iPhone 4 system requirements questioned

Digging into the iPhone Atlas mailbag, Brandon from Atlanta wonders why iPhone 4 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 when it can operate on a Windows machine still running Windows XP.

Apple
Digging into the iPhone Atlas mailbag, Brandon from Atlanta wonders why iPhone 4 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 when it can operate on a Windows machine still running Windows XP.

"I tried to activate my iPhone yesterday from my Mac, which is 4 years old and running 10.4.11. The iPhone needs 10.5.8 or higher. If I use a PC I can use XP, Vista, or Windows 7."

On the surface this looks like a major flaw in Apple's planning for releasing iPhone 4. As Brandon mentions later in his e-mail to us:

"So using a 4-year-old iMac won't work, but I can use a 9-year-old PC and it will work? I mean come on, Apple. This was an annoyance to me, because now I have to transfer all my stuff from my Mac to my PC. Luckily I have a PC that can do this; if someone doesn't have another computer, I guess Apple will be getting even more money from them for a new OS on an old computer."

In taking a closer look at the system requirements for iPhone 4, Apple does indeed require Mac OS X 10.5.8 for Macs. Leopard was released in October 2007, not quite three years ago, while Windows XP Home or Professional was released in August 2001, not quite nine years ago.

A couple things are going on here. First, Windows XP requires Service Pack 3 to be installed, an update to the Windows XP operating system that was not released until May 2008, just over two years ago. So, while Windows XP does run on very old PC machines, iPhone 4 still requires software that is only 2 years old on the PC. iPhone 4 also requires the latest version of iTunes, which has a minimum hardware requirement of a 1GHz processor, bringing the effective age of a PC closer to that of an Apple equivalent machine.

Now, on the Apple side of things, machines that are capable of running Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard include all machines with processors that are faster than 867MHz, though iTunes requires at least a 1GHz processor and iPhone 4 requires a USB 2.0 connection. The first iMac that could handle all these requirements was released in September 2003, nearly seven years ago.

The question of system requirements comes down to two considerations: hardware and software. Windows machines are very much tied to their hardware (processor 'x' came out during 'x' year) whereas Apple machines are tied to the Mac OS X software (OS X 10.x came out during 'x' year). Windows XP is an older operating system than Mac OS X Leopard, but the hardware requirements necessary to run iPhone 4 make the minimum age of a PC or Mac much closer.

What's the oldest machine you've used to activate iPhone 4? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

    Joe is a seasoned Mac veteran with years of experience on the platform. He reports on Macs, iPods, iPhones and anything else Apple sells. He even has worked in Apple retail stores. He's also a creative professional who knows how to use a Mac to get the job done.

     

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