How to download old versions of apps from the App Store on an older iPhone or iPad that ca...

Posted:
in iPad edited February 8
Apple hasn't totally left old iPad owners behind. In addition to still signing the last iOS releases for those devices, you can still download software for them -- assuming you know where to look.




This tip doesn't cover shopping for the old apps if you don't already own them, because there is no good way to tell if that app that now requires iOS 11 even had an iOS 9 version for the original iPad mini, or an iOS 5 one for the original iPad. But, if you bought the app, here's how to download it.

In this procedure, we've left out user credential verification steps. The frequency you have to enter them will depend on your device settings. With that in mind, authorize through password entry when asked.

Patience is also a must. The older devices aren't exactly snappy when responding to queries, and can have limited wi-fi speed. That all said, on with the show!

To speed this up a bit, power-cycle your iPad completely before you get started. Hold down the power button for a while, and slide the toggle on the screen to turn the device off. Turn it back on by holding down the power button again.




Open up the App Store. Tap on Purchased..




Let the list load. The names of the apps will load first, and icons will follow, if you wait long enough. We did say you'd have to be patient.




Find what app you used to use, or you know has a version for your device. Click on it, and select Install.

The App Store will consider your request for a moment, and then pop up a dialog box, asking you if you want to install the old app. Click Download to get the older version, and the app store will chew on your request for a minute, and start installing.




However, this procedure does not allow you to access deprecated cloud services, if the app developer has shifted to a new architecture. It is also, obviously, not the most recent version of the app, and will likely lack some features found in the newest version.

This same procedure can also be used to download apps that have been stricken from the App Store -- if you own them already.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    Come on... a lot of "interesting" apps are out of support on older versions of IOS, especially those with API calls... First message you get is "upgrade". Would it be to apple unfriendly for appleinsider to have that check done ? My wife has an iphone 4 stuck to IOS9, and she can enjoy very little of the most common apps.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 1,908administrator
    erwan said:
    Come on... a lot of "interesting" apps are out of support on older versions of IOS, especially those with API calls... First message you get is "upgrade". Would it be to apple unfriendly for appleinsider to have that check done ? My wife has an iphone 4 stuck to IOS9, and she can enjoy very little of the most common apps.
    I'm not sure what "check" you're asking us to do? We say in the end of the procedure that it isn't the be-all end-all of solutions, as developers have often changed things on the back-end.
    edited February 8 lolliverredgeminipa
  • Reply 3 of 14
    Fantastic! I was disappointed when some of my old favorites didn't make it to iOS 11, but now they're up and running on my old 4S. B) Thank you!
  • Reply 4 of 14
    GG1GG1 Posts: 126member
    Thanks for this article. Very helpful.
    lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 14
    I had the iWork suite on my iOS devices when iOS 6 was out. After I downgraded my iPhone 4s to iOS 6 from iOS 9, I went to install them using the steps from this article. I guess that Apple deleted the old versions of Pages, Numbers & Keynote, it says that it’s not compatible with iOS 6, and doesn’t give the option of downloading the older version like the other apps did. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 14
    I have a LED lightbulb app that disappeared from the app store sometime in the last 6 - 9 months. I was able to get it from a time machine backup after I upgraded to a new iPhone X but it wasn't downloadable. I just tried to see if it was available using this technique and it wasn't in the purchased list either. So, the developer (or possibly Apple with what they think is an abandoned app) can remove the app from the store and it disappears from the purchased list too.
  • Reply 7 of 14
    Good article, Mike.  

    There are a few caveats to this situation, however.

    1) This only works for apps you have already purchased.  If you try to purchase an app from the store that is new to your iDevice, you will get the error "This app requires iOS x.x" and it won't let you buy it, EVEN IF THERE ARE OLDER VERSIONS OF THE APP AVAILABLE.  This is a bug in the App Store that has been around FOREVER, Apple *knows* about it (I put in one of the Radars myself when I was a developer), and it has never been fixed.

    It used to be that you could get around this by purchasing the app in the App Store on iTunes on a Mac- which put it in the "Purchased" list on the device, allowing Mike's instructions (above) to work.  Unfortunately, Apple removed THAT capability last year when they "improved" iTunes  by taking the iOS app store out.

    2) As Mike listed above, many times you will download an App that immediately says "ooh, you should upgrade", or it just doesn't work.
    The Starbucks, Walmart and Overcast apps are some of these.  

