Apple regularly releases software updates for the company’s many platforms, mobile and desktop alike. Interestingly, while most Apple’s software updates target either newer devices or upgrading the user experience of the company’s latest firmware iteration, a few heads turned when Apple released iOS 12.5.1 earlier this month to address a COVID-19 exposure notification bug that purportedly affected older iPhones.
Given that a software update was released, despite being for an older iteration of iOS, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Apple would soon close the signing window for what was previously the latest version of iOS 12. This happened Tuesday evening after Apple officially made the move to stop signing iOS 12.5, the predecessor of the newer iOS 12.5.1 update.
While most people are either using iOS or iPadOS 13 or 14 by now, older handsets such as the iPhone 6 and earlier have no way of upgrading to these newer versions of Apple’s mobile operating system. iOS 12.5.1 is essentially a way for users of these older handsets to receive an important bug fix without the company enabling support for the newer iOS 13 release.
Since only a small subset of iPhone users even use the iPhone 6 or earlier, this isn’t that big of a deal for most users. On the other hand, one community that takes firmware signing statuses very seriously is the humble jailbreak community, which relies on older, vulnerable firmware versions to take full advantage of bugs that can liberate their handset from Apple’s unwavering control. This is, in essence, how jailbreak tools work.
While most of Apple’s software updates tend to patch the bugs used by various jailbreak tools as a testament to Apple’s appreciation for full-fledged control over its users and an apparent middle-finger to the jailbreak community, this thankfully wasn’t the case with iOS 12.5.1, which can still be jailbroken with the Chimera jailbreak tool just as iOS 12.5 could be.
Albeit true that users of older handsets can no longer officially downgrade to iOS 12.5 after upgrading to iOS 12.5.1, this won’t impact the handset’s jailbreak eligibility as Apple’s software upgrades traditionally do. That said, Apple’s unsigning of iOS 12.5 shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, as it’s the latest available firmware for some of those older handsets like the iPhone 6.
Are there legitimate reasons to downgrade one’s handset firmware apart from jailbreaking? Some would argue not, but I would disagree. There have been a number of instances in the past where Apple releases a software update that breaks something in addition to providing new features and improvements. One of the more infamous recent examples involved iOS & iPadOS 13.2, which imposed aggressive app background memory handling on users. As a result, iOS would sometimes force quit backgrounded apps, including but not limited to Music playback, when the user didn’t for it to happen.
If you’re wondering why Apple stops signing older versions of iOS and iPadOS, it boils down to this: Apple wants you using the latest version of their software. Not only does this alleviate the company of needing to worry that their users are safe from bugs that could be used maliciously, but it also gives Apple a means to brag at Keynote presentations when they demonstrate just how rapidly iPhone and iPad users adopt their latest firmware (not that they get a choice in the matter).
Anyone wondering whether a specific version of iOS or iPadOS is being signed for their device can visit IPSW.me via their favorite web browser. There, users can follow the on-screen instructions to select their specific device and view a list of signed and unsigned firmwares for that particular handset.
Are you happy that iOS 12.5.1 can still be jailbroken despite Apple closing the signing window for iOS 12.5? Be sure to let us know down in the comments section below.