Apple’s Xcode development platform currently supports three different device architectures: armv7, armv7s, and arm64. The first two are 32-bit platforms, while the third is 64-bit. As 32-bit app launches by iOS devices continue to shrink, Apteligent analyst David Shirley predicts Apple will soon completely drop Xcode support for the 32-bit architectures.
Apple disabled armv6 builds in September 2012, four years after the iPhone 3 (the last armv6 device) was released. Given that it’s been four years since the last 32-bit iPhone, it seems like a ripe time to put the kibosh on 32-bit builds. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict it will happen at this year’s WWDC.
The last iPhone released that makes use of 32-bit architecture was the iPhone 5, released in September 2012. (Note: The iPhone 5c, which was also 32-bit, debuted in September 2013. Shirley says it doesn’t really figure into this, due to its relatively low adoption rate.) The last 32-bit iPad debuted in October 2012.
If Shirley’s prediction proves correct, consumers with devices earlier than the iPhone 5s and iPad Air will stop getting app version updates when developers switch to a new version of Xcode. Over 50% of iPad users are running 32-bit devices. Would Apple take a chance at alienating those users, or does it see it as a chance to give those users incentive to upgrade to a new device. (iPad users don’t upgrade their devices anywhere near as often as iPhone users do.)
Another bit of incentive for Apple to drop support for the older 32-bit architecture is that it would reduce development costs for Apple, since they would only need to support the 64-bit platform.
Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference will happen in a few months, and we’ll see then whether the company does indeed drop support for the 32-bit armv7, armv7s architectures. What do you think? Will Apple go all 64-bit in its support in iOS? Or, will they continue to support the older devices still used by loyal customers because they still “just work”? Stay tuned, and share your opinion below in the comments section.