With current and older devices working perfectly well, and new devices being even less serviceable and more user-hostile with greater efforts towards planned obolescence, is it any wonder that people just aren't "upgrading" any more? I don't consider this a problem, but a sign of an ecosystem that is gaining stability. In fact I'd say it's even better, from an e-waste perspective, that the amount of churn has decreased.
Even in the low-end/unbranded devices, I'm seeing a gradual removal of hardware features and general lack of parts (screens, cases, etc.) availability, while replacement parts for models several years old are still plentiful.
I often get sympathetic comments for being an Android developer because of this. It's honestly not that bad. Android provides backwards compatible support libraries for whatever SDK you're supporting, and was designed from the beginning to handle diverse screen sizes and hardware.
By far a bigger problem is manufacturers shipping their own version of Android that is sometimes incompatible with the SDK. I've had to implement some ugly hacks for Samsung before, which is unfortunate because of how popular their hardware is. It's becoming less of a problem over time though.
Hey, they used the data that I made available on my website here : https://www.bidouille.org/misc/androidcharts
Gathering the old data from archive.org snapshots was a pain, I'm glad I saved someone else the trouble :)
One thing that's missing from this data is the actual number of devices in circulation, as said in the article it's only the market share among Android devices, and only those which access the Play Store. Having access to that data would make the graphs much more interesting, but unfortunately I have no idea where to get it.
The flipside of this is that developers are forced to support versions of their apps that are compatible with previous operating systems. That's bad for developers, but good for consumers.
iPhones shove updates down your throat as a user. They're so persistent that inevitably most people will accept the new update - and even if you're stubborn like me, eventually your apps will no longer be supported under the newer OS's, and you are forced to update to keep using them. The problem is that the OS upgrades invariably slow down older phones, so even if you're perfectly happy with your iPhone to begin with, it starts to act slow as it gets the newer OS's. It's good that Android users can at least avoid this particular kind of planned obsolescence
The real problem with mobile devices is that it costs $600-$1000 for a security patch. And when you get it, you'll also be stuck with inferior hardware as a side effect of that very expensive security patch. A device that used to be multifunctional but now is no longer useful for phone calls, music, or videos because it doesn't have a headphone port. One that used to be mobile but now requires you to stay tethered to an outlet because you can no longer switch out to a spare battery. One that's even thinner and more likely to break.
People would like to be secure, but they shouldn't have to pay that much for a security patch and they don't want to downgrade their systems.
>If we look at the newest Android release (8.0, 8/2017), it looks like you’re quite lucky if you have a two year old device that will get the latest update. The oldest “Google” phone supported is the Nexus 6P (9/2015), giving it just under two years of support.
And 2 years is the best-case scenario. Compare to nearly 5 years for iOS devices (which, as far as I can tell was prompted only by a move to 64-bit SoC). It's beyond me that Google hasn't taken a more extreme approach to keeping their devices up-to-date.
I've got a 7 or 8 year old Google Nexus phone. Google stopped updating the OS 5 years ago. The only impact I've noticed is that newer apps won't run on and older OS. For me, however, that really isn't a problem since I use it for making and receiving calls and texts, and checking my email. Right now, I'm in no hurry to lay out hundreds for a new phone, Apple or Android, that will be obsoleted in just a couple years when the vendor abandons it.
One fact I was not completely aware about: Even if you have updated your Android device with a Custom ROM (e.g. Lineage/Cyanogen) to a newer Android Version you most likely still have an old Kernel.
So yes, I am very happy that I can still run Android 7.1.2 on my 5 year old S3, but at the same time it runs on a 3.0 Linux kernel which was originally release in July 2011. As far as I know, that is because some drivers (e.g. the graphics driver) are closed source and are only available as binaries. Therefore, they were never properly integrated into the Linux kernel source and when the kernel changes nobody cares about them.
Yes, I know about the discussion about stable ABIs, but even with a stable ABI, I would still be stuck with an outdated buggy graphics drivers, because the kernel developers only care about source they can access.
To sum it up: I would like to have a product which does not only have an up-to-date userland software, but also a more or less current kernel.
