Each fall, Apple aficionados eagerly await what the next iOS version will offer today’s mobile market. This year iOS 7 broke through with innovative design and technology, and mobile users were left inquiring a future that is vastly different from the past. But now, more than ever, app owners are pondering how many iOS versions their app should support.
If you, too, are asking this question it is important to realize that over the years Apple has successfully instilled confidence in their followers to readily adopt new technology. As a result, current iOS versions typically have a high adoption rate. At the WWDC 2013 Keynote (a few months prior to the iOS 7 release), Tim Cook made note that iOS 6 had a whopping 93% adoption rate. When iOS 7 was released later in September, its adoption rate was 50% after only a week.
In addition, you should consider that maintenance costs are multiplied for each iOS version that your app supports. Each iOS version requires unique testing and coding for multiple types of devices. If you want to keep your costs low, you should minimize how many versions you support.
With those two points being made, if your app is brand new to the App Store you can be confident that your app will not suffer in user downloads if it only supports iOS 7. In fact, I highly recommend that initially your app should only support the current iOS version if it is new to the market. Considering the iOS adoption rates, one can assume that a user’s iOS version is relative to their tendency to download new products. So why cater to a market that most likely isn’t even interested in your app?
If you had an app in the App Store before the recent iOS 7 release, it may be feasible to continue supporting iOS 5 if it already did. Statistics show that less than 10% of users still have only iOS 5 on their phones. However, it would be useful to leverage your app's user analytics to decide whether or not to abandon supporting iOS 5. If much of your user base continues to use iOS 5, then you should continue supporting it. If the adverse is true, ditch it. Nonetheless, you should be supporting iOS 6 by now and aspiring to support iOS 7 (if you aren’t already).
Overall, no matter what your scenario is, I highly recommend that you only support the latest two versions. Supporting the latest three iOS versions would only be necessary on the brink of a new iOS release. Supporting iOS versions that hardly any of your users have is a waste of time and money. Since Apple users traditionally update their device OS sooner rather than later it is beneficial to follow that trend.