In about a month, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is expected to release a trio of new iPhones as well as a brand-new version of its iOS operating system, known as iOS 11.
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One thing that's quite interesting about iOS 11 is that it will totally remove support for 32-bit iOS applications -- from here on out, only 64-bit applications will be allowed in the Apple App Store.
Although this might seem like something of an inconvenience for app developers, as well as for iOS users who want to upgrade to the new version of iOS and keep using 32-bit apps that the developers didn't bother to update, this is unequivocally a good thing for Apple's software ecosystem.
Taking out the trash
One obvious effect of this new rule is that it'll go a long way to cleaning up the Apple App Store.
Apple's iPhone has been around for about a decade now, and a lot of apps -- ranging from poor quality apps all the way to superb, highly polished software products -- are available in Apple's App Store.
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By mandating that all App Store apps be recompiled with 64-bit support, Apple weeds out apps that developers simply don't care about anymore, since recompiling the apps should be a downright trivial process for a developer that was able to get something published on the app store in the first place.
That said, it's about far more than simply taking out the proverbial trash in the App Store.
64-bit support brings performance advantages
In going from the 32-bit ARMv7 architecture to the ARMv8 64-bit architecture, Apple delivered more performance to its customers, which is always a good thing.
In testing that AnandTech performed back in 2013 when Apple introduced its first 64-bit processor (the Apple A7 chip) alongside a 64-bit version of its iOS 7 operating system, the site found that running the A7 chip in 64-bit mode delivered some big gains in the Geekbench 3 CPU benchmark.
ARMv8 clearly improved things over ARMv7.
Beyond that, a 64-bit processor can address far more memory than a 32-bit processor can; the latter is limited to just 4GB.
In a world where Apple's flagship iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have 2GB and 3GB of memory, respectively, there's not exactly a pressing need for more than 4GB of memory today.
But Apple's iPad Pro line of tablets are already at 4GB of memory with that figure sure to grow in the coming generation or two. Further, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Apple move its iPhone lines to include at least 4GB of memory (e.g. 4GB for the iPhone 7s successor; 6GB for the iPhone 7s Plus and OLED iPhone successors) in the following generation.
Once that happens, it'll only be a few short product cycles before a large part of the iOS installed base will have phones with at least 4GB of memory. At that point, with all iOS apps being forced to be compiled with 64-bit support in mind, app developers can feel free to take advantage of the additional memory that those iPhones (as well as future generations of iPhones) will have.
Apple's tight control of the hardware and software is paying off nicely, as it is allowing the company to go from introducing its first 64-bit smartphone in late 2013 to completely making obsolete its 32-bit iPhones just four years later.
Now that's something only Apple can do.
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