Love the HN crowd here explaining that staying still on old tech full of security holes is a-ok. :)
Both Android and iOS have made awesome progress on all fronts, from security to stuff like AR and ML.
You can now have a supercomputer in your pocket - just using it for phone/texts is such a waste.
Having to wait and sometimes pray for your vendor to ship an update is why I chose to stick to the Nexus line of phones until it ended.
My next device may or may not be a Pixel, but the above coupled with the shitty "value adds" like custom file managers and stuff that Samsung et al tend to cram into their already bloated Android implementations pretty much guarantees I'll never by a Samsung or similar.
My wife's Galaxy S3 was slow the day she got it, and it only went downhill from there, to the point that a spare BB Priv felt like an upgrade to her. At that point the Priv was already 2 years old.
edit: can someone explain the down votes? for real, I thought this was a pretty level headed comment. is it just that I dumped on Samsung?
For most users, the phone works and they don't care.
For everyone in my family, iOS updates are just an annoyance.
Does this seem like a trend that goes beyond just tech products? Clothes, appliances, furniture (with fiberboard) all seem to have lower longevity today, whether it's from lacking updates/service or just lacking durability.
That's why I only buy phones that are supported by LineageOS (usually second hand). Not ideal, but it's the best I've found so far.
I guess paying $150 for a fully up-to-date phone that was worth $700 just two years ago isn't such a bad deal.
I still have Nexus 7 running on KitKat 4.2 as I dislike material look and for newer Android versions I always go with phones that ship with customized UI that better correspond to my aesthetics sense. Disclaimer: I am a visual artist as well and hate it when somebody enforces certain style, in my case anything flat, low-contrast, confusing where my brain has to spend >20ms identifying controls.
I wonder if Google will brag about that number at its next I/O event. "We're now at 1.3 billion outdated Android devices in-use" - Applause
I've lost hope that Google will ever do anything meaningful about this situation, when they can't even approach the iPhone in updates when their very own Pixel devices. This is despite now having a standard hardware abstraction framework for their devices and having a kernel that will be supported for 6 years. Even so, they can't commit to updating their devices for the time these devices for at least 80% of their lifecycles.
What's a smartphone lifecycle? Well it's certainly not 2 years. The 2 year old phones will not just be thrown into the garbage. They'll either be sold on second hand markets or they'll be given to other family members, who will then use it for at least another 2 years themselves.
Google, and really all makers of "smart" devices, should be supporting hardware at least until only 10-20% of those devices remain in active use. Kind of like how Microsoft couldn't quit supporting Windows XP when it was at 20%, even though it was already like 12 years old. Only when Windows XP got to below 10% or something, Microsoft stopped supporting it for consumers at least, and even then it will be supported until 2019 for enterprise customers.
Ideally this is how all devices should be supported - until they have fewer than 10% of the customers use them anymore. But as an absolute minimum, they should at least follow the 80/20 power Pareto principle, and update the devices until less than 20% of the people use them anymore.
I know this logic isn't totally alien to Google because they are applying it to the supported OS versions by their Play services and APIs for Android.
If 25% of the Pixel 2 devices (which come with Project Treble and a 6-year supported LTS kernel) are still in active use after 3 years, then Google should be supporting the Pixel 2 for at least 4 years (at least with security patches). But as I said, this should be the bare minimum, like something I'd expect from LG. Google should not stop support until fewer than 10% of the Pixel 2 users have stopped using it.
> We’ve seen that Android devices appear to be getting more out of date over time. This makes it difficult for developers to target “new” Android API features, where new means anything introduced in the past few years.
This used to be more of a problem, but the support library deals with this more nowadays. Not for every change and new feature, but for most of them.
The obvious thing to say is to just get a Nexus/Pixel device and enjoy your updates but I'm sure this isn't an option for some people.
I think the best thing that you can do to ensure you still get security updates is either make sure you get a device with an unlocked bootloader or hope there's a root exploit available so you can put something like LinageOS on it.
