When software eventually retires hardware

Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Over the last couple of weeks, a few stories have been swirling around about devices finally being rendered redundant — sometimes because of software requirements and sometimes because of technical advances.

Google shut out

First up was an announcement from Google that certain devices running dated OS versions would no longer be able to log onto Google services. Which sounds pretty bad. Until you actually take the time to look into exactly how old the affected OS is.

Devices running Android Gingerbread 2.3.7 or older. That’s an OS update from a decade ago. 10 YEARS! Now I’m all for people holding onto their phones for longer. And for the concept of the right to repair phones. Even so, 10 years is a long, long time to hold onto a phone. You’re talking about holding onto a Samsung S II phone for a decade. Actually, given that you can run Jellybean on an SII… you’ll probably be on the original Samsung Galaxy phone. I had one of those a decade ago. It was a great phone. I loved it. But thinking about trying to use it today sends a shudder down my spine.

As an app development agency, the OS support question is one that we encounter on a regular basis. Is it worth building an app that supports clunky old operating systems? Now it does depend on the app, the business and the target market, but by and large we push hard for a realistic approach to OS support. The cost of maintaining (and more importantly, securing) an app that can run on old OS is often prohibitive, so unless your core demographic have largely chosen to keep their old phones, it’s simply not worth the expense.

Worldwide Android OS market share

Looking at the graph above (courtesy of Statista) you can see that the vast proportion of potential customers are on recent operating systems, with a rapidly declining base of older OS systems.

Then if you start to drill down into the data you start to see even more noticeable variations:

Marketshare of Android OS in Europe

Most of our clients are catering to a UK or European market — where OS systems tend towards a much newer, more frequently updated market. 88% of customers on Android Oreo or above. Versus 83% globally.

Reduced to Kindl(e)ing

Even as Google was highlighting the need for customers to update their devices… Amazon was announcing that a whole bunch of their Kindle devices were going to lose internet connectivity. In this example Amazon are essentially being forced into the announcement because of changes to the way the mobile networks are coping with the introduction of 5G. Amazon’s 3G devices will no longer be able to use the networks… losing connectivity.

For some of the oldest devices (those released before 2010 and without a Wifi connection) that will mean all connectivity will be lost. Though I’m pretty sure that older Kindles could be updated via some wires and a laptop.

The range of devices impacted is actually rather larger than you would expect — and it includes the first gen flagship Kindle Oasis which was only released back in 2016. Admittedly most of those devices can still access Wifi, reducing the real world impact.

My 4th Gen Amazon Keyboard must have lasted 8 or 9 years before it finally gave up the ghost. And when I did finally upgrade to the lighter, brighter, faster Paperwhite, I instantly fell in love with it. If I get another 8 or 9 years out of that I’ll be pretty happy.

Game Over

Finally, for the gamers out there, Playstation dropped a surprise announcement that the PS3, Vita and PSP storefronts would be dropping off their offering. Essentially meaning that any digitally-purchased games for those platforms would cease to be available to redownload.

Playstation quickly rowed back on the announcement, revealing PS3 and Vita owners could continue to access the store. PSP users were not so lucky.

The PS3 launched 14 years ago. The Vita launched a decade ago. The PS4 launched 8 years ago. The PS5 has allegedly launched… though you’ll struggle to buy one. I’m all for keeping tech running for as long as possible. But do we really need to continue to support 15 year old creaking tech?

I dunno.

I’m off to play some Goldeneye on the office N64.

Rambo won.

Thom Gibbons is CEO of Apptaura. He is the office Mario Kart Champion and insists he also rules the roost when it comes to Goldeneye. When he’s not playing games, he and his team are building brilliant apps for exceptional small businesses.

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Thom is CEO of www.apptaura.com the app development agency that wants to change our world with great code. Uniquely crazy, odd sock wearing. Aims to inspire.

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Thom Gibbons

Thom Gibbons

Thom is CEO of www.apptaura.com the app development agency that wants to change our world with great code. Uniquely crazy, odd sock wearing. Aims to inspire.

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