If you own an Apple iPhone 5, iPhone 4s or one of the early iPads with cellular connectivity, your device is about to be turned into a vintage technology paperweight by the GPS rollover problem that we wrote about in April.
Before we explain why, we should say it is possible to avoid this fate by updating your device to iOS version 10.3.4 (iPhone 5) or version 9.3.6 (iPhone 4 and iPads).
But there’s one critical detail – you must apply this update before 12:00 a.m. UTC on 3 November.
If you don’t follow this advice, the iPhone will, according to Apple, no longer be able to…
Maintain accurate GPS location and to continue to use functions that rely on correct date and time including App Store, iCloud, email, and web browsing.
So, losing the GPS stops the time and date being set, which immediately causes internet synchronisation problems affecting services that need to connect to remote servers.
In addition to the iPhone 5 and 4s, the iPads affected are the cellular-enabled iPad mini, iPad 2, and the third-generation iPad.
You can read the iPhone 5-specific warning or the one that includes the iPhone 4s if you want to confirm the worst in more detail.
Why is this necessary?
Because of the GPS satellite system’s equivalent of the Y2K bug.
The date broadcast by GPS includes a weekly counter with 1,024 possible values. This means it can count 1,024 weeks (which takes 19.7 years) before it has to “rollover” and start the counter again from 0.
The first rollover occurred with little fanfare, in 1999, a time when GPS was far less widely used. The second rollover happened this year, when the GPS week counter reset to 0 on 7 April.
For reasons Apple hasn’t explained, older devices aren’t affected by the rollover until 3 Nov 2019.
Party like it’s 2012
Chances are there are a lot of half-forgotten iPhone 5s out there, buried at the bottom of drawers. Their batteries are shot and they might not have had all the updates they should have since they were put away, but they do, in theory, function as working museum pieces.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your old iPhone 5 continued to be able to connect to the internet? Of course it would.
But the biggest problem of all is that over-the-air updates won’t work. Neither will iCloud backups.
Not updating by 3 November creates a bind – to make the device connect you need an update, but you can’t have that because the iPhone can’t connect to the update server.
At that point, only one rescue mission is possible – restore the device from a Mac or PC – in effect getting the computer to act as an update intermediary.
That won’t seem like a huge problem for some owners, but it does depend on having that facility as well as having made a backup of any data on the device.
What to do?
To check you have received the latest update:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap ‘General‘, then tap ‘About‘.
- Look for the number next to Software Version.
25 comments on “Got an early iPhone or iPad? Update now or turn it into a paperweight”
So it looks like iPad 4 with IOS version 10.3.3 will not be affected, right?
“So, losing the GPS stops the time and date being set, which immediately causes internet synchronisation problems affecting services that need to connect to remote servers.”
Can’t you just set the time manually?
The time set needs to be a whole lot more accurate than to the second.
My Ipad says it has IOS 9.3.5
I think most iPhone 4’s have been upgraded already; mine has had an automatic update a couple of weeks ago. Otherwise, it’s probably just another ruse to make everyone carry around something that can increasingly erode their privacy.
iOs10 is old. Are any versions higher than 10 OK for iPhone 5s?
Err, is 12:00 a.m. UTC 1 minute after 23:59, or 1 minute before 00:01?
Yes. 12:00 am UTC is 00:00 (or 24:00, depending on your perspective).
10.0 will cripple any older iPad or phone. You are dead either way. The hardware can’t handle the software. Just another example of Apples planned obsolescence efforts.
use ios 10.3.3 daily since it came out. Can literally do everything.. but you have to be smart about how for certain things.
My wife’s iPhone 4 is still on 7.1.2 and says hat’s the latest, so no way I can get her up to iOS 9. She only uses it as a phone and occasionaly for email so we’ll have to see what happens.
To be clear, is 12am on 3rd Nov 00:00 or 24:00hrs? (Use of a 12 hour clock in this instance is confusing me in this instance.)
12 am UTC is 00:00 in the 24 hour clock.
iPad 2, iOs 9.3.5, “Your software is up to date”. I already regard it a paperweight. Safari and iOS has not had a security update in… eons.
Only from The Fruit.
My ipad is version 12.4.2. Do I need to do anything?
So much for my perfectly good IPhone 4.
Good job Apple
iPhone 5c, iOS 10.3.3, “Your software is up to date.” How to get the 10.3.4 update?
5s says your spftware is up to date 10.3.3
5s is up to date with 12.4.2 & uploading 12.4.3
ipad hasnt updated beyond 10.3 for years
Purchased iPad in 2011. Settings said version is v.2.5.2 17349. Have an apple iPhone 7. Software version 13.1.1. Want to retain my iPad. Please help me!
My son’s iPad2 shows 9.3.5 and says it is up to date. Nothing else I can do since apparently 9.2.6 is not available to download to it. He will be disappointed to lose the couple of ancient games he plays on it that are no longer available anywhere, but he has a Samsung tablet for his every day use.
Leave it to Apple to require an update to make the device continue to work then have it say your current version (9.3.5) is up to date so you can’t update. Amazing androids don’t have issues like this but Apple is somehow so great.
Apple is too busy counting their $$$ !!!!!!
It just works?
Not in this case…