    Usually this is driven by changes to the back-end of the app, where the developer either deliberately broke backwards compatibility or didn't bother to think about it. This isn't Apple's fault-- if the older apps don't work any more the developer should remove them from the store.  
    lollivercgWerksdysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 14
    jdb8167 said:
    I have a LED lightbulb app that disappeared from the app store sometime in the last 6 - 9 months. I was able to get it from a time machine backup after I upgraded to a new iPhone X but it wasn't downloadable. I just tried to see if it was available using this technique and it wasn't in the purchased list either. So, the developer (or possibly Apple with what they think is an abandoned app) can remove the app from the store and it disappears from the purchased list too.
    This is true.  When I stopped paying my developer fees my apps disappeared completely from the App store, from the purchased list, and now that the apps that are backed up to your computer are not loaded any more to your phone, it will disappear from your phone at your next restore because all apps now come from the store and not your backup.
  • Reply 9 of 14
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 1,908administrator
    Good article, Mike.  

    There are a few caveats to this situation, however.

    1) This only works for apps you have already purchased.  If you try to purchase an app from the store that is new to your iDevice, you will get the error "This app requires iOS x.x" and it won't let you buy it, EVEN IF THERE ARE OLDER VERSIONS OF THE APP AVAILABLE.  This is a bug in the App Store that has been around FOREVER, Apple *knows* about it (I put in one of the Radars myself when I was a developer), and it has never been fixed.

    It used to be that you could get around this by purchasing the app in the App Store on iTunes on a Mac- which put it in the "Purchased" list on the device, allowing Mike's instructions (above) to work.  Unfortunately, Apple removed THAT capability last year when they "improved" iTunes  by taking the iOS app store out.

    2) As Mike listed above, many times you will download an App that immediately says "ooh, you should upgrade", or it just doesn't work.
    The Starbucks, Walmart and Overcast apps are some of these.  

    Usually this is driven by changes to the back-end of the app, where the developer either deliberately broke backwards compatibility or didn't bother to think about it. This isn't Apple's fault-- if the older apps don't work any more the developer should remove them from the store.  
    Regarding 1 -- you can buy it on another iOS device, and it will still pop up in purchased, allowing you to download it on the older device. The caveat of the older device not being able to buy it is still true.

    If I was King, I'd do some kind of matrix on the app store, saying if there's an iOS 5/9/10 version of the app, and a + or - for if it works well or not. I'm not, so.
    lollivernetmageargonaut
  • Reply 10 of 14
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,348member
    jdb8167 said:
    I have a LED lightbulb app that disappeared from the app store sometime in the last 6 - 9 months. I was able to get it from a time machine backup after I upgraded to a new iPhone X but it wasn't downloadable. I just tried to see if it was available using this technique and it wasn't in the purchased list either. So, the developer (or possibly Apple with what they think is an abandoned app) can remove the app from the store and it disappears from the purchased list too.
    Or its a 32 bit app and that's why you are not seeing it. IOS 11 stopped supporting them 4.5 monts ago.
    chasmredgeminipadysamoria
  • Reply 11 of 14
    chasmchasm Posts: 372member
    Good point, Foggyhill. It’s helpful to bear in mind that the number of people who can update to the latest iOS but just don’t is **very small** for clear, obvious reasons (security, new features, maintaining software). Almost all of the people who aren’t on iOS 11 at this point literally can’t update to it on their present device. Thus, the reason Apple doesn’t cater to this small group is because: A. This problem wil take care of itself when you upgrade the hardware, and you will at some point; B. This is nowhere near a large enough pool of users to do more than they are already doing, and C. This is largely a decision made by developers rather than Apple, with the exception of something like the 64bit-only nature of iOS 11, ie the kind of major shift that happens once or twice a decade.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    Thanks. This worked for me. Weird that you need to go to purchased to download. Searching for the exact same app and trying to download that way doesn’t work. 
  • Reply 13 of 14
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,549member
    randyl said:
    Thanks. This worked for me. Weird that you need to go to purchased to download. Searching for the exact same app and trying to download that way doesn’t work. 
    Because you cannot buy unsupported apps. You can only re-download apps you already purchased.

    Another note for everyone on this subject: if the developer is no longer selling the app on any region of the App Store, you will NOT be able to access it at all, even if you already purchased it.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 2,946member
    dysamoria said:
    randyl said:
    Thanks. This worked for me. Weird that you need to go to purchased to download. Searching for the exact same app and trying to download that way doesn’t work. 
    Because you cannot buy unsupported apps. You can only re-download apps you already purchased.

    Another note for everyone on this subject: if the developer is no longer selling the app on any region of the App Store, you will NOT be able to access it at all, even if you already purchased it.
    Interesting. This goes against everything I thought I understood from Apple's marketing efforts about putting my trust in the cloud, vs. local backups -- i.e. Anything I purchased would always be available via iTunes, even if it was discontinued. So if I bought an app, that is no longer sold, and my iPhone dies and I have to reinstall from the cloud, apps I previously purchased and used, potentially will be gone forever. Maybe it's my fault for not reading the fine print, but that runs counter to the general impression I got from Apple about putting my trust in the cloud.
    argonaut
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