Apple is a tech juggernaut. Its devices and operating systems should be at the forefront of your planning when testing your mobile application. Analysts expect iPhone sales to be down in 2023 compared to last year, but only because COVID lockdowns in December delayed iPhone 14 shipments early this year. Shipping times have almost returned to normal; analysts expect Apple to ship 79 million iPhones in Q1 2023 alone.

Bar chart showing Apple iphone shipments annually

In the United States, Apple continues to gain market share because of people converting to iPhones and parents choosing iPhones as their child’s first device (the iPhone 14 lineup is packed with features for anxious parents). Many of the phones are newly purchased older generation iPhones or hand-me-downs, which Apple still supports through iOS updates. With so many devices and operating systems in use, it can be hard to identify which iOS devices to consider when testing your mobile application.

Every January, we analyze data from various sources about the most popular iOS devices headed into the new year. Understanding which devices are in use and how far back to support design and development on iOS can save you a lot of time and budget when testing. Take a look at our findings.

iOS: Adoption Rate 

After the release of the iPhone 14 in October last year, Apple saw a boost in its iOS 16 conversion rate, with 69% of users adopting the latest operating system. Apple has updated iOS 16 three times, and the adoption rate keeps growing, now holding steady at about 75%. The latest update, iOS 16.3, fixed the bugs present in the earlier updates. Compare that to Android phone users: Only 5% have adopted the Android 13 operating system since its release last August.

Line graph showing Apple iPhone usage by model from 2020 to 2023
(Source: Mixpanel)

iOS 16: What’s New?

The first noticeable change is on the lock screen. You can now customize the screen with widgets, colors, fonts, and animations. You may want to start sending mail through your iPhone, because the Mail app now features an “unsend” button. The iMessage app also now features an “unsend” button and collaborative extras that are great for socializing and work. One of the most impactful updates may actually be with the Photos app, which allows you to lock albums with a password, detect duplicate photos, “lift” someone from the background of a photo, and copy-and-paste an edit you like in another photo.

iOS 16: Accessibility

Accessibility advocates have been asking Apple for upgrades to several apps. The company listened and has included them. People who are visually impaired have a new “Detection Mode” in the Magnifier app. It offers descriptions of people, doors, and other symbols. They can also set Magnifier preferences, such as brightness and contrast. People with motor impairments can now end a call using Siri. When using the Dictation app, users don’t have to vocalize punctuation – but they can now vocalize emojis. People who are hearing impaired can now get notification announcements through their MFi hearing aids or their iPhone speakers if that’s preferred.

iOS 16: Testing

Each new iPhone sold comes preloaded with iOS 16. It’s a safe bet to test, as is iOS 15. The latest adoption rates show about 5% of iPhone users have not updated their phones. With an estimated 1.2 billion active iPhones, we can conclude that about 60 million are using older operating systems, which means there is still value today testing applications with older iOS phones.

Pie chart showing iOS market share in the US by iOS version

Top iPhones of 2023 

Apple ended 2022 with a flurry of sales, helping the Cupertino company sell 25% of all smartphones worldwide in 4Q 2022. That is a considerable change from the previous two quarters when Apple sold just 16% of smartphones worldwide. Part of that may be the popularity of the new iPhone 14 lineup, released just before the holiday season.

The Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) found the iPhone 14 lineup accounted for more than three-quarters of all iPhone sales in 4Q 2022 – something that has not happened in more than a decade. Here are the top-selling iPhones over the last quarter:

Table and bar chart showing the best selling smartphones in the US in October 2022

1. iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the phone buyers zeroed in on when the most recent series came out. It accounted for 23% of all iPhone sales in October 2022. The big difference? The Pro models have Dynamic Island, which turns the necessary Face ID identification space on iPhones into a functional and, well, dynamic space.

2. iPhone 14

The iPhone 14 may not have Dynamic Island, but it is a powerful and fast phone – utilizing an upgraded version of the A15 chip used in the iPhone 13. Its camera and battery life are also a notch better than the previous generation. Where it stands out from previous generations are the safety features: The Emergency SOS via satellite and Crash Detection may be essential additions to parents and those of us who like to go off the beaten path. The phone offers peace of mind for just $100 more than the iPhone 13.

3. (tie) iPhone 14 Pro

The iPhone 14 Pro has a few of the bells and whistles that come with the Pro Max, such as Dynamic Island, the energy-efficient Always On feature, and a significant visual boost with ProMotion. The Pro does not have the larger screen of the Pro Max, and it will need to charge more often, but the Pro costs $100 less than the Pro Max.

3. (tie) iPhone 13

No one is surprised the iPhone 13 is still a hot seller. It packs a blistering-fast CPU, a crystal-clear OLED screen, and a healthy battery. Digital Trends recently called it the “iPhone for the masses” for a reason. The iPhone 13 will be a significant upgrade for many Apple users and adopters who don’t want to pay the iPhone 14’s higher price tag.

Older iPhones

There are still millions of older-generation iPhones in use today. Apple knows this and still offers trade-ins for twenty phones, including the iPhone 7, released way, way back in 2016. 

We always recommend our clients add older devices and operating systems to their testing. We have found that testing functionality and compatibility two generations back will almost always suffice. It will help ensure a positive experience for all app users. If you want to see which iOS devices were most popular in each of the last five years, take a look at our posts from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018.

If you need help testing your iOS app, please reach out to us. We’ve been testing iPhone apps since 2008.

Devices in PLUS QA's device room, on a shelf.Some android devices displayed next to an illustration of the Android mascot. Above its head is a small notification with the number '23'.