iPadOS 17 rumored to cut off the fifth-generation iPad and first iPad Pros

On the leaked iPadOS 17 system requirements list are all iPad Pros from 2017 onward, plus the third-generation iPad Air and two additional models.

A top-down photograph showing a young male's right hand with the index finger pointing at a blue iPad Air 5 laid flat on a table facedown
  • Apple’s upcoming iPadOS 17 update is rumored to drop support for some iPads powered by Apple’s A9 and A9X processors.
  • The list includes the iPad 5 and the original iPad Pro models.
  • These tablets, made in 2016 and 2017, could be considered old by Apple’s standards as they have received more than five years of software updates.

Claimed iPadOS 17 system requirements leak

iPhoneSoft reports that iPadOS will drop support for these Apple tablets:

  • iPad (9.7 inches, fifth-generation, model year 2017, Apple A9)
  • iPad Pro (9.7 inches, first generation, model year 2016, Apple A9X)
  • iPad Pro (12.9 inches, first generation, model year 2015, Apple A9X)

iPhoneSoft’s information comes from an internal Apple source. The same publication said these iPads would continue to work after updating to iPadOS 17:

  • iPad Air (10.5 inches, third generation and later, model year 2019, A12 Bionic)
  • iPad (9.7 inches, sixth generation and later, model year 2018, A10 Fusion)
  • iPad mini (7.9 inches, fifth generation and later, model year 2019, A12 Bionic)
  • iPad Pro (second generation and later, the model year 2017, A10X Fusion)

Apple could also trim the iOS 17 device compatibility list, as one rumor claimed that iPhones powered by Apple’s A11 Bionic chip will be unsupported.

If true, iOS 17 will mark the end of the line for the iPhone X, a 2017 phone. However, another rumor soon after poured cold water on the claim, saying iOS 17 will support all the same iPhone models as iOS 16—including A11 devices like the iPhone X.

Our take: Some iPads will lose compatibility with iPadOS 17

Top-down view of a young male's hands unpacking the 2020 iPad Pro packaging
iPadOS 2017 should work on the 2018 iPad Pro! | Image: Harris Craycraft/iDB

iPad 5 runs the Apple A9 chip, while the first 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch models of the iPad Pro are powered by its improved variant, dubbed the A9X.

The A9 isn’t a modern tablet chip by today’s standards, so it’s unsurprising that devices powered by it wouldn’t appear on the leaked iPadOS 17 system requirements. But back in 2017, the A9 was quite a screamer.

It’s more than just the lack of oomph, as the A9 lacks hardware dedicated to machine learning, dubbed Neural engine. The first Apple chip with an integrated Neural engine was the A11 Bionic, which debuted in the iPhone X in 2017.

Apple uses machine learning for object and scene recognition in Photos, features like Live Text, etc. So even if iPadOS 17 supported the A9/A9X, no iPads powered by it would support machine learning features like Live Text.

iPadOS and the RAM situation

Beyond sheer CPU power and machine learning acceleration, the A9-series chips have too little RAM memory. For example, the fifth-generation iPad has just two gigabytes of RAM versus twice as much in the current tenth-generation model.

The first 9.7-inch iPad Pro was also equipped with just two gigabytes of RAM. However, its 12.9-inch counterpart included double the memory, filing as Apple’s first iOS device sporting more than two gigabytes of RAM.

Multitasking on an iPad that doesn’t have at least four gigabytes of RAM is not a pleasant experience, so Apple would be wise to stop supporting the fifth-generation iPad and the first 9.7 and 12.9-inch iPad Pros in the name of user experience.

Speaking of which, let’s all raise our collective glass to the A9/A9X—the first Apple chip that can perform well beyond five years!