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iPhone 4 revived: what you can still do with the ten-year-old iPhone today

It used to be common to have devices in use for several decades. A 20 year old television? No rarity. Today, the life cycle of electrical appliances is much shorter. On the one hand, manufacturers bring new models onto the market every year, and on the other, things don't last as long as they used to. Of course, the one depends on the other and is subsumed under the term planned obsolescence. That always causes criticism. Only recently, Apple had to pay a fine of 25 million euros in France because its iPhones have too short a lifespan. But how does it look in practice - what else can you do with a ten-year-old device? We rummaged in our drawers and reactivated an old iPhone 4.

iPhone 4 from 2010

Ten years ago Apple launched the iPhone 4. The smartphone is equipped with a 3.5-inch display, a 5-megapixel main camera, 512 MB of RAM and between eight and 32 GB of storage. Video telephony via Facetime was possible for the first time on the device. IOS 4 was used as the operating system for the market launch. Whether and for how long a smartphone can be used essentially depends on how up-to-date the operating system is. Because even if the hardware still works in principle, it is possible that many apps are simply no longer supported. The iPhone 4 was supported up to iOS 7.1.2, which was released in June 2014 - the current iOS version is 13.3.1.

Many apps no longer work

The ten-year-old smartphone has not received the latest updates for a good six years. What does that mean? Since then, the device has not only received no new software features, but is also no longer provided with the latest security patches. For safety reasons alone, you have to advise against using such an old device normally.

That is not possible anyway. Because the most popular apps no longer work with it. Whatsapp, for example, requires at least iOS 9, for Instagram you need at least iOS 11 - also for Google Maps, Youtube or Spotify. Just to name a few of the most popular apps. So if you're using a ten-year-old iPhone, you're locked out of the most popular apps. Downloading the programs from the App Store is no longer possible. This also makes sense from the developer's point of view, because it would simply be too much effort to continue supporting all old operating systems.

The current iPhone operating system iOS 13 is still supported by devices from 2015 - i.e. iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. The iPhone SE from 2016 is still running with it. iOS 11, which many apps have as a minimum requirement, is supported starting with the iPhone 5s from 2013. Five to seven years can therefore be assumed as the limit for how long iPhones will be kept up-to-date, at least in terms of software. Beyond that, however, it usually ends.

What is still possible

However, you do not necessarily have to dispose of such old devices. There are definitely uses for it. For example, an iPhone 4 can still be used perfectly as a music player. Connected to your own Apple ID, the music purchased via iTunes is displayed normally in the music app. The device can also be used as a mobile photo album. If the iCloud Photo Library is activated, the photos are automatically transferred to the iPhone. You can also listen to podcasts and read e-books. The pre-installed Apple apps are of course also functional: such as a calculator, notes or camera.

Whether the hardware is still playing depends of course on the current state of the device. The editorial team's test device showed a certain sluggishness in the responsiveness of the iPhone. More central is the question of how long such an old battery will last. In the test with continuous music playback with the display switched off in flight mode, the battery charge dropped by not quite 20 percent in five hours. Photos taken with the iPhone 4 cannot compete with those of current smartphone cameras - but the quality is definitely sufficient for quick snapshots.

Safety measures

However, the device should not be used with an active internet connection. As mentioned, security gaps have not been closed for a long time. What you can still do: Music can also be downloaded to the smartphone via cable via the computer. By the way, you don't need a SIM card to use it, even if a message keeps appearing that there is no card in the device. If you have a secure WLAN at home, you can transfer the tracks wirelessly and then disconnect the device from the network or leave it permanently in flight mode when it is actively used. For example, an old iPhone can be converted into a music player and camera for children or a second device for doing sports. (Birgit Riegler, February 16, 2020)