Macs, iPhones, and iPads can last along time, but if they’re more than a few years old, you won’t get all the new features in Apple’s latest operating systems. In this year’s macOS Sonoma, iOS 17, and iPadOS 17, older devices will miss out on some interesting new features. And running older Macs may even be dangerous.
- When does an old Mac become unsafe to use?
- If Your Mac is Too Old, You Won’t Get These New Features in macOS Sonoma
- If Your iPhone or iPad Is Too Old, You Won’t Get These New Features in iOS 17 or iPadOS 17
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Transcript of Intego Mac Podcast episode 302
Voice Over 0:00
This is the Intego Mac Podcast–the voice of Mac security–for Thursday, July 27 2023.
This week we present a special episode discussing older Apple hardware, and what new Apple features they won’t support; and at what point older hardware might not be safe to use. Now, here are the hosts of the Intego Mac podcast, veteran Mac journalist, Kirk McElhearn. And Intego’s Chief Security Analyst, Josh Long.
Kirk McElhearn 0:33
Good morning, Josh, how are you today?
Josh Long 0:35
I’m doing well. How are you, Kirk?
Kirk McElhearn 0:36
I’m doing just fine. You are in a secure location this week. So this is an episode that we recorded using time travel, we recorded it in advance and it’s going to appear magically, on July 27. We want to talk about old Macs becoming unsafe, we want to talk about features that older Macs, iPhones and iPads won’t get with this year’s operating system. So this is an episode about old Macs. This is one of your favorite topics, isn’t it?
Josh Long 1:00
Yeah, well, we talk about these sorts of things all the time, we talk about how I’ve got an old mid-2007 iMac that’s still running your current operating system. Yeah, this is fun stuff.
Kirk McElhearn 1:12
We’ll link in the show notes to some articles about installing macOS Ventura, or Sonoma on unsupported Macs for security reasons. And we have another one,”Nine Things You Can Do With an Old Mac”. We also have an article that we recently wrote, “When Does an Old Mac Become Unsafe to Use?” And we’ve said it many times, but this is kind of summing up what we’ve been talking about a lot that once the Mac can’t run the current operating system, it doesn’t get enough security updates, and Apple sometimes updates the previous one sometimes updates the second to previous one. But if you don’t have the latest operating system, you’re really out of luck, aren’t you?
Josh Long 1:46
Yeah, that’s exactly the problem is that if you aren’t on the latest version, you get all the patches, if there’s some zero day vulnerability that’s being actively exploited in the wild, Apple will usually release that for the current and two previous versions of macOS. And they’ll usually release it for the previous version of iOS as well, not always at the same time, there might be a little bit of a delay in some cases. And in some cases, they just don’t patch things for the old operating systems, including sometimes actively exploited vulnerabilities. And the same goes for watchOS. For the first time we’ve seen this happen where Apple went months and months, like nearly a year without patching watchOS 8 for the Series 3 watch. And then they released randomly, just like one patch for one particular actively exploited vulnerability but left several other vulnerabilities including some actively exploited ones that are completely unpatched. If you’re using an Apple device, you have to be on the latest operating system, if you want to make sure that you’re actually getting all those security vulnerabilities patched.
Kirk McElhearn 2:53
Now, some people choose to not upgrade for a variety of reasons. And you may have a Mac that runs just fine. And you need to run old software, you know, there was a point where there was a cut off between 32-bit and 64-bit. And if you have specific software that you need, that isn’t 64-bit, you may need to use an old Mac for that. And this is not necessarily problematic if it’s not connected to the internet, or if you don’t use a web browser with it.
Josh Long 3:16
And in fact, there are some easy ways that you can do it. Even if you don’t have old Mac hardware, you could use a virtual machine. So you’re running macOS within macOS. And that inner macOS that’s running in a virtual machine can be an older version of macOS.
Kirk McElhearn 3:33
I think a lot of businesses end up running Windows computers that are very old because of old software, often it’s software that was written or modified specifically for businesses. And either they fired the developers or the IT team or the company doesn’t support it anymore. And it’s too expensive for them to rebuild the software, get new versions of software.
