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This question gives useful information on iOS 4.3 support. However is there a publicly available policy for future iOS versions on which devices they will support? For example, do they always support two previous generations of hardware, or does it vary according to each release?

If there is no official policy, what does the trend seem to be?

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I would edit out the policy side of things since the scope of this site is for questions to be answerable in fact as opposed to speculation and it would be an astounding deviation from current experience for someone that works for Apple to comment on the record about policy going forward here. –  bmike Jan 17 '12 at 19:44
    
I've added "publicly available" before policy, as if there were someone could point to it, so it wouldn't be speculation. –  paulmorriss Jan 18 '12 at 9:10
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John Gruber summarized all sane observations about the iPhone lifecycle (part “THE IPHONE PRODUCT CYCLE”).

In short, the trend seems to be of two generations support for older devices:

  • iOS5 best on iPhone 4S, supported by iPhones 4 and 3GS.
  • iOS4 best on iPhone 4, supported by iPhones 3GS and 3G.

Apple of course does not have any official policy about that, as for anything that would approach roadmapping.

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I'm unaware of official policy but in my experience (opinion?) Apple supports older devices with new OSs as long as it is technically reasonable to do.

There are those that hold that Apple will use an OS or feature update to push the sale of new devices (i.e. Siri only available on iPhone 4S) but I have yet to see conclusive proof of this. Apple seems able to sell boatloads of phones (pads, pods and computers) without forcing the market and, in all cases that I've seen, there are equally plausible, and less "evil", explanations for Apple's decision.

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