How to make iPhone apps and influence people

Musings on the iOS development process

Is it worth supporting iOS 3 in 2011?

Now that we're well into 2011 the question has to be asked: Is it still worth supporting iOS 3 users? There are a lot of cool new APIs and language features you can take advantage of in iOS 4 (blocks being one of them), most new work I'm involved with is targeted at iOS 4 and soon we'll have iOS 5.

So, are you cutting off paying customers or future paying customers by requiring iOS 4.0 and above?

The tldr;

No, not really. iOS 3 numbers are in steady decline and I don't think new or existing apps will be alienating too many active customers by requiring iOS 4+.

Since July 2010 I've been collecting a basic set of anonymous data from users. I collect iOS version, app version and the device type. I have recorded just over 109,000 pieces of data to date.

Quick stats

  • Only 11% of active users are running less than iOS 4.0.
  • Only 6% of active users of my main paid app Seoul City Metro are running less than iOS 4.0.

The data

Comparison of iOS versions over time

This graph includes all the data I have collected so far summed up by month and major iOS version. The decline of iOS 3 is clear here with iOS 4 accounting for 89% of all active users by March 2011.

Combined Apps iOS versions (one week)

A sample of the last week's data split by iOS version.

iOS4 Distribution

This graph splits up the 89% pie piece from the second graph and shows the uptake of each distinct iOS 4 version. I found the iOS 4.3 update really interesting, since it was released on March 11 (only 9 days ago) and already accounts for 30% of users. (FYI: the first occurrence of iOS 4.3 was 15-01-2011) The previous version (iOS 4.2.1) is the second highest total at 55%. This means 75% of iOS4 users are quite up to date.

The same split for the iOS 3 distribution shows the latest version of non iPad iOS 3, 3.1.3 accounts for 81% of users and the version prior to that (3.1.2) accounts for 17.6%.

Paid vs. Free iOS Distribution

Here's the difference between paying customers and non-paying customers. The results are interesting but as I expected; paying customers are more up to date than non paying customers. There are half the number of iOS 3.x users (by percentage) of my $1.99 app as there are using my free app. It makes sense that people who pay for apps keep things up to date more than your user with a phone full of free apps.

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