Josh Long 3:54
Yeah, this is a bigger deal, I would say on Apple platforms, because Apple doesn’t have any problem with breaking features. For example, for legacy software, they want to make sure that you’re on the latest operating system, they don’t really care if dropping 32-bit app support is going to disallow you from running some older applications that you bought 10 years ago, say, or that you developed internally 10 years ago and don’t have the original developer to port them to make them work with current Macs. So Apple is not afraid of breaking things. On the Microsoft side of things with Windows. Microsoft, generally speaking, will support features, like, far beyond where it’s reasonable to support them, just to make sure that they maintain all that backwards compatibility because they like people to be able to use legacy apps, regardless of whatever the security implications might be.
Kirk McElhearn 4:54
I think I read a few months ago that companies—it might have been in the US—were looking for people who knew how to develop in Fortran, a very old programming language. It’s not used anymore. And I think this is highly used in infrastructure power plants in that sort of industry. Am I remembering this correctly?
Josh Long 5:12
Oh, yeah, this sort of thing happens a lot. I would say like, probably every year I see an article like this that somebody is looking for, you know, a legacy developer because they’ve found some system that now needs to be updated and they don’t know what to do with it. Yeah, it’s a good thing that there are still people out there who are familiar with these antiquated, shall we say, programming languages.
Kirk McElhearn 5:34
Okay, so we want to start with macOS, we’re gonna look at which Macs can run macOS Ventura that can’t run macOS Sonoma. Obviously, anything in the past few years, you’re fine. There’s only really two cutoffs between the Ventura compatibility list and the Sonoma compatibility list. You could install macOS Ventura on a 2017 or newer iMac for Sonoma 2019. And you could use a 2017 MacBook Pro and for Sonoma, it’s 2018. The oldest Mac that can use Sonoma is 2017. And that’s the iMac Pro. Now the iMac Pro is like a, it’s off to the side, there was only one model ever made. It definitely had much better processors and guts in it had everything at the time, it was like $5,000 when it came out, wasn’t it. So they’re gonna have to make that one last a little bit longer because of what it cost. Otherwise, the cutoff is pretty much the same at 2019. For all of the different Macs.
Josh Long 6:25
This is a little bit less than Apple usually cuts. I know the previous year Apple cut several other models, when they released macOS Ventura. macOS Sonoma at the very least, if you’ve got an iMac Pro, a Mac mini, Mac Pro or Mac Studio, you’re fine. No matter what model you have of those as long as it could run Ventura, it will be able to run Sonoma, it’s just those two models of iMac, there’s a few versions of the 2017 iMac, and also the 2017 MacBook Pro, that are no longer going to be able to run macOS Sonoma. That may be something that you could upgrade with OpenCore Legacy Patcher, which we’ve talked about before. Again, that’s the software that allows you to be able to run a newer operating system than Apple officially supports on your Mac. And there have been previous versions of something similar to this. There was a guy called Dos Dude, one who had been releasing patches for previous versions of macOS. And then once he stopped releasing those patches, then this new team, this OpenCore Legacy Patcher team came along and started releasing new versions. So for the past few years, we’ve had OpenCore Legacy Patcher. And they’re going to continue to do this as long as they reasonably can. And so far every year, they’ve been able to find clever ways of being able to reintroduce support for older Mac models with the latest macOS versions. It’s getting harder to do. But they’ve been able to manage to do this every year for the past few years
Kirk McElhearn 8:04
Didn’t it just announced that they’re working on a beta version for macOS Sonoma?
Josh Long 8:09
Yeah, they said that there will be a beta version out pretty soon, it’s not going to cover all of the Macs that can run macOS Ventura, using OpenCore Legacy Patcher but they wanted to at least start getting public testing out there. Before the release of Sonoma, once macOS Sonoma comes out. They’re hoping that within a couple of months perhaps after that, they’ll be able to release a full public version of this that we’ll be able to support a lot of Mac’s hopefully all or at least most of the Mac’s that can run macOS Ventura should be able to support macOS Sonoma once they get all the last bugs worked out.
