Apple poised to kill some 200,000 legacy 32-bit iOS apps

“A decade since launching the first iPhone and nine years since opening the App Store, Apple now intends to annihilate almost 200,000 32-bit iOS apps. It has been warning us of these plans for some time,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld.

“Apple first began telling developers to submit apps in 64-bit in 2014, shortly after it began putting 64-bit capable chips inside the iPhone 5s and iPads in 2013,” Evans writes. “The company hasn’t held off on this warning, and while it has delayed the cut-off point, it hasn’t stopped telling developers to submit 64-bit apps. In theory, this means any app released or updated since early 2015 will already be a 64-bit app.”

“A new file system and an all 64-bit ecosystem strikes me as hugely significant,” Evans writes. “With the company flagging up exciting news in Virtual Reality, Machine Intelligence, and strong rumors of a tenth anniversary device, things are shaping up for a very exciting WWDC 2017.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Meanwhile, over at the Google Play store…


  1. I was getting messages warning me that this or that App may slow down my system. Even Google Earth was affected. But recently I have gotten no notices so I assume the apps have been upgraded.

    1. Warnings are sent to developers left and right. If the developers fail to update, their apps will be removed from the store. Until they are removed, they are available for sale.

      Users get no warning (most would be clueless as to the meaning of such warning anyway), since there is no action to be done on their part to solve the problem. If you have a 32-bit app on your phone and the developer hasn’t updated it, what are you supposed to do? Delete an app that you had paid for, and are using? After all, the app seems to be working perfectly fine (so far).

  2. This is incredibly seriously bad news and Apple need to stop. Now. Some would say this amounts to theft. Yes, the TOS allow Apple to do this. The TOS that we’ve all read (right?) and agreed to or otherwise we cannot use the iTunes store in the first place.

    However, if one has paid for (the license to use) these applications, and they are continuing to provide benefit – there are a significant number of these used by musicians that are still highly useful in spite of the fact of not being updated (for a variety of reasons) and which we continue to use (see the multiple discussions on the Audiobus forums about this very issue), then – TOS that we’ve agreed to because we can’t do anything else if we want to actually use an iDevice aside – why should what we have that we have paid for (a license to use) be removed from us? Again, some would say “How is that not different than theft?”

    Further, some of these applications aren’t the $0.02 variety – they sometimes have cost multiple tens of dollars and possibly with IAPs on top of that. Music applications on iOS have been on the professional end of things consistently with individual applications costing as much as $50 each with potentially $1000 of IAPs.

    It would cost Apple very little to continue to maintain the 32-bit libraries – as they do now – in parallel with 64-bit. With larger than 16GB devices becoming the norm, the overhead is minimal, and the speed difference is a red herring. None of my existing real-time time-critical music generation apps – DAWs, synthesizers, etc. – have any issue whatsoever with speed and don’t slow anything down.

    On Windoze systems, I can – and do – still run *16*-bit software that I’ve had since the ’90s! And, in general, if I have purchased a perpetual license for desktop software (I don’t have anything to do with subscription software) then I can continue to use that. Again, esp. on Windoze, but also for the most part on most of the recent versions of macOS too.

    Currently a good number in the iOS music community are considering never upgrading to iOS 11. Ever. Instead some of us are looking at ways of maintaining legacy devices – even newer “legacy” devices as they will become such as Air 2’s, mini 4’s and iPad Pros – since they would become useless without 32-bit support for some.

    Not a small issue.

    I understand Apple removing them from the app store (but should not remove from our purchased apps) and should not remove support for running them from iOS.

    1. This is corollary to the fundamental difference between Apple and Microsoft. We went through this situation with the Mac OS several times before. Migrations from 68k to PPC, for System 9 to OS X, from PPC to Intel, they all involved transitional period with emulation that allowed legacy code to run in new systems, but eventually, emulation was removed and today, it is impossible to run old PPC apps on an Intel-based Mac (Rosetta stopped working in Lion), so people who had apps they had used under PPC that were abandoned were out of luck. And the story was the same: once Lion came, people were faced with the decision not to upgrade, in order to keep support for PPC stuff.

