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.