Kirk McElhearn 8:49
Okay, let’s talk about compatibility for iPhones and iPads. In the second part of the show, we’re going to talk about specific features that you won’t get on the Mac or the iPhone and iPad if your device is too old. So iOS 16 could run on an iPhone 8, and that’s an iPhone that’s like five, six years ago, right? We’re up to the 14 so that six years before. It could run on the iPhone 8, the iPhone X or 10, the XS the XS Max, and Apple has cut off those models. So the oldest iPhone they can run iOS 17 is the iPhone XR or the iPhone 11 or the iPhone SE second generation so 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15? You’re fine.
Josh Long 9:26
Right. So iPhone 11 or newer, iPhone XR, and second generation of iPhone SE or newer, you’re okay. So the just a few iPhone models that were cut off. There were also some iPad models that I think are getting cut off from iPadOS 17. Do you have that list?
Kirk McElhearn 9:43
Yeah, the fifth generation iPad, that’s the “plain” iPad, is no longer supported. So the 6, 7, 8 and 9 are supported. iPad mini doesn’t change iPad air doesn’t change. The iPad Pro, interestingly, it’s only the second generation and later. Now the iPad Pro was the first one with the M1 chip, right? And we’re gonna see when we look more closely that the M1 seems to be a cut off for some of these features. So basically any of Apple’s M series processors. And I think going forward, if you have an Intel Mac, you’re going to lose out more and more over time.
Josh Long 10:16
In fact, I honestly believe that within the next two years or so they’re probably just going to drop all of the the last Intel Mac models so that you’re going to have to have Apple silicon, if you want to run the latest macOS. Remains to be seen. Apple, of course, doesn’t really announce this kind of stuff far in advance. And we’ll know in a year or two at WWDC, whether they’re going to cut off the last of the Intel Macs.
Kirk McElhearn 10:41
I want to disagree with you there Josh. Two years? I mean, remember that they were still selling an Intel Mac mini until, what six months ago?
Josh Long 10:50
It could be three years. But again, I don’t think it’s going to be any longer than that. I think at the outside, I think we’re looking at three years from now. Part of the reason for that we can kind of look back at Apple’s transition away from PowerPC toward Intel. I don’t think that Apple wants to keep the Intel Macs around any longer than they absolutely have to. And remember, we’ve also seen that Apple’s not afraid to pull the rug out from under people who recently bought some particular piece of hardware and say Hi, sorry, you’re not going to get any OS updates anymore.
Kirk McElhearn 11:23
Okay, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to look more specifically at the features that you won’t get with an old Mac and macOS Sonoma, iOS 17 and iPadOS 17.
Voice Over 11:34
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Kirk McElhearn 12:51
Okay, let’s look at the features that you won’t get in macOS Sonoma, if you have an old Mac. Now in the first part I mentioned that the cutoff for a lot of these features seems to be Intel Macs. So if you have a Mac with M series processor, you’re okay. But there is one feature that will not run on all M1 Macs, we’ll get to this at the end, The first feature that will not run on Intel Macs—and this is a real bummer—is you will have to say “Hey Siri”. If you have a M series Mac, you’ll just say “Siri” and the digital assistant will awaken and respond to whatever you ask. But if you have an Intel Mac, you still have to say “hey”.
Josh Long 13:26
This is kind of crazy to me. I mean, we’re talking about a one word difference. And somehow the Intel Macs can’t handle that. I have a really hard time understanding this one.
Kirk McElhearn 13:36
Yeah, it’s kind of confusing, but remember that an Apple processor is not just a CPU, it’s a neural engine. It’s a security thing. It’s all sorts… So maybe it needs to use too much processor time to keep listening to distinguish the two I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit ridiculous. But that’s life. Apple introduced a feature at WWDC called Presenter Overlay. So you can do a presentation of your screen. So let’s say you’ve got a PowerPoint or Apple Keynote and you want to show a presentation and your video taken from your camera, or say on my iMac, the camera would fill me and put me in front of that screen and it looks really nice. And you’ll see Apple’s image in the article that I linked to on the Intego Mac Security blog.
