The point of no return

Tech Life

My wife Carmen owns a 16 GB, first-generation iPod touch, and as you know it can’t be updated to iOS 4; the maximum firmware version supported is iOS 3.1.3.

The other day something quite annoying happened for the second time. There was an update available for one of the apps she has purchased and installed on her iPod. Along with other app updates, she downloaded it in iTunes. Then, as soon as she connected her iPod, iTunes performed the usual synchronisation process. When it was all over, she disconnected the iPod and went to use that app, which refused to open. After some attempts, we both figured out that the problem was that with the latest update, said app dropped support for iOS 3.x. Having now iOS 4 as a minimum requirement, it obviously can’t work on her iPod anymore.

That app cost her 3.99 Euros, but what really annoys me isn’t just a matter of money. I simply think there’s something wrong with this process.

One: iTunes should prevent installing app updates on unsupported devices, to avoid this kind of situation.[1]

Two: there should really be a solid failsafe procedure in case you install an app update that breaks backward compatibility. The trick of looking for the old .ipa file in the Trash and restoring it in iTunes may work, but it’s not an easy and reliable solution (case in point: she uses a PC and her Trash is set to automatically erase files that are moved into it). There should be some sort of Revert to Previous Version button or command.

Three: when an app update ceases to support iOS 3.x, developers should at least emphasise the change in the app description field in the App Store. This is really an instance in which I don’t mind READING A WARNING IN ALL CAPS. In this particular case, unfortunately, the developer’s website does not have updated information (it still says that the app requires iOS 3.1 or above), and the change in requirements wasn’t properly advertised.

Four: this is a general consideration, but another very welcome feature, in my opinion, should be the ability to manually turn off further update notifications for iOS apps. I have more than twenty apps that I chose to remove from my iPhone, and I’m not interested in downloading their updates for the time being, and at the same time I don’t want to remove them completely from iTunes either. Just a simple “Enable updates for this app” switch, turned on by default for all apps (the most reasonable setting), that I can turn off as I see fit.

It’s really a ‘point of no return’ situation. Carmen had to remove the app from her iPod touch, and won’t be able to use it again unless she upgrades the hardware, which is kind of ludicrous considering that her iPod touch still works perfectly (and lately looks even snappier than my iPhone 3G with iOS 4.2.1). If you’re going to comment something like She should have been more careful, please spare the advice. When there are more than 10 updates queued in iTunes people understandably just press “Update all”. A good interface design puts barriers in place to protect the users and avoid situations that inconvenience them, like this one.



  • 1. What’s puzzling is that sometimes iTunes does so: when I downloaded the free VLC Player app for iPhone, it refused to install it on my iPhone 3G. I had downloaded it without knowing that it wasn’t compatible with my hardware (it needed at least an iPhone 3GS if I remember correctly). So perhaps there is some kind of hardware check, but evidently not a firmware check before installing an update.


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  1. I think there is some kind of control also for updates. I have the same iPod Touch of Carmen’s and I remember an update downloaded but not installed due to iOS 3. iTunes showed a dialog box about the incompatibility of the app but the old version stayed in place. I’ll check later to be sure.

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  3. totally agree with your arguments in this issue!

    with this AppStore things are day by day less accurate and user-friendly than Apple has accustomed us too …

  4. Giovanni says

    That happen to me but luckily for me I could upgrade my iPod iOS.
    I agree also that these Apple’s stores are unfriendly.

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