As New Year was celebrated this year WhatsApp, one of a number of messenger apps used to send greetings to friends and family, was not accessible to many – with equivalent apps difficult to find.
On New Year’s eve WhatsApp stopped functioning on numerous older smartphone models operating Android 2.2 Froyo (or older), versions of iOS on iPhone (iOS6 or older) and a selection of smartphones operating Windows 7, or an older version.
These aged systems, which were released as early as 2010 in the case of Android 2.2, are still used by many people with smartphones that are unable to be upgraded to new versions – as a result WhatsApp can no longer be used.
In February 2016 figures indicated that WhatsApp was being used by over one billion people a month. The app, which has gained popularity globally, is used very widely in emerging markets such as India. In November 2016 it was reported that over 160 million users depended on the app. It is going to be a difficult task to find a replacement that works on older smartphones.
WhatsApp indicated last year that the choice to limit accessibility to older smartphone devices was a tough one, but insisted that the future of WhatsApp depends on new models with greater functionality, “older mobile operating systems don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future.”
WhatsApp has expanded its features over time, introducing more advanced tools such as voice calling and video calling. In terms of security the app has strongly promoted end to end encryption and other security measures to every user.
It’s possible that Android manufacturers are responsible for the large numbers of people now without access to messenger apps due to their policy not to force new software updates on users after a specific timeframe. With lower cost brands this time frame is even shorter leaving users with out-dated operating systems on their devices.
Android 2.2 is still used on 0.1% of Android smartphones, which although a small figure in percentage terms, it is still a large number of phones. Of the 1.4 billion Android devices operating in September 2015 approximately 1.4 million were using the Android 2.2 operating system – a significant figure.
WhatsApp also plan to terminate support for smartphones using Blackberry 10 OS, Nokia S40 and Nokia Symbian S60 in June of 2017, after an initial plan to cut support late 2016 was extended. Users may be able to find other messenger apps to support their device, but this may be a difficult task with platforms like Telegram and Facebook Messenger no longer supporting certain older operating systems.
Similarly, Microsoft’s Skype, will not support Android operating system versions released prior to the 4.0.3 or iPhones using iOS 7. The safest option for consumers who would like to keep up with the progress of the digital age may be to buy a new device.