Josh Long 14:17
You can kind of visualize this as… imagine that you’re presenting in front of an audience and you’ve got a projector screen, you know, behind you imagine you’re projecting your display onto that. That’s what this looks like. If somebody is watching you on a FaceTime or Zoom call, they can see you in front of your screen. It looks just like you’re standing in front of a big screen in front of an audience.
Kirk McElhearn 14:42
But only if you have a Mac with an M series processor.
Josh Long 14:45
Yeah. Sad. But this one at least I do understand because that requires more processing power. Right? (Well, more video.) Exactly, right. And so I get why they’re cutting that off, why Intel Macs can’t do that.
Kirk McElhearn 14:58
Okay, High Performance Screen Sharing. And most people don’t use Screen Sharing. I have a headless Mac mini that I use as a server. So I connect to it using Screen Sharing. Whenever I want to do anything, basically you’re opening a window that shows you the screen on another Mac. It’s always laggy. So they have a High Performance Screen Sharing that uses, and I quote, “The advanced media engine in Apple silicone to enable highly responsive remote access over high bandwidth connections.” Note “high bandwidth connections”. You gotta be over Ethernet, probably. Wi Fi might not work. Again, most people don’t use Screen Sharing. If you do, and you use it a lot, you’ll like this.
Josh Long 15:34
Yeah, this is one other one of those things that I kind of understand requiring an M series processor. I have used a similar feature. Apple has a feature where you can have another computer be your extended desktop. So if you don’t have another display, or if you want, let’s say maybe you do have an external display and you want a third display, I can stick my old MacBook Pro next to my MacBook Air. But that MacBook Pro has an Intel processor and it is not perfect. It is a little bit laggy sometimes.
Kirk McElhearn 16:03
Okay, the new Game Mode, Apple has designed so games can take priority over other apps and processes that are running. Games need more CPU and GPU. And this is a good idea. Now I remember in the early days of macOS, there was a command line tool called “renice” that you would use to lower the amount of CPU time that different processes could get. So when you didn’t have a lot of RAM and you really needed something to work, let’s say you wanted to rip a DVD right, using Handbrake to convert a video, you want to get all the CPU time you can use renice to lower the priority of other processes. This sounds like it’s similar. Apple says it also reduces latency with controllers and AirPods. Presumably that’s going to make them work a little bit better. This actually seems like a no brainer that they should have introduced this a long time ago. I guess. With the Intel processors, they don’t have as much control over that type of array. Nice function.
Josh Long 16:58
Yeah, I would say this new Game Mode is really “nice”.
Kirk McElhearn 17:02
Oh, okay. For once you like something a lot here, Josh?
Josh Long 17:05
Well, I’m kind of playing on the pun. But yeah, I do. Like this.
Kirk McElhearn 17:10
I didn’t catch that. Okay. Okay. So there is a feature that will not work on all M processors. There is something called “Made for iPhone” or MFI hearing devices. And these are new hearing aids that you can use an iPhone to configure and customize. And they let you use noise cancellation, feedback cancellation, directional microphones, really nifty stuff. Unfortunately, they don’t run on all Macs with Apple silicon, the plain M1 processor is cut out here. If you have the M1 Pro max or ultra, you can use this but the base M1 isn’t getting this feature. Now this isn’t necessarily a big feature. And it’s really only about pairing the devices with the Mac. So I kind of wonder what it is. Regular listeners will remember that over two years ago, when I bought the M1 iMac I said I’m going to make this a five year iMac. And I’m actually starting to worry now that if they’re going to cut out features for the M1, the plain M1, not pro, max, or ultra, what will happen with…Will this iMac see five years and get all the features?
Josh Long 18:11
Well, you might be missing one or two features, then it’s possible. This is a little more surprising to me, I don’t really understand exactly why the original M1 is not going to be able to get this feature. But this is one of those things where Apple is always trying to push you to get the latest hardware. Maybe there are some legitimate technical reasons why they can’t do this with the original M1. I don’t know. But it feels like Apple not releasing features for older models, in some cases, especially with that, “Hey, Siri”, where you still have to say “hey”, if you have an Intel Mac
Kirk McElhearn 18:47
Yet for the hearing aid thing, it could just be that an older version of Bluetooth is in the original M1. And a newer version with more capabilities is in the other versions.
