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Sorry, But Your iPhone 5 Just Became Obsolete

Illustration for article titled Sorry, But Your iPhone 5 Just Became Obsolete
Photo: Gizmodo

Sometime in the flurry of news surrounding the new iPad Pro and the new MacBook Air, Apple quietly added the iPhone 5 to its list of “vintage and obsolete products” in the United States. There it sits, alongside the Apple III, the Newton MessagePad, and the first four generations of iPhone, as a thing that Apple officially no longer repairs or updates. The iPhone 5 is effectively dead in America, and the rest of Apple’s small-hands phones aren’t far behind.

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This isn’t a surprise. Apple officially defines vintage products as those that haven’t been manufactured for five to seven years. The company discontinued the iPhone 5 in 2013, right after it announced the iPhone 5C, which was effectively the same device in a different case and is not yet obsolete. It does look like the iPhone 5 is not yet dead globally as Apple stopped short of adding it to its list of worldwide vintage and obsolete products. Nevertheless, it’s only a matter of time.

The iPhone 5 is also survived by the iPhone 5s and the iPhone SE—sort of. Apple actually discontinued the iPhone 5S in 2016, when the iPhone SE came out. But then, in September, Apple removed the iPhone SE from its online store, the first symptom of its imminent demise. That means that the slimmer case and 4-inch screen size are almost definitely doomed in the realm of iPhone design. Here to stay is the wider 4.7-inch iPhone 7, which Apple still sells, as well as the bigger devices, like the iPhone XS Max and its hulkish 6.5-inch screen. This is bad news for people with small hands, who loved the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4 before it, because they could actually use the dang things.

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None of this is to say that the iPhone 5 was Apple’s greatest phone. The device itself was prone to nicks and scratches, as its bluish-black anodized aluminum case just felt kind of crappy. The iPhone 5 also won’t support iOS 11 or iOS 12, and there were even some rumors that earlier versions of iOS 10 would phase out support as well. It also only had 1GB of RAM, which now seems hilariously underpowered compared to the 4GB of RAM in the iPhone XS.

Still, that form factor is something people will miss. It’s not gone yet, as Apple continues to support the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5c, and the iPhone SE. But it’s almost as if a family of four just lost their oldest sibling, and the Grim Reaper is coming for them next. When they die, the skinny, small-screen iPhones will be gone. Unless, of course, Apple decides to make an iPhone Mini, which would be hilarious and probably well received.

Update 2:30pm EDT - There might be hope yet! According to 9to5Mac, Apple will soon launch a new “Repair Vintage Apple Products Pilot” program that would enable some Apple stores and authorized service providers to repair older gadgets, including the iPhone 5. The details of the pilot program are unclear, as Apple has not announced anything. But maybe, just maybe, your iPhone 5 will get some life support in the near future.

Senior editor at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

I think it’s been obsolete for a long time (for those who buy Apple products as a “badge” of their fashion, and for those who buy them for newer tech), but it’s definitely a loss for those who like the form factor. I have an S9, so I’m used to a much larger screen at this point (and would miss it), but the iPhone 5 is just about perfect size-wise for people that don’t have large hands. Hopefully something like foldable displays makes it so that we can have both huge phones and easy one-handed use.