iOS 15 has many features and the dual benefit of working on many iPhones dating back to models released six years ago. But not all of these features will be available on every iPhone that supports iOS 15.
Similar to Some macOS Monterey features are exclusive to M1-powered Macs, there are some new features in iOS 15 that newer iPhones require. In most cases, the cut-off will be any iPhone powered by an A12 Bionic chip or higher. That goes for iPhones that have been released since 2018.
To be fair, many of the marquee features Apple introduced when previewing iOS 15 at WWDC 2021 will work as advertised on any supported iPhone. Even if you have an older phone, you can still use the SharePlay feature in FaceTime, manage your notifications with the new focus mode, and enjoy the improvements in messages, photos, and more.
But some features, like Live Text’s ability to convert the text in your photos into actual, actionable text, require some processing power – most likely the neural processing built into Apple’s newer chips. For such functions you need at least one iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max. That also means the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus – as well as phones launched before 2017 – will miss out on some new features. The seventh generation iPod touch and its A10 Fusion chip are also out of luck.
Here’s what we currently know about iOS 15 and what features work on which phones.
iOS 15 supported devices
First of all, it is helpful to know which iPhone models can run iOS 15. It’s a pretty long list. Basically, if your phone is running iOS 14, you can update to the new version of Apple’s phone software. These include the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, both of which debuted in 2015. The original iPhone SE, which launched a year later, is also covered.
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone SE (original model)
- iPod Touch (seventh generation)
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone X
- iPhone XR
- iPhone Xs
- iPhone Xs Max
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone SE (2020)
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
You can add the iPhone 13 if those four supposed phones come out in the fall, likely with iOS 15 preinstalled. Rumors say the iPhone 13 will be powered by a new processor developed by Apple, the A15 Bionic.
It’s pretty impressive that iOS 15 works at all on devices that came out six years ago, especially in a world where Android users with three-year-old devices are often left in the rain when it comes to updates. Although these older iPhones will be able to do many things after installing iOS 15, some of those features will be out of reach.
iOS 15 features limited to A12 Bionic iPhones and above
If you have an iPhone XR or XS or something newer – including the 2020 edition of the iPhone SE – you can use all the features of iOS 15 with one exception: the update promises 5G improvements like faster connectivity for iCloud backups, streaming , Photo Sync, and Apple News Updates, and these only work on the four iPhone 12 models. That shouldn’t come as a shock – that iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Models are the only Apple devices with 5G connectivity.
The other features that require at least an A12 Bionic chip concern the following apps:
FaceTime: As mentioned earlier, you can use SharePlay regardless of your device. But only A12 Bionic powered devices can support the new spatial audio feature, which makes it appear as if a person’s voice comes from their position on the screen. Likewise, portrait mode, which blurs the background on a FaceTime call, requires a newer iPhone.
Cards: Only iPhone XR and later can see the interactive 3D globe and detailed cityscapes that are included in the iOS 15 version of Maps. The immersive driving directions that augmented reality uses to point you in the right direction with screen overlays don’t work on older phones either.
Live text and visual lookups: These are arguably the biggest flaws in older phones. Live Text lets you highlight the text in photos on your iPhone and then paste it into a note, call a phone number in the Phone app, or look up addresses in Maps. This requires quite a bit of neural processing that is beyond the scope of the A11 Bionic chip and earlier. The same applies to Visual Look Up, which recognizes objects in photos and provides further information about them.
Siri requests on the device: Apple touts it as a privacy feature that will also help you use Siri when there is no internet connection. This also requires a chip with neural computing power, which can only be found in newer iPhones.
Dictation on the device: This feature is now available in more languages and regions in iOS 15 – Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Cantonese (Hong Kong), English (Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, UK, US), French (France), German (Germany) , Italian (Italy), Japanese (Japan), Korean (Korea), Mandarin Chinese (Mainland China, Taiwan), Russian (Russia), Spanish (Mexico, Spain, USA), Turkish (Turkey), and Yue Chinese (Mainland China) ). In addition, the 60-second limit has been removed and you can now dictate text of any length – but only if you have a newer iPhone.
Wallet: The ability to store digital versions of keys is actually the most restrictive feature of iOS 15. You need an iPhone XS or later to use Wallet for your car keys, house keys, hotel keys, and office key cards. In other words, the iPhone XR won’t be able to support this feature even with its A12 Bionic CPU.
Camera: Long press the shutter button on the iPhone camera to start a QuickTake video. If you’re using iOS 15 on an iPhone XR or later, you can swipe up or down during a QuickTake video recording to zoom in or out.
Other iOS 15 functional limitations
The cutoff for iPhone support is different for other iOS 15 features, so some older models are included. The Health app’s ability to track smoothness – a unique feature, Apple says – requires an iPhone 8 or later. Likewise, Apple’s Reality Kit tool for developing AR apps requires an AR-enabled iPhone. (This is probably less of a concern if you’re not a developer.)
Dynamic head tracking for Dolby Atmos music on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max works with the iPhone 7 or higher, i.e. only the iPhone 6s models and the first generation iPhone SE.