Us

12 Apr, 2017
The Fall Of The 32-bit iOS Has Some Drastic Changes In Store For Us

With Fall around the corner, anticipation is running wild, for Apple to make “revolutionary” changes to their iPhone.

But one of the things that Apple may spring on the world, is the expulsion of all 32-bit apps from it’s App Store. This really could change the face of their hardware and software entirely!

To be honest, much like every other tech upgrade in the pipeline, this has been coming for a while. All apps and updates submitted for the App Store’s approval since mid-2015 are required to incorporate a 64-bit support system, instead of only a 32-bit one, and that’s indication enough.

We can soon expect that Apple will remove the support for the 32-bit system from their device entirely, virtually killing it. The 32-bit at the moment is an aging cow, and in the tech world, aging cows are put down pretty quick.

This is a unique and interesting technical achievement, of course, but it is also kind of a cleaning of the house. From the early days of the smartphone and App Store, a lot has gotten accumulated, and a considerable chunk of that is neither maintained, nor used by people anymore; of course, people move on from one app to another, and the older ones just keep lingering in the background.

This switchover would mean that the App Store would automatically flush out the apps that do not have 64-bit support, as a consequence of being either too old, or having not been maintained.

For those who don’t quite understand what is going on, let us plot a timeline:

Back in September 2013, Apple introduced the iPhone 5S. The device came with the then-new and advanced A7 chip, and an upgrade to 64-bit system. This was the first device that came with a 64-bit version of the iOS.
The iPad Air that followed in the month after, followed on the same path. The iOS upgrade was mostly functioning well, except for certain memory associated glitches which were subsequently taken care off in March via the iOS 7.1 upgrade.

Next came the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which housed another upgrade, the A8 chip which also ran on a 64-bit system.

It was clear that Apple wasn’t going back.

The iPhone 5C was practically the last phone to house the 32-bit chip. From the cousin family of the iPads, the original iPad Mini was the last one with the 32-bit system.

This year, Apple released the iOS 10.3, which was basically like a sounding alarm for the death of the 32-bit version, because it came with a list of all the installed 32-bit apps that would not be supported in the future iOS versions.

So, let me add a few predictions to what is coming next.

Well, for starters, we can expect a first look at the iOS 11 in the coming few months. This would quite include the dropping of support for the 32-bit system, and devices like iPhone 5, 5C and iPad Mini will become obsolete.
The update can be expected to roll out sometime in September, and these devices will no longer have support since Apple will move over everything to the 64-bit system.
Same would go for apps that run on 32-bit system only.

This would present a unique opportunity for Apple to use its control over its software to streamline its hardware proffers. The 64-bit ARM instruction set, also known as the AArch64 is rather unique and different from its predecessor- 32-bit system, known as AArch32.

While using it on the PC, the x86-64 instruction set is an extension of the 32-bit and 16-bit instruction sets, which gave it an upper hand over Intel’s 64-bit-only Itanium architecture. However, even today, every x86 PC supports a 32- and 16-bit code. Apple could possibly be the first company to build an ARM CPU architecture that solely supports the 64-bit code.

This would also mean that a significant amount of space could be freed for the hypothetical A11 SoC for more CPU cores, larger CPU cores, or even a better GPU…

However, to maintain maximum compatibility and flexibility, it is very unlikely that ARM will ship anything which does not support a 32-bit system in the near future. So, the predictions will take a while to actually materialize into policy in the devices.

Another indication of this would be that Windows, macOS, Linux and other Operating Systems still have a functioning 32-bit system within a 64-bit support system. So, the elimination of the 32-bit system will be a first for a mass-market consumer operating system: not only has iOS transitioned from 32-bit to 64-bit, but it will soon completely end 32-bit backward compatibility altogether. So the elimination of the 32-bit system would be considered a milestone step by the company.

For now, Apple has not confirmed any of the above; not confirming suppositions has been one of Apple’s policies throughout the time. So, all the above are only predictions, based on how we can see this might play out.

The fact that remains is that only Apple has enough control over its hardware and software to realize benefits of the kind and that, in itself is significant.