Josh Long 18:55
Yeah. Or something similar to that. It’s probably a hardware specific thing. (Yeah.) But I think that gets us through the whole list of things that the Intel Macs and in one case, the first gen M1 Max will not get with macOS Sonoma. But what about iPhones?
Kirk McElhearn 19:11
Okay, iPhones and iPads pretty much have the same features that they can’t run. And as we said earlier, iOS 17 runs on the iPhone XS, XR, second generation SE, 11 to the present. You won’t get FaceTime Live Reactions if you’re on an older iPhone, and this feature is available with the iPhone 12 or later. So even the 11, XS and XR won’t get this feature. So FaceTime Live Reactions is you thumbs up and you get just confetti balloons and it’s kind of dumb feature anyway, I don’t really want to use this.
Josh Long 19:43
So, yeah, it’s probably not a feature that I’ll be using all that often. I’m sure that kids will enjoy playing with this feature. My kids when they’re on a call with grandparents or something like that will probably love this one.
Kirk McElhearn 19:54
One of the features I really like in iOS 17 is Standby Mode. You can put your phone to charge in landscape mode and it will display things like a clock and a calendar or widgets. There is an always on option, but it’s only available with the iPhone 14, 14 Pro or later. So that’s basically two generations. Now, I’m guessing this has to do with the amount of power consumed or the always on display. I think it’s been in the iPhone since the 12, or the 13. But this sort of feature cutting off with well, what’s the current year’s phone the last year’s phone when iOS 17 comes out, seems a bit surprising. Now the only difference is that the older phones will just turn off and you’ll have to tap them to wake them up. Apple says that the display will intelligently turn off when not in use. When attention is detected, iPhone will not sleep the display and I think that’s the thing right there. So basically, it’s got its camera, it’s always watching you. And if it sees your face turning to look at it, then it’s going to keep the display on. Something worth testing as we get further along in the betas. Apple has also improved AutoCorrect and predictive typing. I really hope so because sometimes autocorrect can come up with the weirdest things. I dictate a lot. I dictate on my Mac on my iPhone, because I hate the little keyboard. Sometimes it comes up with words that like proper names I’ve never heard of and words that make absolutely no sense. So they say this is going to be better. They also say that autocorrected words are temporarily underlined. So you can change back to the word that you said just by tapping, but only iPhone 12 or later and here only in certain languages.
Josh Long 21:31
That’s kind of an odd one. I do think this is a great feature though for iPhone models that support it. I have a family member for example, who’s dyslexic and uses the voice dictation all the time. They almost never type anything. So this is a great feature. It is a bit disappointing that it requires an iPhone 12 or later. Again, this is another one that I’m I’m not exactly clear on why this really requires like a particular model of iPhone, but okay, there you go.
Kirk McElhearn 21:56
Okay, back to back Siri requests. This has always annoyed me. Well, I’m in the kitchen. And I want to add some things to my shopping list. I never use Hey Siri, I always just press the button because I don’t want Siri Listen to me all the time. So add flour to my shopping list have to wait for it to finish add milk to my shopping list. You have to tap again or press the button again. Here you’ll be able to say add flour to my shopping list, add milk to my shopping list, set a timer for 20 minutes. Wake me up at 8:30 in the morning, and Siri should understand all of these things as separate requests. If you have an iPhone 11 or later.
Josh Long 22:28
Again, is it really that hard for older iPhones? I don’t get.
Kirk McElhearn 22:32
Well maybe Siri doesn’t have enough memory. I mean, maybe there’s a Siri chip or part of the chip is for Siri and doesn’t have enough memory to remember all this? I don’t know. Okay, so Siri without the “hey” will work on all compatible iPhones. But it’s kind of weird for the AirPods because it only works with the AirPods Pro 2, it doesn’t work with the AirPods Max that we talked about last week, it doesn’t work with the regular AirPods. So this means that the processing for this is done in the AirPods and not on the phone when you do this. Right. So this is a feature that isn’t specific to the phone model but it’s specific to the AirPods model.
