Kudos to Apple: OS Updates

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Apple released iPhone OS 3.1.3 this week. This is a minor tweak to this operating system, but it reminded me that this company deserves praise for continuing to support its older models.

Apple iPhone 3G S

Even the original iPhone and iPod touch, which came out in 2007, can install the very latest OS version. That’s practically unheard of in this industry. I can’t name another smartphone that was released in 2007 that is still getting updates from its manufacturer.

I know this is probably a hassle for Apple, but it’s really smart, too. I generally recommend that people not buy first-generation products, as you end up being a beta tester for the manufacturer. Consider how limited the original iPhone was when it first came out.

But Apple’s willingness to offer upgrades for older models makes me reconsider. There’s no doubt that the iPad 2 will be better than the first model, but if the iPhone is any indication, it will still be getting software upgrades in 2012 and maybe even beyond.

Looking Ahead
I call this “future proofing” — the knowledge that something I buy now won’t be horridly out of date in 12 months. It’s something I demand in any expensive device I buy, and it’s an area where Apple is generally strong.

Google’s Android OS is developing a reputation for being decent in this area, though it’s a bit early to say. There are unconfirmed reports that the very first smartphone running this operating system, the T-Mobile G1, will soon get an upgrade to v2.0. If this pans out, it will be good news for everyone who is thinking about an Android-based model.

Microsoft Windows Mobile, on the other hand, is terrible in this area. Just ghastly. Very few models make the jump to major revisions of this operating system. When v6.5 came out, a large percentage of the devices that had launched with v6.1 just the year before did not get upgrades. And word is that none of the models out now, with one lone exception, will get upgraded to Windows Mobile 7 when it’s released near the end of this year.

RIM’s BlackBerry OS is… OK. Some devices get system software upgrades, especially the marque models like the Bold and Storm.

If you tend to buy new phones every year, future-proofing isn’t important to you. But it’s something everyone else ought to keep in mind when making a purchase.

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