Google’s latest phones are shipping with Android 9 Pie, and third-party phone makers are starting to get on the Pie bandwagon… but few enough people are using the latest version of Android that Google hasn’t even added it to its Android Platform Distribution chart.
But you know what is on that chart? Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. About 0.3 percent of Android devices in the wild are still using that 7-year-old operating system.
And while they can certainly keep using it if they want, they may soon notice that some features don’t work as well as they used to. Google has announced that it will no longer update Google Play Services for API levels 14 and 15 — meaning Ice Cream Sandwich.
In other words, the app that enables multiple Google services to do their thing may cease to function properly. That could affect the Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, data synchronization, and many other features.
It’s not exactly surprising to see Google drop support for Ice Cream Sandwich. The company has released a dozen major updates to Android since Android 4.0 ICS first launched in 2011, and the number of active devices still running ICS is diminishing.
That said, a lot of device makers have a nasty habit of rarely (or never) issuing software updates for their Android products. So if you bought a cheap tablet with Android 4.0 sometime in the last 7 years, there’s a decent chance it’s still running that version of Google’s operating system.
Those devices won’t necessarily cease working. But with Google no longer updating its Play Services APK for those devices, it’s possible that bugs will start to crop up and go unpatched or that features may stop working. And since Google is encouraging app developers to target API level 16 and newer, it’s possible that some app updates could cause some apps or games that currently support Android 4.0 to no longer work in the future.
Google says one workaround is for developers to build multiple APKs for their apps including an APK that targets API levels lower than 16 and another that targets the newer APIs. It’s unclear how many developers will take the company up on that idea due to the relatively small market share for Android 4.0 devices.
How many of the devices involved have enough fixed storage to accommodate the rapidly bloating Google services and 3rd party apps anyway? That can trigger the need to replace even quicker than old-version Android deprecation. Don’t even get me started on the crapware carriers bundle that can’t be readily removed.
Android had many huge leaps in programming over the years, and the biggest were:
– Android 1.0 to 1.5.0
– Android 1.6 to 2.2.1
– Android 2.3 to 4.0.3
– moderate changes rolling-out
– Android 4.3 to 5.1.0
– moderate changes rolling-out
– Android 6.0 to 8.0.0
– moderate changes rolling-out
So its sad to see Android 4.0.3 lose support for Play Store, when there are millions of Apps that support it just fine. This is like the WindowsXP of phones (I guess that makes 5.1 the Windows7 of phones. And it’s completely bullcrap (aka planned obsolescence) that Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps to stop working, let alone Cloud Sync because those are functions that don’t break/need fixing. And there’s not much improvement in software/hardware on devices going from 4.0.3 to 4.4.3 (Windows Vista of phones). Especially when you think about the hardware these came in (dual/quad-core Cortex A9’s, 1-2GB RAM, 16-64GB flash)….. its more powerful than the Raspberry Pi which is a true-workhorse.
It took me a while to realise, but you really have to buy a used last-year’s flagship that has Custom Rom support…. then upgrade your phone every 11-19 months to the next Used flagship device to stay in the Goldilocks Zone. Example:
Buy Used SGS7-Exynos in late 2016.
Sell phone, upgrade to SGS8+ in early 2018.
Again sell phone, upgrade to SGS9+ in early 2019.
Then again sell phone, upgrade to new device in late 2019.
(You can’t rely on OnePlus or iPhones anymore)
Yes, it is completely bullcrap, because it’s not true. Nothing is going to suddenly stop working. If you’re still using a phone with ICS, those apps will continue to run just fine, Gmail, Maps, and all. All that’s happening is that you’re not going to get more updates, and even then developers can push out newer versions of their apps targeting ICS if they put in some extra effort.
Seven years is longer than Apple supports its iPhones. It is quite long enough, given the speed and magnitude of the changes to the mobile phone platform over that period, especially since Google isn’t stopping anyone from continuing to use their phones.
As for your strategy — you’re not being consistent. With Google’s support for the various Android development platforms lasting 7 years, buying another phone every year would seem to be a waste of money. My old LG G2 (Android 5.1) still gets app updates on a regular basis, and that was released way back in 2013.
