It’s with great sadness that I tell all iPhone 6S devotees out there that the next year or so might be the time to finally think about replacing your beloved phone.
There are gripes to be had with just about any piece of technology, but the iPhone 6S was pleasantly free of things to hate. Plenty of people still rock the 2015 edition of the iPhone, in fact, because it has a little bit of something for everyone.
Unlike newer iPhones, there’s no notch or camera bump to worry about. It still has a “real” home button. It brought 3D Touch to the world, a convenient feature Apple just dropped from the entire iPhone 11 line. It isn’t too big and it isn’t too small. It might not have best-in-class cameras or battery life, but they’re still good enough.
Most importantly, when it debuted, it was the last mainline iPhone with a 3.5mm headphone jack. Apple dropped that with the iPhone 7 a year later.
All of that is to say that the iPhone 6S hit a particular sweet spot that no iPhone has since. But it looks like it’s finally time to say goodbye. That’s not a fun thing to hear, but if you look at the way Apple operates, it makes some sense.
The clock may be ticking
The rationale behind this argument has less to do with any great enhancements present in post-6S iPhones and more to do with the march of time. Apple releases a new version of iOS every year and, invariably, some previous generation of iPhone will get left out.
After all, Apple can’t bring its operating system into the future without leaving some devices in the past.
This unfortunate reality will hit iPhone 6 owners this week, when iOS 13 launches. The new mobile operating system will not be compatible with the iPhone 6S’s immediate predecessor. Of course, that means the same fate will eventually befall the 6S.
There’s no guarantee that next year’s iOS will be the one that kills 6S support, but it’s probably a safe bet that it won’t last beyond 2021 at the latest. If you want to keep taking advantage of the latest iOS bells and whistles like dark mode, older iPhones won’t cut it.
Obviously, there’s a solution to this if you have a 6S: Just keep using whatever the last version of iOS that supports the 6S happens to be whenever it becomes obsolete. Not everyone likes to install the newest version of iOS on their phone for one reason or another. If you’d rather keep an iPhone that has everything you need than compromise your ideals, that’s admirable.
Otherwise, it might be time to look into some other options
If you choose to switch from an iPhone 6S to something newer, the transition will probably be fairly smooth. Most of the worst qualities of newer iPhones, like the notch or the camera bump, are things you get used to quickly. It’s fun to make jokes about them, but they won’t ruin your life.
The biggest practical change you’ll need to make is how you listen to music or podcasts. As I mentioned earlier, moving on from an iPhone 6S to anything newer in Apple’s product line means losing a 3.5mm headphone jack. Whether you think the benefits have been worth the sacrifice or Apple screwed over its customers in doing so, that’s the reality we face.
Thankfully, there are plenty of good phones with headphone jacks that you can get these days. If you aren’t married to iOS and you’re cool with switching to Android, something like the Google Pixel 3a has tons of modern enhancements while keeping a headphone jack.
On the other hand, you could just use the headphone jack adapter Apple sells. If you’re really feeling ambitious, you can get AirPods or another pair of Bluetooth headphones.
None of these options are perfect. In a better world, we could keep using a phone released as recently as 2015 for years to come. That said, the iPhone 6S will inevitably be phased out of software compatibility and its owners won’t be left with much of a choice.