The iPhone 5 may be their current handset, but that doesn’t mean Apple has forgotten about the iPhone 3GS. First launched in 2009, the third generation model is now the longest supported smartphone capable of running a modern operating system. This suggests that Apple, despite offering new iOS devices each year, remains committed to supporting older devices too, according to AppleInsider.

First unveiled by Apple’s Phil Schiller in June 2009, the iPhone 3GS was much more than an evolutionary device, despite looking similar to the iPhone 3G. The handset came with twice the RAM of previous models, an improved 3MP camera, and supported HSDPA wireless networks up to 7.2 Mbps.

It also stuck around for quite a while. Recently discontinued by Apple, the iPhone 3GS was available for purchase for over 3 years, and will be supported through 2013.

Even after the iPhone 4 arrived in 2010, Apple kept the iPhone 3GS around as a 8GB model for $99. Last year, that same model remained and became Apple’s first iPhone to be available at no upfront cost.

Best of all, as each iOS update has arrived, the iPhone 3GS remained supported, either fully or partially. With iOS 6, for example, the model doesn’t support 3-D maps and flyover, turn-by-turn navigation, and panorama camera capture.

Still, the fact that the iPhone 3GS remains supported at all is unique.

Smartphone OS Upgrades

Smartphone OS Upgrades

As AppleInsider explains, this is something you rarely see in the smartphone industry. In particular, many of the phones that debuted around the same time as the iPhone 3GS weren’t even supported for the length of the customer’s two-year contract:

The entire range of Windows Mobile 6.x devices, Palm’s webOS Pre and Pixi, RIM’s Blackberry 5.x lineup and all hardware running Google’s Android 2.0 Eclair are not just unsupported today by those platforms’ latest releases, but were in all cases not even supported through the first two years’ contract life of those devices. That situation isn’t changing either, with Google, Microsoft and RIM’s platforms all gearing up to provide their new releases exclusively on new devices.

The main reason Apple can continue to support their older products is that they control both the hardware and software. Other companies such as Nokia, for example, must rely on outsiders to implement new software upgrades. Additionally, less expensive handsets often lack enough RAM to support a single upgrade.

Apple’s commitment to older devices isn’t just great news for iPhone 3GS customers, but to iOS customers in general. After all, while the iPhone 5 is new right now, it won’t be in three years. For users that keep the handset around through 2015 or later, it is nice to know that Apple’s commitment to it will remain.

Can Samsung Galaxy III customers say the same? Probably not.

Source: AppleInsider