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Yes, possible solution, but not really practical, for the following reason:

The iOS downgrade prevention mechanism also forces you to upgrade to the latest version, even if you do not want to do so willingly, if you ever need to restore (reload) the OS on your device. If iOS gets corrupted somehow and you need to reinstall, the only version you are authorized to install is the latest version for your particular device.

Even if I had not gone to the slaughter willingly, if the OS had ever spazzed out on me and required a reinstall, I'd have still been screwed. You aren't allowed to reinstall the exact same version that's already on the phone if what you have on it isn't the latest version.

So if I trade phones with someone, I still run the risk that at some point, I'm going to be forced to upgrade.

I don't think this is true... Having never upgraded an unused old iDevice,I'm pretty sure I have still been able to restore from backup without upgrading. But this is really old, so maybe they stopped that in a later firmware update?

It is absolutely true. If the OS itself is not corrupted, you can erase your data and restore YOUR DATA from backup, but that doesn't include the OS itself. If you do a "full restore" of the OS (and this isn't the first time I've observed the confusion caused by Apple's overloading of the term "restore"...in this context, "restore" basically means "complete reformat and OS reinstall"), you WILL be forcefully upgraded to the newest iOS.

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