      MS Windows we all know and “love” today is a bloated mess of spaghetti code precisely because it was forced (by MS’s enterprise clients) to continue to build in support for all that legacy code, all the way back to DOS (!!). The ability for a few legacy users to run 16-bit Windows code is precisely the reason why the rest of the Windows users need top-of-the-line hardware to match the performance of a 4-year old Mac.

      The problem with legacy apps is clearly not Apple’s fault; it is the developers who are responsible for updating their apps to support the new architecture. Obviously, this doesn’t really help the users who rely on some old abandonware, but Apple cannot be held hostage by apps that were abandoned years ago by their own developers.

      And this brings us to the next question: what should be the expected life of an application? In other words, when you buy MS Office 2002, how long can you realistically expect it to work? Obviously, if you don’t change anything, it will work as long as the hardware continues to work (Apollo Guidance Computer on the lunar landing module would still work today, if you were to power on the spare LEM at the Smithsonian). But as we update and upgrade our devices, what is the realistic life expectancy for a software package?

      I completely understand your problem, and it is not unique. I have seen exactly the same scenario, when a PPC app wouldn’t work on an Intel Mac anymore (Spark XL audio editor), and migrating to another app required changing the workflow. Same thing happened with a lot of ProTools hardware (PCI in the old days) that wouldn’t work with new Mac Pro and had to be ripped out, sold off on eBay in order to be replaced with Thunderbolt-enabled alternatives. All this was painful and expensive, but in the end, that is the cost of business.

      Bottom line: this is nothing new or unexpected from Apple. For the past 20 years, they have been doing this, migrating to newer and better technology and ceasing support for the old one some 3 – 5 years later. Major app developers went along (kicking and screaming), and some smaller developers ended up left in the dust. And each one of these transitions likely also caused a minor loss in user base (people who refused to switch to OS X from System 9, and ultimately migrated to Windows, for example), but for Apple, this was the price to pay in order to maintain lean and efficient code.

      1. While I understand your argument for new devices. As long as users continue to have and make use of their older devices that may have been EOL and are not able to upgrade the OS, Apple should maintain the libraries of Apps. Perhaps no longer selling them, but having them available for download by those that have purchased them. The alternative is to truly ‘brick’ old iOS devices that are still useful.

        1. The issue for me isn’t the expected lifespan as an outright issue. If I buy a pair of shoes I expect they will wear out at some point. They have a lifespan. I expect my computers will stop working probably at some point and be uneconomic or impossible to repair. Sure. But here we’re talking about things 3 years old!

          We are also, as Xennex1170 said, talking about items that users may want to continue to use on older devices.

          Suppose I have an item that’ on an iPad 3 (I use 2 iPad 3’s and a mini 1 still in music production alongside other newer models, and they still work just fine. In fact, I still use an iPad 1 as a sequencers and control surface.) Let’s suppose that iPad 3 breaks. Let’s suppose I want to continue to use the apps I had on it on a 2nd hand replacement purchase off ebay or the like. I can no longer do so. That’s quite different from an expected end of life. That’s an unnaturally foreshortened life and removing from me utility I had in a device that’s only just a few years old. We’re *not* talking here about being able to run old-person Windoze 95 apps (though I did in a post here), but rather apps that are just out of teething and not quite on to solid food in app-years terms 🙂

          So, this is something that should IMO be given some different thought. At least allow people who want to run those older apps continued access to them. Be able to install an older version of iOS if they want to do that. That’s their choice. Rather than have apps removed from use that people have paid for (a license to use).

    2. “I understand Apple removing them from the app store (but should not remove from our purchased apps) and should not remove support for running them from iOS.”