Also, what’s the point in requiring custom ROM support when you’re replacing your phones before the official Android updates end? Most major manufacturers will provide two version updates, so it’s up to three years before you’re behind in versions, and rooting and installing custom roms so early in a phone’s lifecycle is just asking for all kinds of headaches, especially since you almost certainly don’t need it to keep your apps up-to-date.
Finally, buying 18-24 month old flagships (i.e. two generations back) gives you much better value for money. You can still buy many of factory refurbished models in “as new” condition, and for almost half the price of the one year old models — typically under $300. Then just keep the phone for as long as you’re happy with it (reminding yourself that a phone isn’t suddenly obsolete just because it stops getting OS updates) and then when you feel it’s finally time to upgrade again — say, in three more years — just rinse and repeat. That will save you several hundred dollars a year over your strategy and for almost zero chance of being unable to run any of the apps your phone’s hardware is capable of.
“It took me a while to realise, but you really have to buy a used last-year’s flagship that has Custom Rom support…. then upgrade your phone every 11-19 months to the next Used flagship device to stay in the Goldilocks Zone.”
I’ve figured out something like this. But. With tow caveats:
Can’t you just hold on to your year-old flagship with custom ROM support for 24 months? 24 months is a more reasonable upgrade time frame to me than 12 months. Assuming you have a preference for a smartphone model, which is updated every 12 months. Which ROM or ROMs do you prefer, if other than LineageOS?
What do you recommend for those people who don’t need or want to splurge on last year’s Android flagship? Which still costs pretty penny depending on to your needs or means.
Well, the plan was to have a Nexus device.
However, Google has cancelled that and introduced Pixels, and they are definitely not the same thing. The Pixels are (much) more expensive, don’t focus on the performance as much, and they don’t try to push the envelope/stir competition. In fact, what the Pixels are a “safe bet” something for the lowest-common denominator, and they are focused on being an iPhone alternative with the marketing budget to match.
So for a little while, the OnePlus devices have been the honorary Nexus fill-ins. However over time each generation has upped the price without bringing much features, and in some instances, taking them away. And now OnePlus is slowing updates on older devices too. While Apple used to be reliable in terms of having a somewhat affordable and somewhat durable device, yet this has changed with the likes of the iPhone 8 and the purposely degradation of speed and battery condition.
The next-best candidate seems to be something like a Nokia 7 Plus (overpriced?) or an ASUS RoG Phone (expensive?).
So the only way to get a “Nexus” is to get an Android Device which has a lot of community support, and is common enough to maintain that support (eg ex-flagships). The point of upgrading an ex-flagship in 11-19 months is to stay in the “Goldilocks zone”, where you have the latest software and at a decent stable. And unfortunately this tactic will cost money, but it will be cheaper than buying a current-flagship and upgrading every 2-years instead.
For people who can’t afford to buy ex-flagships, its tough. Because new and unlocked flagships on the open-market go for around US$800. And within that time frame (11-19 months) they lose around 40-70% of their value, typically fetching for US$350 instead. Yet another 7-11 months they do not depreciate much (another 10-40%), fetching for around US$250. However, on the third year it becomes (20-50%) even cheaper (US$180) and exponentially more difficult to sell the device since most hype dies off and there’s greater competition from current low-midrange. So someone who cannot afford, US$350 and that budget, is going to struggle to find a decent midrange device too, and they will have to settle for a Chinese Import that may or may not have larger compromises.
….I would tell them that just because they paid less doesn’t mean they got a better value!
The good thing about buying ex-flagships is that because of the large depreciation, you get one of the best values initially and reoccurring. And selling them off months/year later you don’t lose that much money. So the upfront cost might be US$500 (rounding-up), and then cost you US$200 (rounding up) every year to upgrade. Which means in 6 years time, you can expect to pay around US$1,500 (round up) for this “Goldilocks” (or “Nexus”) technique. Yet if you bought 3 Pixels in that time you would’ve spent US$2,200 (rounding-down), or if you instead bought 2 iPhones in that time you would’ve spent US$2,000 (rounding-down). So you get to use a newer device overall, and you’re saving yourself US$500 (at least) but more realistically around US$1,000 and probably upto US$2,000 (if lucky).