I picked up an Essential Phone (on the cheap) for the former even though they appear to be getting timely updates so far (one day behind pixel) if you're willing to sideload with adb (and promises of support for 3 years). Also managed to grab it for < $150 TOTAL (sprint lease after buyout on day 1). They really seem to want to offload some of the stock.
I don't think I'll ever buy an android phone that's not a pixel (formerly nexus) that's not unlocked again.
Edit: On second thought some of what I wrote is probably not correct.
Perhaps the real problem is sloppy development practices that make staying up to date so important.
Unfortunately, nothing is going to change because the companies making these phones (and other software based products) see it as a way to drive sales.
Stop bundling antifeatures into security updates and maybe people will want them.
Why software updates and especially security bug fixes are not covered by manufacturer warranty as it is with hardware issues? Or maybe they are but no one enforces that?
In other words if I buy a phone with 2y warranty (a standard duration in many European countries) it would be reasonable to expect that any security updates (device fixes) will be provided in a reasonable time within that period starting from the purchase date.
My ye olde Samsung Galaxy S4 mini is better software supported at lineageos.org than Google or Samsung ever did. LineageOS even plan to support Anroid 8 on it!
It's better hardware supported at aliexpress.com than any other phone shop.
In its very small lifespan it has become the most modifyable hackable smartphone i've ever owned. :)
Sadly this is the only way to succesfully update my outdated Anroid device. :(
Part of the reason for this mess is the greed of manufacturers, they want us to buy new devices every 2 years. Consider mid-range devices from OnePlus, Xiaomi and Samsung, these are intentionally sold at a lower price to users who like budget phones and if you would see the device manufacturer distribution list these devices top the list in number of units sold, this is especially true in developing countries. These phones seldom get updates after the (T + 2) cycle.
I hope that with introduction of project Treble this trend can be reversed, Google is literally forcing these greedy manufacturers to include Treble if they ship devices with Oreo and above, but this doesn't mean we will see updates as frequent as iOS anytime soon, one thing I observed lately is that after announcement of project Treble almost all manufacturers are releasing newer phones with Nougat 7.1, this is funny considering that it's mid November now and Oreo was released way back in August.
Up until very recently if I had an old 386 I could still install modern Linux on it and use gnu apps.
Whereas if I have a 2 year old phone the official story is: no it totally doesn't work, throw it away.
This is garbage. Phones are a lot more powerful then that 386, what's different is no one is building to any reasonable standard. Kernel updates should just work.
I'm one of those people. Still using US$100 Asus Zenfone 4, running Android K; with 8GB internal memory and 1GB RAM. My phone still looking and running good, no scratches, and no lags. I only use 1.56GB internal memory for apps, nothing fancy, just some apps that I truly need.
The reason I'm not considering to upgrade my Android is because of this article: It's The User Experience, Stupid. I already see Android O in action, and some newest Android devices, but I don't think it's worth my money. So, I'm planning to keep using my 3 year old phone until it's dead.
Outdated device user here. (Android 6.0)
I bought a Google Nexus 5 so this wouldn't happen. But apparently it did anyway.
I have a obscure low level Oppo device from Asia. Its hardly up to date, but it is still more than i need plus provides a 2 day battery life even after a year of using.
I think we just reached the point where phones grow in specs we dont actually need.
The thing is i use my phone mostly like a public wifi. Trust nothing.
See also: https://androidvulnerabilities.org/
They used more fine grained tracking on vulnerabilities vs Android versions in the field. Shame they haven't kept updating it.
The problem is not only with security, ok it's the first problem but there's plenty of device that can't do any job right now, event if I want use that mobile for a diy like camera, etc. most of the software no is no more compatible. I don't understand why we go so fast on the new device when the majority won't use that damn new API, and all these gadget UI are so damn useless. Like hearthstone, why didn't you optimize your game for less device do you really need to do a animation if my device don't support it? just don't display it!
I didn't see it in the article, and so I wonder what the country breakdown for this might be. I get the impression that in the developing world, where android has really taken off, the ability to receive updates is diminished.
