Beginning on April 16, some iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners running Apple's last-generation mobile operating system, iOS 6, found themselves unable to make FaceTime video calls. Originally, it appeared to be a routine system outage that could be quickly resolved, but it appears that Apple has no plans to fix the issue and, instead, is encouraging users to upgrade to iOS 7 — a free software update — to continue making FaceTime calls.
The main problem is that iOS 7 makes significant changes to the user interface, and many users, particularly the less savvy kind, simply prefer to stay with the older operating system.
It also affects users who prefer to jailbreak their devices — basically a hack that allows iOS owners to customize their phones in a variety of ways not normally allowed by Apple. The latest version of iOS 7 is not jailbreakable, and some users simply prefer to stick with the tried-and-true operating system that they're familiar with.
"I jailbroke my iOS 6 device because it gives me the ability to tether my device, something my carrier doesn't support under the standard iOS operating system." said Nolan Adams, an IT professional with a hospital system in California. "It gives me additional customization options that I wouldn't have otherwise. I've also had poor experiences with battery life on other iOS 7 devices."
According to Apple, FaceTime on older devices no longer works because of a "device certificate that expired" on April 16. The company says updating "to the latest software will resolve the issue."
The bug also affected users on older versions of OS X, but Apple choose to issue updates to FaceTime that didn't require those users to actually upgrade their entire operating systems. This means that Apple likely could update FaceTime for iOS 6 users but is choosing not to, most likely to encourage upgrades to iOS 7.
Earlier this month, Apple said 87% of iOS users are running iOS 7, with just 11% using iOS 6. The company frequently touts the large number of users that are on the latest version of its operating system, a significant contrast to Android, which only has 5.3% of users on Version 4.4 or KitKat, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system.
There are only a handful of devices that are capable of making FaceTime video calls but are unable to upgrade to iOS 7, including the fourth-generation iPod Touch, which received a separate software update to re-enable FaceTime calls.
Though there are alternatives to FaceTime, including Microsoft's Skype, Adams says he prefers FaceTime for ease of use, particularly for the less tech-savvy family members that he talks to with the service.
"I spend five days a week away from my family, so I use FaceTime daily to keep in touch," Adams says. "I'll just upgrade my iPad to iOS 7 and use that for video calls."
"It's disappointing that Apple choose not to continue FaceTime support for iOS 6, but that's their prerogative," he concluded. Do you agree? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.