Josh Long 23:09
Maybe there’s a hardware limitation there with the the original AirPods are there really that many people who are like that excited about dropping the “hey”, you know, (It’s one of those things…) Like you I’m not using Hey Siri as a feature because I hate the idea of accidentally activating my device, you know, or having somebody else do it.
Kirk McElhearn 23:28
“Hey, seriously.” It happens all the time. Right? Worth pointing out that you don’t need “Hey Alexa”, you just say Alexa and that’s enough. But Alexa is three syllables. Siri is only two maybe that has something to do with it.
Josh Long 23:40
Well, that’s true, I guess like “Okay, Google”. That’s four syllables. So…
Kirk McElhearn 23:44
Yeah. Okay, there are some new AirPods features adaptive audio, a mute and unmute feature improvements automatic switching between devices. They require an iPhone XS, XR or laster. And AirPods Pro second generation. The other AirPods seem to be left out. This a little bit disappointing. The AirPods Max is two and a half years old. That doesn’t seem like very old to not get the new features. But remember, we’re talking about Macs and iPhones and iPads here but also your AirPods and your Apple Watch are affected by any of these things, your Apple TV. We didn’t cover the Apple TV in this article, but FaceTime on Apple TV requires, I think the second generation 4k Apple TV. So there are a number of features that affect other things. We want to get to the iPad quickly before the end. Enhanced autofill. I really like this. If you get a PDF, you can autofill it on your iPad. Let’s say you get something where you have to put your name and address right and the same way you do on Safari, you’ll be able to enter that data automatically. Only available in certain iPad models. I list them in the article on the Intego Mac Security blog. Stage Manager is something I use all the time on my Mac I love it. I never use it on the iPad. I hate it. It’s really like…people in this country the UK they say it’s “marmite”, you either love it or you hate it. They’ve added some additional flexibility to moving and resizing windows for Stage Manager on the iPad, but you have to have a fifth generation iPad Air, a third generation iPad Pro 12.9 inch, or a first generation iPad Pro 11 inch or later to get these. So they’re really cutting the iPad in slices here, right, of what it can get and what it can’t. And you know, the iPad… Before the iPad Pro, you had all these “A” chips, A12, A13, A7 . So it’s not like you had Intel and then Apple processors. We don’t know where this is gonna go. Personally, I don’t work with my iPad. So I don’t worry too much about missing out on some of those things. What do you think?
Josh Long 25:41
You know what, I still haven’t used Stage Manager. It’s one of those features that I just I don’t think I need this. I’m used to not having this feature. And so I can just manually hide and unhide things. I use keyboard shortcuts for that. So I don’t care about Stage Manager.
Kirk McElhearn 25:57
Yeah, no, I agree. So all of the iPhone features that we mentioned are also applicable to the iPad to certain models. And again, we have articles on the Intego Mac Security blog, listing all of these. The Stage Manager and the autofill are specific to iPadOS. So if you have an older iPad, you won’t get all the features. If you have an older iPhone, you won’t get all the features, you have to decide if any of them are deal breakers. I kind of think people keep iPads longer than iPhones because you’re always carrying an iPhone with you, you’re more likely to drop it you probably spend more time on it and use the battery up. Whereas iPads…I’ve got a couple of iPads in my household that are five years old, or maybe even more when they work fine. And I don’t think most people really notice if they’re missing a new feature like that on the iPad.
Josh Long 26:41
Right? I agree. In our household we’re primarily using the iPad is just the streaming video device. So if it can stream video from all the services, you know, and it can run all those apps just fine. It’s not going to be a thing that we’ll notice.
Kirk McElhearn 26:54
Okay, that’s enough for this week, links in the show notes to all these articles and then to go Mac security blog. Until next week, Josh, stay secure.
Josh Long 27:00
All right, stay secure.
Voice Over 27:03
Thanks for listening to the Intego Mac podcast, the voice of Mac security, with your hosts Kirk McElhearn, and Josh Long. To get every weekly episode, be sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app. And, if you can, leave a rating, a like, or a review. Links to topics and information mentioned in the podcast can be found in the show notes for the episode podcast.intego.com The Intego website is also where to find details on the full line of Intego security and utility software. intego.com.