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How to install your favorite apps on old iPhones that can’t run iOS 16

Updated Jan 17th, 2023 10:36AM EST
iPhone 14 design.
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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When Apple unveiled iOS 16 earlier this year, it delivered bad news to iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 owners. Their devices would no longer run the latest operating system, which meant they’d never get all those exciting new iOS 16 features. That said, you can continue using iPhones that run iOS 15 safely, and you can still install apps on these older models.

However, users who choose not to upgrade the hardware should be aware of some app-related caveats. Most developers update their apps to optimize them for the latest operating system, iOS 16. As a result, getting the apps you need on iPhone will work a little differently on phones that don’t support Apple’s latest mobile OS.

How to install new apps on your iOS 15 iPhone

The good news is that most iPhone apps in the App Store support much older operating system versions than iOS 15. Even if you’re on an older iPhone, you’ll be able to install most of these apps without worrying about your iOS version.

The only caveat here concerns apps that are created specifically for iOS 16. If that’s the case, your device won’t be able to run them.

To download and install apps on your iOS 15 device, open the App Store app on your handset and search for the app you need. If it shows up, your older iPhone can run a version of the app. Just install the app as you usually would.

As Apple Insider points out, you can always install new apps on a new iPhone that can run iOS 16. The app will be available to download if you use the same Apple ID on your older iPhone. Go to the App Store app, tap on your profile icon and then go to the Purchased menu. You’ll find the brand new app in the My Purchases section if the new app can run on iOS 15.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Main
Apple iPhone 12 Pro with the display turned on. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

How to download older versions of apps on your iPhone

But what if you need to install an older app that you’ve deleted from your older iPhone? You can reinstall the app just as easily, even if the developer updates the app with iOS 16 features.

The process is similar to the method above as long as the app is available in the App Store. You can take the same route: App Store app, profile icon, Purchased menu, and My Purchases.

Once in there, you’ll need to scroll or search for the app you want. You should find it with ease. Tap the iCloud icon next to it and download the older app to your iPhone.

The one problem you can encounter here is a warning asking you whether you want to “download an older version of this app.” You’ll have to tap Download to confirm that you want it.

The downside is that you can’t pick which version of the app you get. It’ll be the last version the developer released for iOS 15.

iPhone SE 3 color options
iPhone SE 3 color options. Image source: Apple Inc.

How to install abandoned iPhone apps

There’s another thing to consider when deleting apps from your iPhone, regardless of what device you own. If it’s an app you love but which hasn’t seen any updates in years, you might not want to delete it. There’s no telling whether you’ll find it again in the App Store if you do.

The good news is that old, abandoned iPhone apps will surely run on older iPhones that can’t upgrade to iOS 16.

Apple typically still hosts the app in the App Store for you to redownload it, even if it doesn’t appear anymore in App Store searches. Apple can always purge outdated apps, and developers can retire them. You won’t be affected if you have the abandoned app on your iPhone.

If you deleted it and want to reinstall it, it’s quite simple. To search for abandoned apps you installed via the current Apple ID, just follow the steps described in the section above. You’ll find it in the same My Purchases menu if the old app is still in the App Store.

Of course, the best way to deal with an older iPhone is to upgrade the hardware. This guide will tell you which new iPhone to buy, and there’s a great incentive to install Apple’s latest operating system as soon as possible.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.