The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2021 Operating Systems

Originally published at: The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2021 Operating Systems - TidBITS

Apple’s upcoming operating systems have an impressively long list of supported models, but devils dance in the details. Older devices won’t be able to take advantage of all the new features, reasonably enough, but you should be aware of what you might be missing.

Rats! I’ll now have to replace my late 2014 27" Retina iMac. Not even 7 years old and not upgradable. I think I’ll wait to see if an Apple silicon replacement is announced in the Fall as I’d prefer something larger than the new 24".

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Damn. iPad Air 2 is almost 7 years old and still receiving updates.

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The operating system my “old” devices have gotten stuck on has more and more become unusable because it became a dog, or dog slow (despite extra RAM), with other problems. I believe Apple will do inferior “upgrades” of Safari on non-late-model devices before final abandonment so it becomes worse than its age.

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I think it’s interesting how our expectations of how long a computer will last have changed dramatically since the early-2010s. When I got my 2013 MacBook Air, I had been replacing my computer more-or-less every 3-4 years since my first one in the 1990s. I assumed in ~2016-2017 I would replace the MBA.

Yet here I am today still using it as my only computer, almost eight years later. Granted, it has felt like time to upgrade for the past 6 months, but I’m holding out for the next set of Apple silicon MacBooks. And it is more or less holding up in the meantime.


Of all the sys reqs, this one alone confuses me:

  • AR Object Capture: Macs with at least 16 GB of RAM and 4 GB of VRAM

I’m assuming this works perfectly fine on M1. I’ve a 16 GB M1 MacBook Air, but who knows how much VRAM it’s got! Completely dynamic, I suppose?

Yes, VRAM is shared with RAM on the M1, so it should work fine on your M1 with 16 GB of RAM. However, AR Object Capture is a niche (albeit welcome) feature for AR developers, so most people don’t have to worry about this.


Other features with specific system requirements include:

  • 5G enhanced connectivity: iPhone 12 models, iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation), and iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation)

What? 5G enhanced connectivity requires a brand new phone? What about iPhone 11 which is just a year old? It’s not getting 5G enhanced connectivity simply because it doesn’t have a 5G radio?

It’s Apple purposefully forcing us to buy new hardware to get new features!


I mean really, it’s all just software radio, isn’t it? :wink:

Exactly how old is your “old” device? Apple is officially supporting the latest OS on the iPhone 6S which came out six years ago, and Macs built seven years ago. People who have a 2 year old Pixel phone from Google itself aren’t getting new OS updates.

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I just retired my iPhone 6S and it was working good except for the growing battery drain even though the battery had a very high rating because I replaced it. I disconnected it from almost everything that could run in the background - and then even more when I got a newer phone. The battery drain continued.

My iPad Air was a disaster with the last upgrade (as were earlier iPads although for those the hardware was slow anyway) and Safari was left years behind even while Apple updated the OS.

My over a decade old iMac hasn’t been usable for almost a decade. Even with max RAM it was slow as molasses after 5 years. I used it anyway for a long time - but not Safari. Safari was the first browser that became an abomination - back then even the 3rd party browsers that got dumped before Safari all worked better than Safari. I essentially went without a respectable Mac for a decade.

Ah, the time has finally come. My MBP late 2013 retina won’t be able to upgrade to the next MacOS. I was planning on upgrading anyway, but would like to wait and check out the M2 MacBook Pros that will probably come out later this year.

Seriously, what marketing people call “5G” is really a grab-bag of advanced features defined by the 3GPP standards body. Some of them are compatible with 4G/LTE radios and could theoretically be supported by a firmware update for the radio chip. Other features will almost certainly not be compatible with 4G radios.

Whether or not such a firmware update will actually be delivered is a bigger question. My guess is “probably not”. While Qualcomm and Intel might release updated firmware, it would be a significant cost to Apple in order to deploy it (mostly testing and maybe also re-certification with the FCC), so I wouldn’t expect them to do it for older phones that are (or will soon be) discontinued.

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In the fourth beta of macOS Monterey, Apple has brought live text in photos to Intel Macs.

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Howard Oakley has now created a chart that brings together a lot of the information in this article in a single view.


I am constantly amazed by his dedication to doing the tedious work to test, document, and explain all the little details and low-level behaviours that are so vital for supporting Macs. His site is an invaluable reference.


The one thing I want to know is if the new multitasking method will be doable with an IPad Air 2 (Mines an early iPad Air 2 circa Oct 2014),

I’m using a MacBook that’s so old I can’t remember exactly when I got it…sometime around the early 2020s Although the salesman in the Apple store tried to talk me out of it, my husband talked me into paying extra for it. The salesman was correct; it distorts color. I never had a problem with the coating pealing off, like some other models. I did have to have the hard drive replaced when it was still under Apple Care. Except for the colors being a little off, it’s still my Mac weapon of choice. I’m now deciding about one of the new M models.

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I don’t have an iPad Air 2 myself, but it is listed as a supported iPadOS 15 model, and according to the user guide, the new multitasking method split view and slideover gestures are not limited to specific models - all iPads that run iPadOS 15 will have access to these new multitasking features. However, one thing that you won’t be able to do is split view and slide over at the same time. For the iPad Air, that is limited to the iPad Air 3 and Air 4.

So, you can have two split view windows open at the same time, or you can have a full-screen app with another app in slide over, but you can’t do a split view and then add or access a slide over app.

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