I recommend not keeping your device for too long, and the stay in the Goldilocks zone, because of the plateau of depreciation (so take advantage of it !) and that devices become harder and harder to sell the longer you hold it. It much easier today for you to sell an LG G6 for US$200, than an LG G5 for US$150.
It seems like a cliche, but it basically boils down to “doing your research helps get you a better device AND saves you money”.
PS: My Custom ROMs of choice are RessurectionRemix (most features), FlymeOS (most intuitive), OmniROM (most dev-focused), LineageOS (most common), SlimROM (most lean). Also will give a shout-out to PAC-ROM and Dirty Unicorns, not my favourites but they’re still good.
Although I’m contempt with just using the Stock Firmware (even just pure Android-post 5.1) but changing; the Launcher, Icons, Font, Keyboard, Phone, Messages, Camera, Browser, File Manager, App Lock, ViPER, Media Player, and Wallpaper.
And then adding r00t: fixing any OEM annoyances, some further MOD/UI enhancements, Titanium Backup and migrating messages/contacts, and squashing Spyware and Adware built into the OS and Apps).
Wow. Thanks for the detailed write up! I don’t necessarily want to debate you, just giving you my 2 cents on a few points.
As far as I’m concerned the Pixels are pushing the limit on cameras, not including 8 GB of RAM and a bloated skin over stock Android. They still have flagship Qualcomm processors. And who needs 8 GB of RAM in smartphone to just run a lean custom ROM? It’s just crazy! Last year’s Pixels go for around 430 euros (both the small and the XL models), which include European VAT. Something to consider in pricing calculations. Or you can have last year’s Samsung for a similar price, too. If I were to buy some last year’s Android, I’d buy the Pixel or the Samsung (biggest price drops after the first year), the OnePluses are more like ‘plain Janes’ to me. LOL. They hold their value better, no big price drops, but kind of boring on the other hand.
So what’s wrong with buying these for 2 years, I assume they have community support. I just didn’t understand from your explanation what’s wrong with buying last years’ flagship, then holding onto it for 24 months than 12 months. Assuming the phone gets updated every 12 months. Another technique is to buy last yer’s phone after the successor was announced, but sell your previous one a little before the new one is announced. Tech journalists do it for their iPhone upgrades. As prices predictably change with a new model update.
Similarly, you can buy an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus for similar money, which sure get updates and is a good value. In fact, most people out there I see with iPhone are on the 7 generation now. And quite a few on the 6s (that is, if you bought the ‘mid range iPhone’ last year). What’s wrong with that? About Apple slowing down older iPhones because of the battery. I find it a little bit of a FUD, or a non-issue for me. You may want to look a little more into that. I’d start on reputable online communities like Hacker News and Quora.
The bottom line is, spending $200 on having just a smartphone is simply unrealistic for most average people, who are not geeks. My strategy I calculated would cost somewhat closer to $100 than $200, but it can be a little more because of the pricing in Europe includes VAT. You are better off here if you can buy a phone for your company, without paying VAT.
Thanks for the Android ROM recommendations! Oh! And the Goldilocks budget LineageOS device is something like a Samsung Galaxy S5 still. And I don’t see anything wrong with that route, either. Custom ROM’s are lean. If not 110% reliable (nor do all stock ROMs either), but that’s the trade off.
In the US you can buy refurbished iPhone 8s for 15% off from Apple’s website. A good value. In Europe, the street prices of all iPhone models (from reputable resellers) are all lower than the Apple Store’s prices, somewhat similar to the discount you can get in the US only to the 8 and 8 Plus as it seems.
No worries, I’m happy you read all of it.
Upgrading roughly 2 years instead of roughly 1 year, would mean you’re actually spending less money, say, over that hypothetical 6 year scenario. It might also mean you get more value overall in the spending.
However, I recommend a roughly 1-1.5 year interval rather than a 2-2.5 year interval…. and it comes back to economics. Its just easier to sell a 1.5-2.5 year old device rather than a 2.5-3.5 year old device. And while phones depreciate greatly in the first 0.5-1.1 years, their depreciation slows between that 1.2-1.9 year mark. This is because we are talking about an industry of “disposable products” with a high mark up…. and that’s where the ethos of the “Goldilocks tactic” comes from.
