Why Google Is Blocking Apps on Old Android Phones

It’s not as nefarious as you might think

Key Takeaways

  • Google recently announced that many of its apps will stop working on older Android phones soon.
  • These apps include Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube.
  • The move is being made to help provide additional security to Android users and people who use Google’s online services daily.
A variety of google apps on a smartphone

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Google’s move to block its apps on older Android devices might seem like a bad thing, but ultimately it could provide more protection to its users.

It’s easy to look at any chance big tech takes to cut off access to older devices as a way of pushing users to upgrade or buy new devices. However, that isn’t the case with Google’s latest move to block apps on Android phones running Android 2.3.7 or older. According to experts, Google’s statement that the move will help provide a more secure environment for Android and Google users is actually true, which is why the move is a necessary one.

"The main benefit of such a decision for Android users is the improvement of their data security and privacy," Ilya Amialiuk, Android tech lead at Orangesoft, told Lifewire in an email.

Getting Older

While many users hold onto phones and other smart devices for years—there isn’t always a reason to upgrade if the device still works—over time those devices become less and less secure. While they may still get some security updates, most manufacturers start cutting off security updates three to four years after the phone’s initial release. Others can start even earlier.

The Android 2.3.7 operating system has been available since late 2011, making it 10 years old at this point. That’s a long time in tech, as Android has changed drastically since then, and multitudes of security updates, patches, and changes have been pushed to newer Android versions over the years.

The overall security and efficiency of smartphones has changed, too. This has led not only to more secure environments for users, but also to easier-to-use devices, including better user experiences. Take, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S2 LTE, which ran off of Android 2.3.7. Newer Samsung Android phones have changed quite a lot since then, and the user interface has evolved and grown too, becoming easier for users of all ages to manage.

As any piece of tech gets older, its efficiency and security starts to decline, which is why it’s important for developers and manufacturers to continue pushing new updates as often as they can. However, with Android 2.3.7 and its devices now being nearly 10 years old, it makes sense for Google to start cutting off access so it can focus its resources on keeping newer devices safe and secure for the millions of users who rely on them.

Aging Priority

Like many phone manufacturers, Google has a tendency to pick and choose where it wants to release security updates and patches.

"Normally, Google doesn’t release all of the necessary system updates for older operating systems," Amialiuk explained. "It’s not only about improving the user experience, but mainly about security changes. Even when some critical issues happen, newer and more popular phones get security patches first."

"The main benefit of such a decision for Android users is the improvement of their data security and privacy."

So, as a device or operating system ages, the priority of its updates begins to diminish as more users start to use newer systems and devices. With Android, there are often hundreds of different devices released each year, in the premium, mid, and budget ranges. Managing all of those phones for multiple years demands a lot of resources, which is why we often see older phones getting dropped from security updates after a few years.

Yes, it’s disappointing for the users who might still use a phone running Android 2.3.7. However, with the advancements made in cellular technology since 2011, as well as the changes made to many Android phone user interfaces throughout that time, upgrading your device becomes an important thing to keep in mind. 

It may feel like Google is forcing your hand in upgrading from your old and beloved smartphone or tablet, but it’s a move that will ultimately keep you and your online data much safer in the long run.

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