iPhones and iPads will no longer run 32-bit apps with the release of iOS 11 later in 2017. Those apps currently display a message saying they “need to be updated”, and they won’t run at all once you’ve upgraded. Here’s how to check which apps you have installed will stop functioning, if any.
How to Check for 32-Bit Apps
When you first launch one of these older 32-bit apps on a modern iPhone or iPad, you’ll be warned. On iOS 10.3, the warning says that “[App Name] Needs to Be Updated” and explains “This app will not work with iOS 11. The developer of this app needs to update it to improve its compatibility.”
This warning began back in iOS 9, released in 2015, where the warning was a more mild “[App Name] Mya Slow Down Your iPhone or iPad” and explained “The developer of this app needs to update it to improve its compatibility.”
However, there’s also a quick way to see at a glance which of your installed apps will no longer function on iOS 11. Just head to Settings > General > About > Applications. This screen lists apps that are 32-bit only and won’t run on iOS 11. If you don’t see any apps here, you’re good—all your installed apps will continue functioning after the upgrade to iOS 11.
Why Is Apple Dropping Support for 32-bit Software?
This change has been a long time coming. Apple announced that 32-bit apps would no longer be supported in the future to developers back in 2013, four years ago. Starting in 2015, 64-bit support became mandatory for both new apps added to the App Store and updates to existing apps. App developers have had years to prepare for this moment.
That means apps that show as incompatible haven’t been updated in years. Apple would like to entirely drop 32-bit support so iPhone and iPads won’t need to keep supporting those legacy apps forever. Starting with iOS 11, iPhones and iPads will entirely run 64-bit code. Apple can remove the 32-bit compatibility libraries that take up additional space and stop spending time maintaining them.
This is different from the strategy Microsoft takes with Windows of maintaining backwards compatibility as long as possible. Apple intends to move iOS forward, and it’s up for developers to keep their apps updated. Apple doesn’t promise backwards compatibility forever, although it did give developers a warning years before this change.
Your Only Recourse: Contact the Developers and Get Them to Update Their Apps
The good news is that the vast majority of apps have been updated to 64-bit versions. If you have apps that haven’t been updated to 64-bit, poke around on the App Store and you should hopefully be able to find a new version or a replacement that works well and is still supported.
Games are another matter. While apps can usually be replaced by something that works similarly, each game is unique. A developer may have created a game years ago and gone out of business or stopped updating the game for another reason. When iOS 11 rolls around, those games will be unplayable on modern iPhones and iPads unless they’re updated—and many of them will never be. You may have games you purchased years ago that will stop functioning.
You can contact the developer and ask them to update the app, if you like. Tap the app’s name on the App Compatibility screen and you’ll see its page on the App Store. Scroll down on the Details pane and tap “Developer Website” to access the developer’s website, where you may be able to contact the developer and request they update the app. You may also see contact information within the app.
However, many apps will never be updated. That’s just the way it is. if you want to keep using these apps while still continuing to update your primary iPhone or iPad, you might want to consider picking up an older, used device. Any device that will continue running iOS 10 or iOS 9, such as the venerable iPad 2, iPad mini 1, iPhone 5, or iPod touch (5th generation) will remain stuck on the old version of iOS and will continue to support these 32-bit apps, which will remain available in the App Store for installation on older devices. An old iPad may be the ideal way to continue playing these games or using specialty apps that you really depend on.
If you don’t plan on hanging onto a compatible device, you may just want to play those games all you can between now and iOS 11’s release date later in 2017. Only the app’s developer can truly fix the problem and ensure it continues functioning on modern devices.