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iPhone 5 owners, update your device today to keep it working

If you’re still hanging on to an iPhone 5, you’ll need to update its software today to keep it working. Apple has warned that without an iOS update, online services on the popular device will stop working and performing the update will require plugging it into a computer. That’s not so hard, is it?

On its website, Apple warns that starting just before 5 p.m. PT on Sunday, November 3, key features of the iPhone 5s will stop working unless the iOS software is updated. It says that “iPhone 5 will require an iOS update to maintain accurate GPS location and to continue to use functions that rely on correct date and time including App Store, iCloud, email, and web browsing.”

In addition, other iPhone and iPad models introduced in 2012 or before, like the iPhone 4 and some iPad Mini, iPad 2, and iPad 3rd generation devices, will also be affected and need to be updated before Sunday. “If you don’t update to the newest version of iOS available for your device before November 3, some models might not be able to maintain an accurate GPS position,” Apple warns.

Apple blames a GPS rollover that occurred in April this year for the required update, explaining that “this is due to the GPS time rollover issue that began affecting GPS-enabled products from other manufacturers on April 6, 2019. Affected Apple devices are not impacted until just before 12:00 a.m. UTC on November 3, 2019.”

The iPhone 5 was first released in 2012, so it’s a little surprising that the device is affected by the GPS time rollover issue. That issue occurred because GPS devices measure time in one-week periods which are designated by a 10-bit week number identifier. The last rollover before this year was on August 21, 1999, and in April this year, the week number count reached its limit with a week number identifier of 1111111111 and had to reset to 0000000000.

In most cases, this only affected much older devices such as GPS systems from the early 2000s, as more modern devices are usually designed to take the change in epoch into account. But it seems that iPhone model 5s and earlier were not designed to anticipate the rollover.

Apple has been criticized in the past for its approach to older devices, particularly when it admitted in 2017 that it introduced software that deliberately slowed down older iPhone models. The company has heavily pushed a regular upgrade cycle, with planned obsolescence being a notable part of that strategy.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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