We’ve all come across incompatible apps. This normally happens when your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch isn’t running the latest operating software, so apps aren’t designed for it anymore. Without updating your device — which isn’t always an option — it looks as though you can’t download any new apps.
Sometimes, it seems as though you can’t even re-download the apps you used to have on your device! But that isn’t actually the case.
Whether you inherited a hand-me-down device or if you’ve owned your vintage iPad since it first came out, we’ve got you sorted. Follow the steps in this article to find compatible versions of apps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. No matter how old it is.
- 1 1. Re-download compatible apps from the Purchased page
- 2 2. Use an older version of iTunes to download the app
- 3 3. Look for alternative compatible apps on the App Store
- 4 4. Contact the app developer for more support
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1. Re-download compatible apps from the Purchased page
You might be able to download an older version of the app you want if you had it on your device once before. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if you had it on a different device, as long as you used the same Apple ID account to download it.
The way to do this is by finding the app in the Purchased page on your App Store account. When you re-download an app from here, developers often give you the option to download an older, compatible version of it.
Open the App Store app and tap on the Account icon to view your Account. Tap the Purchased button and use the search bar to find the app you want. Then tap the cloud icon to re-download it.
Try downloading the incompatible app from a newer device first
If you can’t find the app you want to download in your Purchased page, it’s possible you never downloaded it from this Apple ID account before. Since the app is too new to work on your current device, try downloading it from a newer device instead.
If you have a different iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running newer software, use that to download the app you want. If you do so using the same Apple ID account, it should appear in the purchased page on your older device as well.
Sign into a friend or family member’s account
If you don’t have access to a newer device, you can still get the app on your older one using someone else’s Apple ID account. To do this, find someone you know who has the app, and have them sign in on your device to re-download it from their Purchased page.
If they sign into the App Store on your device you can see all the apps they ever downloaded in the Purchased page. You should be able to download an older, compatible version of the app from there.
To change App Store accounts, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store. Tap your Apple ID and select Sign Out. Now your friend or family member can sign in to the App Store. Make sure you repeat this to sign back into your own account after you download the app.
When your friend or family member signs out of the App Store, you can keep the app on your device. The only downside is you can’t re-download it if it ever gets deleted without having them sign in again.
2. Use an older version of iTunes to download the app
This step is essentially the same as what we already suggested, except you use iTunes to download the app and get it into your purchase history that way instead. This is only possible with older versions of iTunes, which had a built-in App Store.
To download apps using a computer, you need to be running iTunes 12.6.5 or earlier; Apple removed the App Store from later versions. You can download older versions of iTunes from this page on Apple’s website.
You should be able to run an older version of iTunes alongside what’s already installed on your computer. But if you can’t, follow this link to uninstall iTunes instead.
How do I download incompatible apps using iTunes 12.6.5?
With iTunes 12.6.5 or earlier installed on your computer, you can search for apps from the built-in App Store. When you download them, they appear in the App Store Purchased page on your older device as well.
Open iTunes and select Apps from the drop-down menu. Then click the App Store button and search for the app you want to download. Click to download the app, which may prompt you to enter your Apple ID password.
Once the app downloads to iTunes, find it in the Purchased page on your older device. If you can’t find it, make sure you’re using the same Apple ID account on your device and on your computer. You should be able to download a compatible version of the app for your iPhone or iPad afterward.
3. Look for alternative compatible apps on the App Store
The simplest solution might be to find a different app to use. There are often lots of different apps for the same purpose. Hopefully, one of the alternative apps is still compatible with the version of iOS on your iPhone or iPad.
You can find similar app suggestions in the App Store itself. Load the page for the app you first wanted and scroll down to the bottom. Apple recommends similar apps under the ‘You Might Also Like’ section.
Alternatively, use different search terms to bring up similar apps or look at online forums and message boards to get suggestions.
Since we don’t know the exact app you want to use, we can’t suggest anything here. But you can let us know what you want in the comments and we’ll be sure to tell you any compatible alternatives we know of.
4. Contact the app developer for more support
In a last-ditch effort, you might consider reaching out to the developers who created the app you’re trying to download. They may be able to offer more specific help. They might even release a compatible version of the app for you and other users like you to use.
You can find a link to the developer’s website on the App Store. Find the page for the app you want to download and scroll down. Tap ‘Developer Website’ at the bottom of the ‘Information’ section.
Most developers have contact information or a contact form you can use on their website. Let them know what device you’re using and what software is on it. You might want to charm them by explaining what you like about their app as well.
This isn’t the only article we’ve written about downloading incompatible apps on your old iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. In fact, if you’re trying to download Netflix on an older device, we’ve already got another article all about it.
Sound off in the comments with the incompatible apps you’re trying to download. Let us know what devices you use and what software you’ve got. We can all help each other find a working solution.
Or maybe we’ll need to team up and start developing our own compatible apps!
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.