I do not enjoy phones except for pocketable phone, camera and map. I still have an old stubbornly adequate Moto-G. Chromebooks are cheap lightweight browsing and light typing devices. They work better than fine with no surprises.
This is why I will only ever buy the OnePlus brand at this point. I used to buy Nexus until they started skyrocketing the price (Ting user here) not to mention my last nexus bricked itself when the battery got low.
I have an old HTC Inspire (circa 2011) I still use in my kitchen to control a stereo system. I'm shocked anything on it still works. It's probably a terrible security vulnerability I should throw away.
If it is a problem to update smartphones, I just don't want to imagine the nightmare that is going to be on our doorstep with IoT updates...
What do you guys think of Lineage OS and Open GApps?
I put them on an old Nexus 7 (2013) tablet, and they run well. How trustworthy are they though?
Those billion outdated devices are the low hanging fruit screening me and my fully updated iOS device. I can be confident that casual attackers aren't coming after me, only the higher tier ripoff artists gunning for iOS users and the APTs who are attacking my company specifically.
Another interesting iOS and Android comparison: all fully supported iOS devices on the latest OS -- back to the 2013 iPhone 5S -- are 64-bit. On the Android side, almost none are 64-bit. Everything besides ARM7 is a rounding error.
Anecdotally, vendor released Android 7 for my phone some time spring 2017 - not the worst case. Although, OTA update fails. The only path to upgrade my phone is manually flash OS image and lose all data. I'm still running 6 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I'd like to buy an Android Ereader - there are a few but they're all on Android 4.x, is there a reason for that? I'm guessing its licensing not technical but I'm not sure.
With the sheer number of outdated devices still in use, one wonders what the real world rates of hacks look like.
I don't think that the two are linearly proportional at all unless individuals or groups are being specifically targeted.
Updated my 5s a few days back. Touch ID stopped working and refuse to activate (error message). Spotlight no longer finds the Calculator app. App titles, like Messages, have become larger and hence takes up more space. When I slide an app up to close it, the animation indicating a close triggers, but the app pops back up, so I have to do that gesture twice now to actually close apps. There’s more but I’m typing on my phone and that’s horrible.
I think Google, Apple, Samsung et.al should be upfront on when they plan to end of life (EOL) their devices. Many devices now a day is SaaS with a upfront cost. So divide the cost of the phone with how long it will be supported, then you'll get the monthly cost. Guys! We need a fully open source smart-phone that can be community supported forever! Why isn't there on yet ?
I have an old-ish Android tablet and have no idea how to update it. I tried and quickly gave up.
My problem is some independent first movers made great games for the Android, then were force off by slow-to-market game owners - who then produce junk "official versions" of the same games - all under the guise of security concerns. To get their way they used the LAW (UCC ) Now we have to have constant update checks for copyright,trademark,look & feel, and anything else they can use of themselves ( like echo,google home, vs independent home automation) or (cloud vs X-drive ) xor (academic library vs paywall library where every student pays for public domain information) rip Aaron Swartz
How are they not all zombies or hit by ransomware?
how is postmarketos doing ?
I don't see how they're "outdated" if they still work and are being used. So to me, something that doesn't work/isn't or can be used = outdated. There.
What's with I guess the apparent void of anyone that matters not knowing what the fuck "software" is.
I learned this at 5, can you all at least learn this Hy I don't know what, college, graduate school?
Oh yeah ur smart future people graduated graduate school and have a very Shakey understanding of the concept of software and hardware, if any concept to speak of at all. In many cases I'm genuinely left wondering if most of you have ever even HEARD THAT WORD.
I am angry and I'm getting it out through words, also though expressing a valid thing. It's called "killing two birds with one stone" for the "american literary geniuses"
The heard that word thing in this thought jot being meant towards graduate school graduates. What I mean is that if I'm right and most of them haven't even registered the word "software" there's a big problem, and I don't mean that in a funny way.
The most effective way to solve this is to write a set of exploits that work on most devices. Then brick all the phones that are vulnerable.
Surely not nice, but users suddenly got cured of their complete apathy towards mobile phones.