My wish for watchOS: Dutch-style Cycling support

Screenshot of Outdoor Cycle activity on Apple Watch

Currently, watchOS has a workout called “Outdoor Cycle”, the icon shows a person on a racing bicycle. But that is not what cycling means, for millions of people who use a utility bicycle for daily transportation.

Instead of specific activity, that some people do, some of the time. Cycling can also be a boring part of everyday life, that everyone does, all of the time.

How cycling in The Netherlands is different

Here I’m going to make some assumptions and generalisations about places I don’t live… When I think of cycling in some other places, like say California, I think of something like this:

Here we see people, hunched over on racing or road bikes. They go fast, wear special protective clothing and are are really working out. More importantly, culturally these people are doing something abnormal, in the sense that cycling is not the norm, most people don’t cycle regularly.

In contrast, this is a typical Dutch view of cycling:

In The Netherlands, cycling is a common mode of transport. 27% of all trips are made by bicycle. In Amsterdam, a third of morning commutes are made by bicycle, making it the most popular form of transport (above walking and cars). At first glance you can see the differences: people sit upright, drive slowly, and they are wearing ordinary clothing. The bicycles themselves are also different; They are relatively cheap, have a kickstand, a chain guard and angled-back handlebars. They also include one or two luggage carriers. 

Side note; It’s not that the other type of bicycle doesn’t exist in The Netherlands. We too have people who (in the weekends), put on a helmet, dress up in lycra, and take out their other sporting bicycle. To do competitive racing, or mountain biking in the woods. But those are recreational sports, not day-to-day transport.

My which for Apple Watch: Support for Utility Cycling

I would like it if watchOS 7 added an additional option. To support this normal, everyday, utility cycling. It seems a bit weird to call this a “workout”, but hey “outdoor walking” is also in there, so what the heck. I even designed an icon for this:

Screenshot of Apple Watch Workouts app with hypothetical Utility Cycle activity

In a similar way to Outdoor walking, this activity should be automatically detected and activated. This could be used to more accurately track activity when commuting to work, taking the kids to school or grocery shopping. And while you’re at it Apple, please also add the cycling modality to Apple Maps!

PS: For those unfamiliar, here’s a little mood impression of what cycling in The Netherlands looks like:

(Also, do check out the rest of the rest of BicycleDutch channel on YouTube. It’s great!)

Every two years, Apple increases software support by a year

Over the last 12 years, a pattern has emerged: Every two years Apple has adds an extra year of iOS support to its System-on-chips (SoCs).

The original iPhone and iPhone 3G both had three years of software updates. The iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 had four years of updates, and so on.

This diagram visualises that pattern:
iOS versions per SoC. 2007 and 2008: 3 years. 2009 and A4: 4 years. A5 and A6: 5 years. A7 and A8: 6 years. A9 and A10: 7 years? A11 and A12: 8 years?

The coloured lines indicate iOS support a specific SoC. The grey line indicates when devices with this SoC were sold.

Note that this diagram specifically plots SoCs, and not iPhone releases. The same A-series SoCs are used across iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. I’ve merged the releases of several of these devices to create this diagram.

Should this trend continue in the future, the A8 will be supported for 6 years. The A9/A10 for 7 years, and the A11/A12 for 8 years.

That means the iPhone XS released in September 2018, which runs the A12 Bionic, would get updates until 2025, with iOS 19.

The iPhone 6 exception

Again, the above diagram refers to SoCs in general, and not iPhones, because if we plot that, there’s an exception for the iPhone 6.
iOS versions per iPhone. iPhone 6 is only supported for 5 years, but it's SoC is supported for 6 years.

The coloured lines indicate support iOS support for an iPhone. The grey line indicates when the iPhone sold.

The iPhone 6 was released in September 2014 and was for sale until March 2017.

In September 2019, when iOS 13 comes out, the iPhone 6 will no longer be supported. This is unfortunate because a lot of users are still using iPhone 6 devices. At Q42 we see it is the 6th most popular iPhone with 7% usage, more popular than the iPhone SE or iPhone XR.

Although support for the iPhone 6 (and iPod touch 6th gen) is being dropped, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 of the same generation are still supported. The iPad mini 4 uses the same A8 SoC as the iPhone 6.

A possible explanation for why it is being dropped might be the size of the RAM. iPhone 6 uses an A8 SoC, but it only has 1GB of RAM. The iPads both have 2GB of RAM.

Every device supported by iOS 13, has at least 2GB of RAM.

The future?

It is impossible to predict the future, but I don’t think this “RAM filter” will occur again soon.

The next obvious step would be some future version of iOS that only supports 3GB RAM. But that would cut product lines in half. iPhone 7 and 8 both have 2GB or RAM, but the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus use 3 GB.

The step after that is 4GB as a minimum, but that includes some very recent devices. The iPhone XR (September 2018) and iPad Air 3 (March 2019) both ship with 3GB of RAM.

My assumption is that, for the coming years, device deprecations will again be solely based on SoC.


Will this trend of adding a support year continue indefinitely? If not, when will it stop? Will there be another iPhone 6-style hiccup? Who knows!

I can’t wait for WWDC 2020, to see what iOS 14 brings!

All data about SoCs and release years are taken from Wikipedia. This chart lists all iOS-like devices from the past 12 years.