iPhone 6: Still useable?

A friend gave me his unlocked iphone 6 for use with my Consumer Cellular account. I ran the IMEI through CC’s system and it came up as compatible. It seems to work well and still has good battery life. It also appears that Apple is still updating ios 12 (I see updates on the phone).

Any reason NOT to use this device for a while?

It will work for a while, yes. It’s 4G/LTE so you should be able to activate it on CC. The updates to iOS 12, however, will become rarer and rarer – Apple is up to iOS 15 now and supporting three OS versions behind that is a lot to expect, even for Apple. If you’re not using the phone for banking or other purposes requiring higher security or connecting often to public Wi-Fi networks, though, it should be alright.

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That’s what my wife uses; my old hand-me-down iPhone 6. It has had its battery replaced, so it should be quite usable for a while. That is the only potential weak point in yours; how old is the battery?

For talk, text and light Internet usage (Facebook, email, surfing’ with Safari) it should last you until the battery becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

Great! It’s actually going to be used by my wife and she’ll just be talking and texting and the battery has been amazing. I suspect she’ll either lose the phone or break it before Apple stops supporting it. Don’t tell I just said that.

I recently traded in an iPhone 6+. It can still be useful, but only for some kinds of apps.

For the basic things like making calls, Messages, Notes, etc., it works fine. For activities that require more horsepower (especially games), it is not really useful.

I’ve found many games over the years have had increasing memory requirements (even though they still claim to be compatible with an iPhone 6) and can crash when the app runs out of memory during operation.

Similarly, Safari can get very slow when rendering some web pages. Depending on what you visit and what you can tolerate, this may or may not be acceptable.

Finally, many popular apps now require more recent versions of iOS. For instance, the current version of the IMDB app (12.1.1) requires iOS 14.1 or later. On my iPhone 6, I could not upgrade beyond version 11.0 (if I remember correctly).

There were several occasions where an app developer accidentally entered the wrong minimum iOS version for an update. The result was that the App Store would upgrade the app - which would then fail to launch. I had to complain to the author, then wait for the problem to get fixed, then remove/reinstall the app - at which point the App Store would install the most recent compatible version (the one I had previously installed). It can be quite aggravating when it happens.

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Good to know and not unexpected. But I’m pretty sure the phone’s use will be about as basic as it gets. If my wife starts complaining that she can’t play games on her phone, I’ll know aliens have landed and switched her out with a different model.

If, as you wrote, she’ll just be talking and texting, there shouldn’t be any problem.

You will miss out one some of the newest pone/message features (e.g. sending Memoji content in Messages and automatic transcription of voice mail), but the core functionality will work just fine.

If you are still seeing iOS 12 updates available on the phone, be sure to install them. If you skip an update, Apple won’t push iOS 12 updates to the phone. That happened to me on my 6S and I’m stuck at 12.4.1 or upgrade to iOS 15.

The last view iOS 12 updates have been security-related, so they are worth doing. But after you run out of compatible updates, the phone’s vulnerability will be minimal depending on what you do on the phone and the kind of apps you install. For basic telephony, messaging, etc. I don’t worry about it.

If suggest demoing the Brave browser. I’ve been using it on my Macs and iPhones since Safari 13 killed extensions. I’ve always used Safari but I like Brave a lot more and it is security-privacy oriented. Brave on Macs accepts Chrome extensions. It isn’t slow at all on my 6S.

This is because Brave is based on the Chromium engine (since 2018). I would be surprised if Chrome extensions didn’t work.

Of course, you need to be careful about what extensions you install, because some will open up the same security/privacy holes Brave is trying to keep closed.

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That won’t be a problem on the 6, because it can’t update beyond iOS 12.x so will never be offered anything else but the iOS 12 security updates.

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What I meant is that apparently because I inadvertently skipped an iOS 12.x update, Apple stopped pushing later 12.x updates to my iPhone. At the time I started seeing only 13.x updates. Now my only option is iOS 15.1. I’ve tried to find a way to fix it but I haven’t been successful.

We got a couple of new 32GB 6S phones in January 2019 for $200 each from Consumer Cellular. They replaced 5 year old 16GB 5S phones. I regret that I didn’t wait a little longer and get the SE2 but I wasn’t aware that a new model was on the horizon. We’re waiting to see what happens with the SE in 2022.

We seem to be like John’s wife: We stick with using pretty basic features on our iPhones and we like to keep them a long time. I’d enjoy using the iPhone 13 Pro camera options. And a little larger display would be nice for our aging eyes.

But I’m not inclined to spend $1000 on an iPhone mainly for the camera upgrades. And with Apple shortening the length of time it supports iOS upgrades on its iPhones, it seems like a way to compel owners to upgrade long before the hardware’s useful life comes to an end. So I’m even less inclined to spend so much money on an iPhone.