And yes, selling a month before a new model is announced and upgrading a month after announcement would help increase your value quota (ie less spending). But in that +2 months gap you need a phone as well, which sort of ruins the transition.
I personally rather the Samsung Note 3 (QSD 800) instead of the SGS5. But one of the biggest reasons to upgrade is from one: 64bit computing (relevancy), proper waterproofing (IP68), better cameras (SGS7 or better), better sound (front-firing stereo loudspeakers), also the Specs (Storage, Memory, Radios, GPU, Processor), and then lastly the durability (eg/ MIL-STD-810G, True sapphire lenses, Kevlar, Titanium alloys, Stainless Steel, Anodised Aluminium 7000-series).
It’s hard for me to prove Apple’s guilt, well because they’re so secretive, but its obvious (to me at least) that Apple is no longer interested in the Steve Job’s mentality of building fine products. They are content on people buying them for the familiarity and marketing, and less so on meritocracy. So they’re focussed on building their ecosystem to have repeat sales, say, every 2 years instead of 4 years…. which clashes directly against building a device as such.
“I recommend a roughly 1-1.5 year interval rather than a 2-2.5 year interval…. and it comes back to economics. Its just easier to sell a 1.5-2.5 year old device rather than a 2.5-3.5 year old device.”
I never understand when people say they can’t sell their house or whatever item. You just have to price the item you want to sell to what the market pays for it.
I’ve found that iPhones and OnePlus phones hold their value relatively better than Google Pixel and Samsung phones.
“And yes, selling a month before a new model is announced and upgrading a month after announcement would help increase your value quota (ie less spending). But in that +2 months gap you need a phone as well, which sort of ruins the transition.”
When I’ve read about this trick, the American journalist (iPhone user) opted for the $50 Blu phone with Amazon Special Deals or something like this. For a change. Or how about a flip phone? Seriously. These come back in fashion lately. Or get the [email protected] hand-me-down from your extended family or friends? I mean an extended family should have at least one spare device for emergencies, shouldn’t they? Or friends.
“I personally rather the Samsung Note 3 (QSD 800) instead of the SGS5.”
Thanks for the comparison of the specs! One thing to consider is that one is a phone, the other is a phablet. Which may be the deciding factor for some people.
On Apple: “So they’re focussed on building their ecosystem to have repeat sales, say, every 2 years instead of 4 years…. which clashes directly against building a device as such.”
I don’t 100% understand what exactly you want to get to. I’m not a native speaker. But the main consensus in the tech media is, I guess, and see my previous like, that Apple might just accepted that the mass market moved from being so excited about upgrading their phones every two years to now just upgrading them every three years. So Apple want to see more of their revenues coming from services (such as Apple Pay, Music, and their cloud services) than hardware sales. Which is a fine, and green move:
Kangal, aren’t the upcoming Pixel 3 Lite phones your new Nexuses? 🙂
Part of my message was strangely formatted.
This is because we are talking about an industry of “disposable products” with a high mark up…
I’ve found that iPhones and OnePlus phones hold their value relatively better than Google Pixel and Samsung phones.
Yes, I’m excited to see a Pixel 3 Lite (if priced sensibly).
Having a goto phone is fine, but this tactic usually applies to us consumers/enthusiasts… we are the ones doing the hand-me-downs. But buying a new phone for this transition period doesn’t make as much sense, because it eats into your overall value.
It is true that you can no longer depend on Apple. Since the technology is hitting a plateau (ie people are happy enough with 1080p screens, 4GB’s RAM etc etc) there’s added pressure on the OEM to get repeat consumers. Now if your product is high quality this presents a problem, and the easiest solution is Planned Obsolescence. That is the route Apple has pivoted into.
And OnePlus has shifted from a value-first direction, and instead are chasing higher profit margins and to compete with the name-brand flagships.
The reason why it becomes prohibitively difficult to sell an old phone is because, like I explained, the market conditions. You either have to recycle them, sell them really cheap, give them away…OR sell them before they are deemed “obsolete” in the used market (and that’s the option I advocate).
