Owners of older iPhones might soon be forced to upgrade, with Apple tipped to cease support for previous versions of their phones - making them essentially useless and vulnerable to hacking.

Despite being supported by the iOS 10.3 update Apple released earlier this week, the tech giant is tipped to drop the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and the fourth-generation iPad later this year, according to news.com.au.

Eagle-eyed analysts made the discovery when looking into the code of the iOS 10.3.2 beta, which was made available to developers shortly after the iOS 10.3 release.

Such a move has already been hinted at by Apple, with users opening 32-bit software in iOS 10.3 being met with a message saying the app will not work with future versions of iOS.

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IT specialist Zeph McLearan tweeted a picture of Apple's code showing it makes no mention of any of the older 32-bit devices in the iOS update - only including modern iPhones with 64-bit processors.

This would not be the first time Apple has killed support for older devices, although such a move usually comes with a new major release of iOS.

An example of this is when Apple killed support for the iPhone 4S, first iPad mini and the fifth-generation iPod touch when it introduced iOS 10.

For this reason it would be strange move for Apple to end 32-bit device support during such a minor update - such a practice would seem more likely to coincide with Apple's iOS 11 when it is announced at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5.

While this news might be upsetting for iPhone 5 owners, it is part of Apple's continued push toward getting all of its users on to 64-bit devices.

Although the gadgets would still function in theory, it would be impossible to install the latest apps or downloads official Apple patches to protect hackers from exploiting security holes.

Apple has the option to build in support at a later date as the firmware is still in beta testing, but its something to be mindful of if you own any of the above mentioned products.