Yes, I understand that, but that won’t be a problem for the iPhone 6. It’s an issue for you because the 6s was able to download iOS 13, iOS 14, and now iOS 15, and iOS will not allow you to install an older release once a new release is available. But the iPhone 6 cannot install iOS 15, so it will always get the latest iOS 12 security updates, so long as Apple continues to provide them, even if one of them are skipped.

Presumably your 6s will not be offered iOS 16 next year, and, when that happens, it will continue to receive all iOS 15 security patches that are offered, even if you skip one of them.

That’s not true. The 6s and the original iPhone SE have received updates all the way up to iOS 15 from its original iOS 9 (seven full versions). The iPhone 6 only had iOS updates from iOS 8 to iOS 12 (five full versions). The iPhone 5 was only iOS 6 to iOS 10 (also five full versions). The iPhone 7 has received all from its original iOS 10 to iOS 15, so now 6 full versions.

Apple has been supporting devices with iOS updates longer than they used to.

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My ability to upgrade iOS 12.x was truncated prior to iOS 13. Or at least that is how I remember it. . . I could be wrong, my aging brain being what it is. LOL

I hope that you are correct about iOS support going forward. Somehow I recently got the impression that things will be changing in the future. And just because an older iPhone can be upgraded to a recent iOS version does not mean that it will function well. There are lots of user reports of problems after upgrading, battery life being the most prevalent issue. In some cases it can make the phone almost unusable. And I’m not just referring to cases where the battery obviously needs to be replaced, as the problems can persist with a healthy or brand new battery.

I understand that we are talking about old hardware, smaller batteries, etc. in the older iPhones and that I cannot expect the same level of performance forever.

But when even basic functionality is affected (something that one would think could be more or less mitigated by Apple) the quality of its support seems less than it once was. Even if the “official” support covers up to 7 iOS versions. Why not allow the iPhone owner to decide what iOS version they want to use instead of arbitrarily limiting it to the most recent version?

It appears the phone is auto updating. It’s at 12.5.5 and says it’s up to date.

Got the SIM card from Consumer Cellular installed yesterday and everything seems to be working fine so far. Thanks for all the feedback!

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I have a 6s Plus which is working fine on 15.1. I have never had any problem updating the OS. The battery is also working fine. Very impressed it is doing so well seven years later.

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How did you get it to update past 12?

The 6S can be upgraded to iOS 15. The 6 (no S) can’t go beyond 12.

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Hi mojo,

iOS 12.4.2-12.5.5 were released only for devices that could run iOS 12 but could not run iOS 13. In other words, iOS 12.4.1 is the last version of iOS 12 that will work on your iPhone 6s. It has nothing to do with you “skipping” a release. Apple’s view is that you should update your iPhone 6s to the latest version of iOS that it will support, which today is iOS 15.1.

On the bright side, iOS 15.1 works quite well on the iPhone 6s, and it seems to have cleaned up most of the performance problems and user interface disasters that were introduced in iOS 13/14.

I routinely use a 6s with iOS 15.1 and a 5s with iOS 12.5.5. While I generally prefer the iOS 12 user interface, iOS 15 is surprisingly fast on the 6s, and I now recommend that 6s users upgrade to the current version of iOS, which was not always the case during the iOS 13/14 years. (My only real complaint with iOS 15 is that the Podcasts app has not fully recovered from the stupid interface changes that Apple made after iOS 12. If you’re a heavy Podcast listener, you might want to look at third-party apps, like Downcast or Overcast.)


Jose, I really appreciate you detailed reply. . . I only have one question before I decide to jump to iOS 15.1: How is your battery life?

My 6S was purchased brand new in January 2019 for $200. It now has 85% battery based on the built-in battery data. The main issue that I read about regarding the 6S and upgrading is that its relatively small battery can be problematic when running the post-iOS 12 updates. Do you have any personal experience with this?

Coincidentally, while my iPhone 6s is older than yours, I replaced its battery in 2019, and it also displays ~85%. I use my phone heavily for email, messaging, some web browsing, the occasional podcast, and, of course, for calls. I usually make it through a workday on a single charge. I generally charge overnight, and by 5 PM I’m around 40-50% charge. I’ll top off the charge then, and then the cycle starts over again when I go to sleep. That said, I do try to keep a charger handy. Especially in cold weather, the battery sometimes can drain quickly.

Update: I unplugged my 6s from the charger today around 7AM. By noon, I was at 53% charge. Enough to make it through the work day, but I’ll probably be around 15-20% by 5PM. Busy day.