People are starting to hold onto their smartphones for longer than ever before. The two-year lifecycle is now commonly more like three or four years, which is positive news for the environment but means that some users may find themselves suddenly unable to use some of their favourite apps, after app developers move on and drop support for older devices.

When the NHS Covid-19 app was finally launched last month, the government faced fierce criticism for producing an app that would not work on older smartphones. People with older iPhones, any device running a version of iOS below 13.5 like the iPhone 6, were unable to install the app from the App Store as their devices were “unsupported”.

Whilst many of the NHS app’s features, such as venue QR code scanning and news information, would work with much older devices the app’s critical contact tracing feature cannot. It relies on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4 technology, which it uses to identify passing phones also running the app, and this technology is simply not available on older devices. Apple’s issues were highlighted as there are simply more people still using iPhones for five years ago than Android users from the same time.

The issues surrounding the NHS app are not the first time users have been angered by app developers excluding their older devices from using popular apps. Earlier this year, WhatsApp annoyed thousands of users by dropping support for older devices. Since February, iPhone 4 (iOS 8) users and Android Gingerbread (2.3.7) users have not been able to use WhatsApp, after the firm dropped support to focus on newer devices. At the time, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future…This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp.”

Most people understand that their older device will not be able to play the latest graphics-intensive games and appreciate that it might be good to check the specifications of LeoVegas apps by Silentbet or any other game before making their purchase. But if you only use your phone to make calls, message friends, check your emails, then why should you need to upgrade? In a word – security.

Apple is significantly more generous with its support for older devices, with the iPhone-maker generally offering software updates and quickly released security hotfixes for five years after release. However, Android users are not so lucky. Only Google Pixel phones are sure to get software updates in a timely manner and no Android manufacturer supports their phones for longer than three years, which means there are millions of Android phones still in use that could have significant security holes. And critically, once manufacturers drop support for devices then developers will quickly follow suit, so if you are suddenly unable to install updates for your favourite apps then that should act as a warning to start looking for an upgrade.

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