PS, I specified the QSD 800 for the NOTE 3 because the Exynos version isn’t good. But for the NOTE 4, it’s better to get the Exynos version.
Your note on Apple:
“It is true that you can no longer depend on Apple. Since the technology is hitting a plateau (ie people are happy enough with 1080p screens, 4GB’s RAM etc etc) there’s added pressure on the OEM to get repeat consumers. Now if your product is high quality this presents a problem, and the easiest solution is Planned Obsolescence. That is the route Apple has pivoted into.”
Just goes completely against what I note on Apple, so I sense that we just aren’t on the same wavelength with this:
“But the main consensus in the tech media is, I guess, and see my previous like, that Apple might just accepted that the mass market moved from being so excited about upgrading their phones every two years to now just upgrading them every three years. So Apple want to see more of their revenues coming from services (such as Apple Pay, Music, and their cloud services) than hardware sales. Which is a fine, and green move:
Including the Reddit link about the short write-up about the ‘most important point of this year’s iPhone keynote.’
Your other notes: thanks!
“Since the technology is hitting a plateau (ie people are happy enough with 1080p screens, 4GB’s RAM etc etc)”
I’m exactly this kind of customer, by the way? Am I against progress? No, I don’t think so. On the other hand, machine learning and AI are just coming up. Apple’s new A12 processor is about these features. Massively. I honestly have no idea what it it going to be used for in one or two years.
One last point by famed YouTuber MKBHD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYRvNKq5fto
+1. Interesting. You might be right.
And I know Apple used iOS 12 as a way to advertise this (“see if you pay extra upfront for an iPhone you will still get the latest OS many years later, because we care”). Me personally, I would be skeptical of what they say. It’s very probable that iOS 12 will be the last version for the iPhone 5S, 6, 6+, and maybe also the SE, 6S, and 6S Plus.
Either iPhones need to get EVEN more expensive, for Apple to cover their slipping revenue and maintain profit margins, to make this 2year -> 4year transition feasible. Or Apple will come up with a different alternative (Planned Obsolescence, High Priced Accessories, etc etc). Why? Because their other services Music, Cloud, CarPlay, Maps, iMessage etc etc isn’t bringing enough revenue to compensate… even their App services have largely plateaued after the events of Pokemon Go. And the likes of the AirPods, AppleWatch, iPad, AppleTV are struggling to maintain their sales figures, let’s not even mention the macOS Ecosystem which actually has waned the past 2 years.
So its likely that Apple is smarter than you and me.
They will probably raise prices and maintain them, justify it by saying iPhones last longer, but introduce Planned Obsolescence anyway, and have people upgrading their devices every 2.8 years instead of 4.0 years. I totally see Apple doing such kniving playbook, I’ve grown skeptical with them since my iPhone 3G.
“You can’t rely on OnePlus or iPhones anymore”
I would be interested if you explained your thought process with this. I’m not sure it’s clear to your readers what do you mean by this statement. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite: it’s perfectly unclear to them. 🙂
The current 7″ Samsung Tab E still uses Android 4.4. I wonder how long it will be supported? Most currently available tablets that I’ve looked at seem to run Android 5 or 6. Why don’t tablets get more current versions?
Yeah there’s still lots of low end prepaid phones running Kit Kat (4.4). Amazon’s Fire OS is currently based on Android 5.
I’m fairly certain that Fire OS 6, Amazon’s most current version of the OS is based on 7.1. Fire OS 5 runs Android 5.1. Most of the devices running Fire OS 5 are 1st and 2nd gen devices. Either way, I don’t think Amazon devices depend on Play Store APIs so, moot point.
Also, I think 7 years is reasonable. No reputable manufacturer is producing Android phones with anything less than 7.x right now and you can find a budget Android phone for sub $70. In fact, the cheapest of Android phones sold with 4.x have Oreo phones for about $10 more. There’s really no excuse at this point for not moving on. If you can sub a phone plan, you can update your phone in 7 years.
The Android update system is really a mess. It should be able to detect the installed hardware and install the necessary updates without the involvement of the manufacturer of the device, just as Windows does. With such a system updates could easily flow out for years, not just a couple of years. That the entire process of pushing updates takes months, or doesn’t get done at all on some devices, is really not a good system.
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