      This is the issue for me. If I can still run it, I don’t care if someone else can still buy it. But if I bought it and can’t still run it, I’m not so happy.

      Even just my upgrade to my 6 dropped a few apps when I restored from my old phone. Why? I don’t know of a reason! But they’re no longer available, and I can’t load them from iTunes. This is terribly frustrating. So I’ve actually kept my 5 to use those few apps. I’ll eventually get them replaced with something else, but for now, need to use the old still. Glad I didn’t trade it in!

    3. What if you bought an app today that rendered obsolete tomorrow or next month by a known update to the OS? Especially if the developer has no intent of updating it. My point about the 32 bit apps is that developers should be required to signal to Apple if they will update these apps and if not- it should be posted clearly on the store that the purchase will soon be obsolete on any device running the latest version of iOS.

  3. If we keep the 32bit app installed, and the developer finally releases a 64 bit version, even after the deadline, then the end user would hardly notice, other than the app won’t run. However simply deleting the app, means we lose where ever data it was storing. No real way to get that back. I suggest some kind of indicator notifying if an app appeares to be abandoned or not.

    I have a couple of games, I know for sure are abandoned and I play now and then. Once we cross the line the app is gone forever.

  4. I should add – some of the 32-bit apps I refer to above have effectively become abandonware, so it doesn’t matter how many emails Apple have sent to the devs, the devs aren’t going to update to 64-bit for one reason or another.

    But again, that should not mean the apps are removed from us – the paying customer; apps we currently use and rely on having around.

  5. Derek, how many years is enough? If the developers of these apps refuse to update them, its only their fault, they are to blame, they’ve had plenty of warning..

    They have no choice, Time goes on, if they don’t update to a 64 bit version, their app is removed from the store, it may still be on the users device, and it may work or not, or it may affect the performance and stability of their device..

    1. For me to lose what I’ve paid for? No years are enough. Why should that happen? I don’t lose a pair of shoes because the shoemaker goes out of business or dies. I don’t lose a book because the publisher starts publishing technical books instead of encyclopedias and I have their encyclopedias. But in the digital world we live in, the concept of the right of ownership of property – as highly valued in the founding articles of the US – is being eroded.

      In another realm, I have had ebooks “removed” too. Nobody comes and takes my physical books away. Why should Apple or anyone else be granted that “right”? Except, we have because we have “agreed” to the TOS. The bottom line is that this and other equivalent issues with digital rights and TOS needs radical adjustment to protect the customer who pays for the end “product”.

      1. The fundamental problem is that many software users have the traditional, physical goods, mindset, which doesn’t quite apply.

        No software purchase is ever an “ownership” purchase. It can only always be “license to use” purchase. The license may be in perpetuity, but it is contingent on having a supported device to use it on.

        Nobody prevents you from using these abandoned apps forever on the computers you are using. Apple won’t disable any 32-bit app from any device on which it is currently working, unless you change the underlying OS on that device.

        However, if you want to take advantage of the newer and better devices (and operating systems), you need to decide carefully what is more important: continued use of your old (“abandonware”) software tool, or newer and better system.

        We Apple fans have stayed with Mac because Apple has, throughout the years, provided a reliable, robust, nimble and fast platform (combination of OS and hardware) that was free of bloat that comes with legacy code support. There is a price to pay for such system, and each one of us must decide if that price isn’t too high. I had sold off, over the past decades, two desktop scanners (one SCSI, one USB) and two inkjet printers, because their manufacturer didn’t bother to update drivers/software to support newer versions of Mac OS and newer Mac hardware. My current MFP printer (Canon) is still working happily with Sierra. I’m sure it will work with at least three or four new OS versions. After that, I will likely have to get rid of it and buy a new one, if I want to upgrade to the new OS. That’s the way things work with software.

