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I am currently developing an iOS application. I'm considering not supporting anything less than iOS 3.1. I was wondering, can I expect a huge backlash from customers that buy this application and try to use it on devices that haven't been updated in years?

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Sorry officer. I will do better next time. – Nathan Clark Sep 1 '11 at 15:46
Don't be scared. It's a cruel world. – Nathan Clark Sep 1 '11 at 15:52
This is off-topic, and probably would have been better answered over at Programmers. But since an answer has already been accepted and votes in place, there is little point in migrating so I will leave it open. (To that point, why do people only wait an hour to see what comes in? It seems like the question is being short-changed). Other mods or the community may disagree. C'est la vie. – Philip Regan Sep 1 '11 at 17:01
I think this one is quite fit for – Eimantas Sep 1 '11 at 17:19
I'm going to delete my earlier comment on fit due to popular opinion :-) (so much for being quiet) – bmike Sep 1 '11 at 19:43
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Just to add to the good data already available, here's some June 2011 data from a free, "who buys the next round" app, which may be a bit more representative than Instapaper: iOS version chart

While not quite as high as the percentage of Instapaper users, more than 95% on iOS 4 suggests you won't be missing out on a big number of users.

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You can find Marco Arment's stats on iOS version he collected from his Instapaper app (as CanuckSkier say in the comment, Instapaper is generally used by tech-savvy people, so "real"-people usage might be slightly less).

Here's a graph:

iOS usage stats

As you can see, at least 98% of users are already on iOS 4.0 and 96% on 4.2. So I guess you can safely stop supporting iOS 3.x.

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It's worth noting that those stats are only from Instapaper customers, so not necessarily representative of the iOS market as a whole. In my observation Instapaper tends to be more popular among the nerd set, who tend to upgrade more often. Of course, how much that impacts the data is unclear. These numbers are a great starting point, it's just something to keep in mind. That said, by supporting ≥4.2.1, you only lose original iPhone and 1st generation iPod Touch users, which is probably a safe bet. – robmathers Sep 1 '11 at 15:29
Right, I updated my answer to tone down a bit the stats. – Loïc Wolff Sep 1 '11 at 15:38
Thanks Loic Woiff! I do share CanuckSkier's opinion. I had read Marco's blog post. It's a good read. This post of his gave me some cause to ignore IOS 3.1,, some. However, my market is focused on parents with small children. And, in my small little circle of friends that have agreed to beta test the application, it seems that 10% of them are running with 1st gen iPodTouches that have never been updated. Now, had I have been Marco doing the same test with friends, I would imagine that percentage to be much less. Thanks to you both. – Nathan Clark Sep 1 '11 at 15:43
I love the thinking behind marco's handling of this dilemma that all developers face. – bmike Sep 1 '11 at 15:53
Agreed. He seems to think things through pretty thoroughly and seems to be pretty smart. If you're interested in more details on this and other iOS dev topics (plus a bunch more general nerdery), definitely check out his podcast on 5by5, Build & Analyze if you don't already listen. He talks about this issue specifically in episode #29 I think. – robmathers Sep 1 '11 at 18:32

You can check for yourself. Look in the iTunes app store for popular apps which cater to the same customer demographic as yours, and which only run on later OS versions (3.2, or 4.1 or later). Check the reviews for those apps, and see the proportion of negative comments they get for not supporting such-and-such.

Usually the amount is tiny, as users of older devices, and people who don't update their OS, don't buy as many apps as people who have the latest devices and/or upgrade their OS. Many popular and highly rated apps are only compatible with very recent OS versions.

So, no huge backlash.

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Good point. Thanks hotpaw2! – Nathan Clark Sep 1 '11 at 16:53
Ehh, don't you have to buy an app in order to review/rate it nowadays? I wouldn't expect any negative comments in this case... – patrix Sep 1 '11 at 18:47
@panix : Maybe not so surprisingly, given human nature, the number is non-zero, as some people buy apps apparently without reading the app's description or device requirements. – hotpaw2 Sep 1 '11 at 21:39

This is more of an opinion answer, but I suspect that the number of people with old iOS versions will decrease as time goes on, whereas the number of people with up-to-date iOS versions will increase a lot, both as more people buy iOS devices and as iCloud makes software updates easier (no iTunes required) and faster (delta updates).

Time spent supporting even 3.1 is worth less as time goes on, whereas time spent focusing on the new features in later versions pays off now, and keeps paying off.

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