If you are using an old cell phone equipped with Google’s Android OS, you probably want to verify which version. Google has announced they will no longer support Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).
Google made the announcement on its Android Developers Blog that they will be ending support for Android 4.0, including Google Play Store app updates.
What is Android 4.0?
ICS was Google’s release in 2011. The most notable aspect of Android 4.0 was it was the first to offer face unlock for screens. Also introduced at the time was data analysis.
While the current usage of ICS is about 0.3 percent, there are 2 billion Android users. So, there could be around 6 million phones that will no longer receive updates.
Products are discontinued and sunsetted all the time. However, it is odd that Google supported ICS for so long. After all, Apple doesn’t support anything older than 2014.
So how has Android 4.0 lasted this long, and why did Google continue to support it for so long?
Nature of Android
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, Google created Android as an open source OS. While Apple is the only manufacturer who can put iOS on phones, Google has allowed manufacturers in all price points and in all countries to use Android as their phone’s OS.
This means there can be as many versions of Android available as there are phones that use Android. Manufacturers can decide what and when they update. Which leaves Android 4.0 still in existence when Google has recently released Android 9.0 (Pie).
Varying OS is an important thing to know for businesses who use Android phones as their mobile device of choice. Google released Pie in August of this year, but the only phones that will have an updated OS immediately are Pixel. As of right now, Samsung is set to release updates in January of 2019.
The delay can be disconcerting and confusing. Since Android is open source, most manufacturers have adapted the OS with their own hardware. For Samsung to update their devices with Pie, Samsung’s developers must update their overlaying hardware as well. Manufacturers delay more than OS updates.
Manufacturers delay patches and security updates, as well.
While Google has implemented Project Treble, a system change that will speed up releases, it only works on Oreo or higher and will not be backward compatible to older devices. This leaves older devices, including those newer than Android 4.0, exposed.
Delays and concerns
Most consumers will dismiss update delays as inconvenient. Especially for users in lower priced models, updates appear unnecessary. However, updates are not just regarding appearance and functionality.
Google releases a monthly security update with patches for all known exposures and risks. In other words, delays in updates could mean exposure to a known risk of data breach for months after a fix has been created.
In fact, also due to Android’s open source nature, some smaller manufacturers might not push out updates or patches. This potentially leaves lower priced models exposed even when there is an available patch.
Despite the doom and gloom of the above sentence, we are not suggesting businesses must purchase Apple products or high-priced Pixels to ensure updated and secured devices. In fact, there are options to enjoy Android and avoid delays due to manufacturers.
One solution is to ensure your mobile devices have additional security, rather than relying on manufacture updates. Especially if your data is at risk, security should be a primary addition to any business device.
A second solution is finding Android One, which is a version of stock Android specifically designed for lower powered devices that can’t run the latest and greatest from Google. Budget phones like HTC U11 and Moto X4 most commonly have Android One.
So if you happen to be one of the 6 million who still uses ICS and don’t want to upgrade to a costly phone, Google has you covered. Just like MobileWare has you covered when it comes time to decide the best mobile devices for your business.