        1. I see your point, but my reply to Derek above shows that I, too, have lost some things. Not just apps, but my data created with it. I can’t access that data in any other way. On a Mac, I would be able to copy the file and find *something* that would open it for me. On iOS, it is just gone. And if I had traded in my old phone, I would be totally out of luck. I would never have thought twice about it – I made a backup, and I restored. Except that some of it didn’t restore. That’s not good. If I had backed up, traded in the old phone when I bought the new, and then restored from my computer, that would all simply be gone. That is not the same as needing to “decide carefully what is more important”.

          1. This is something that Apple may want to clarify, regardless of how minuscule the affected user base may be.

            When an app is discontinued by the maker and is removed from the app store, users who still have it on their phones can continue to use it, but that app can no longer be moved anywhere else. When user backs up the phone (whether on iTunes or iCloud), apps themselves are NOT backed up; instead, they are simply downloaded from the store when that backup is restored onto a phone. If an app is no longer available for download, that app is simply not restored.

            Apple must clarify two things:

            1. Apps that are removed form the store cannot be backed up;
            2. Data associated to an app that is removed from the store cannot be backed up either.

            Once an app is abandoned by the developer and removed from the app store by Apple, it becomes an orphan, and so does the data created by it. The user can no longer export data (unless the app itself has some custom built-in facility to export data), or back up the app itself. For all intents and purposes, that app is written off and gone.

            This probably won’t make anyone feel any better, especially if such apps get some frequent usage, but at least it will reduce the frustration when users discover these two things the hard way.

          2. His point still applies, if the developer created an app that creates data that cannot be backed up and restored from one device to another, that’s the apps fault. If nothing else, the file should be seen in iTunes and be able to be copied.. Or the developer should be able to store the app data in the cloud somewhere

            Your discussing a potential bug in an app, the issue here is the demise of a class of Apps, and its not the first time.. When Apple went from PPC to Intel, Rosetta allowed for many PPC apps to run for years, finally Rosetta was removed and any app that was not upgraded, died..

            1. Would be nice if Apple did that for Alchemy – esp. since they bought out the developer, turned the app into an embedded synth in the latest Garage Band, and made it so that it can only run on the latest devices (mini 4+ and Air 2+) – which means that it’s going to go away after iOS 11 and other musicians who don’t use GarageBand (the majority of “real” iOS Musicians don’t by all accounts of the usage patterns seen in various online sites that are heavily focused on iOS music production – they use the likes of Cubasis, Auria Pro, etc. – and synths etc. that are not tied to GB) won’t have access to it.

              Having GarageBand doesn’t help since the older libraries – now lost because Apple bought out the developer – aren’t available for purchase any more. They are *currently* available for redownload but that may not last indefinitely and won’t be the case again eventually if one has to buy a replacement device. Further, unlike the original app which, like most music apps on iOS, can be used standalone and in company with Audiobus or IAA, GarageBand can’t (as a generator) and as a result one is locked in to the GB ecosystem. That’s not what most people who used Alchemy in the past want to do.

              So, yes, I heartily agree that such things should continue to be available. And that developers (Apple in this case) should do something about that to support users of the older versions ongoing…

              Thumbs up here for devs (in this case Apple) supporting older versions of apps, data, etc. Agreed! 🙂

  6. Excellently presented.
    This begs the other question, what if we outlive our purchases?
    Can my iTunes library be in my will, so that my children may feel what I felt when I enjoyed my music?

  7. With an increasing number of apps just being a just a thin interface to a cloud service requiring subscription or in-app payment to do anything, I don’t know why everyone acts surprised when Big Brother exerts his will. You aren’t allowed to work offline in iOS land. You must take what Big Brother gives you and you must like it.

  8. I’m an iOS developer, and I’ve been getting these notices. They don’t even say anything about the apps not being 64 bit, just that they haven’t been updated in a while and if they’re not updated within 30 days, they’ll be removed from the store. We have over 40 apps in the store, so this has been quite an effort. Fortunately, Apple seems to be going though apps one at a time, so I’ve not gotten more than 4 notices at any one time. Only two left to go!

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