A Trip Down Memory Lane: iOS 6

I’ve always had a soft spot for iOS 6. It was the last iOS to use Apple’s classic skeuomorphic design, the first iOS released after Steve Jobs died. It was released alongside the iPhone 5 in September 2012 and represented the last hurrah of iOS before it was flattened and brightened with iOS 7. iOS 6 was full of shadows, textures, shapes, and animations that mimicked real-world objects and created a sense of depth. iOS 7 was neat and new but I’ve always missed that classic iOS look.

iOS 6 & iOS 7 Homescreens

The retina screen introduced with the iPhone 4 in 2010 introduced the golden era of classic iOS. The extra screen resolution made those imitation real-world textures look like real textures. The interface simply jumped off the screen. I have plenty of iOS devices that still run iOS 6 and below, but none of them were retina-class devices. The few retina devices that can run iOS 6 are the iPhone 4, 4s, and 5, but they can also run iOS 7 and later. This created a problem for me because Apple doesn’t allow downgrades (without hacking) and I didn’t plan for my museum well – all of my devices were already upgraded past iOS 6.

iOS 6 & iOS 7 Lock Screens

I lucked out and found a black iPhone 4 (coincidentally a model I didn’t already have) that was running iOS 5. I then hunted around and around on the internet and tried several special sets of downgrade instructions for my iPhone 5. I was unsuccessful many times, but I finally found a method that worked with some modifications. I’ll post about it soon.

With two devices running iOS 6 and 5, I could finally relive my experiences and play around a bit. I also decided to see what kind of relevance this software has in 2020 by trying to use it on the modern internet. To my surprise, iOS 5 and 6 can still partially load the Apple web page, enough to read information about the iPhone 12, minus many of the images. The App Store still works despite most apps no longer being able to instal. A few did, including Facebook. The iTunes store and Photo Stream still work, but Weather doesn’t.

Apps like Photos, Notes, Calendar, and Music all have more features than they did back then but the core capabilities are still there. It’s also remarkable to use phones running software that was meant for them – everything was smooth and snappy.

I’ve made a huge video (almost 40 minutes long) but I came away very impressed with both the hardware and software of that era. Even though the internet wasn’t nice, it was workable, and many of the other features – music, calendar, notes, and email – still work smoothly.

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