Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation iOS, known as iOS 9, will run efficiently on devices with processors as old as the Apple A5, according to a report from 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman (via MacRumors). Gurman's sources reportedly say that Apple has "restructured its software engineering process to better support older hardware."
What does this mean, exactly?
A new way of building iOS
In the past, Apple would build a "feature-complete" version of iOS and selectively disable features that "do not perform well during testing," says Gurman. However, with iOS 9, Apple reportedly plans to do things differently.
Gurman says Apple will put together a "core version" of iOS 9 that will run well on devices powered by the relatively dated A5 chip. Then, for more powerful devices, Apple will enable "properly performing" features "one by one."
This, Gurman writes, means "an entire generation (or two) of iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches will be iOS 9-compatible rather than reaching the end of the iOS line."
Why is this a big deal?
One well-known advantage of owning an Apple device over, say, a run-of-the-mill Android device is that as an Apple customer, you can count on being able to run many new generations of iOS. Vendors of Android devices are generally slow to bring the latest versions of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android to older devices -- if they bother to do so at all.
For example, according to Tech Times, Samsung won't be providing an update to its Galaxy S3 smartphone to support the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop release. In contrast, the iPhone 4s -- which actually preceded the Galaxy S3 by over six months -- received an update to iOS 8 and, if 9to5Mac's report is accurate, will be getting iOS 9.
Furthermore, what I find even more interesting is that Apple isn't just content with slapping the newest version of iOS on older devices without regard to performance; it's actually investing in trying to deliver a smooth experience to owners of these phones.
Giving up a short-term gain to build long-term customer loyalty
Gurman notes there is speculation that Apple intentionally tries to hurt performance of newer versions of iOS on older devices in a bid to spur upgrades, but -- again, as Gurman observes -- what Apple is reportedly doing with iOS 9 runs counter to this notion.
Some could argue that this may hurt Apple in the short term; after all, Apple makes its money by selling new devices, and giving people more reasons to upgrade could be a good thing.
However, the more I think about it, the more it seems this is the right way to go. If customers have confidence that the last product they bought from Apple was well supported and lasted a long time, this builds customer loyalty and could potentially increase the odds of repeat business.
Additionally, it sounds as though with Apple's new development methodology, the latest versions of iOS will run smoothly on relatively dated hardware, but iPhone users with more powerful devices will be able to enjoy a smooth experience with, of course, additional features and functionality.
If Gurman's report is correct, it seems as though Apple is making the right moves for the long term. And, as a Fool, that's what I like to see.