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Apple urges iPhone 5 owners: Update your software or lose access to email, iCloud and the web

On 3 November, a GPS issue that has been impacting devices from other manufacturers since April finally hits the iPhone 5

If you own an iPhone 5, you have until 3 November to update your iOS software or face having a phone that’s largely unusable.

This is because, just before midnight on 3 November, a GPS issue that has been impacting phones and devices from other manufacturers since April finally hits the iPhone 5.

The warning relates to a so-called GPS time rollover issue that effectively makes affected devices, those released in 2012 or earlier, think they’re back in 1999. This has a knock-on effect on how they read the date and time, and all the apps and services that rely on an accurate date and time to work. This includes the App Store, iCloud, email and web browsing – basically the majority of services most people use their phones for.

What’s more, if you fail to carry out the update before this time and date, you’ll also lose the ability to update the software over-the-air, or via iCloud backup.

The iPhone 4S, iPad mini (1st generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad (3rd generation) and the iPad (4th generation) will also be affected, yet not as severely as the iPhone 5. Only the GPS functionality on these devices will be knocked out, although this will render maps and other location-based services useless so it’s still a significant impact that warrants your attention.

What is the GPS time rollover issue?

Older sat navs and other devices that relied on America’s Global Positioning Systems began breaking on 6 April, 2019 because the date and time caused what the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center and the National Coordinating Center for Communications called “GPS Week Number (WN) rollover events.”

Put simply, these devices count the number of weeks between so-called “GPS epochs” – an epoch is the date and time from which a computer measures system time – using a 10-bit system. The most recent epoch was 21 August, 1999, and on 6 April, the number of 10-bit weeks reached its limit 1111111111. This caused it to reset to 0000000000.

As a result, affected devices defaulted back to August 1999 and meant they couldn’t accurately determine the date or time.

Newer GPS devices have been designed to navigate this problem and future models should be programmed to avoid such impacts.

How to update your devices

GPS rollover or nay, it’s always advisable to keep all of your operating systems up-to-date. They fix usability bugs and also protect you from security flaws.

If you have an iPhone 5, Apple has instructions on how to update your software wirelessly or using your computer here.

If you miss the 3 November deadline, you’ll have to instead update your iPhone 5 using a Mac or PC.

If you’re not sure what software your phone, or iPad, is running, go to Settings | General | About and look for the number next to Software Version.

For the iPhone 5, as well as the fourth-generation iPad, the updated software version number should be 10.3.4.

For the iPhone 4S, iPad mini (1st generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, and iPad (3rd generation), this number should be 9.3.6.

Updated iOS versionDevice
iOS 10.3.4iPhone 5
iPad (4th generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular
iOS 9.3.6iPhone 4s
iPad mini (1st generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular
iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular (CDMA models only)
iPad (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular

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