Older smartphones get locked out of WhatsApp

This New Year, WhatsApp was not an option for many people to send greetings to their friends and family. To add to their woes, alternative messenger apps were also not easy to find.

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WhatsApp stopped working on a range of older smartphones on the New Year’s Eve. The Facebook-owned messaging app no longer supports smartphones running Android 2.2 Froyo, or older versions of Android, iPhones running iOS 6 or older, as well as the handful of smartphones running Windows Phone 7 or earlier version.

Although these are quite old operating systems — Android 2.2, for instance, was released in 2010 — many people still use smartphones that cannot be upgraded to a newer version. And as a result of this, they have lost access to WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is used by more than one billion users every month, as of February 2016. The app is quite popular worldwide, but in emerging markets such as that of India, it’s nearly ubiquitous. As of November last year, over 160 million Indian users were reliant on the messenger. 

It’s going to be a tough ride finding an instant messaging app that still supports ancient phones. 

Last year, WhatsApp said it was a difficult decision for the company to cut access to older devices, but insisted that older mobile operating systems don’t “offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future.”

WhatsApp has matured over the years, picking up sophisticated and understandably resource-rich features such as voice calling, and video calling. From a security stand point, it has pushed end-to-end encryption and other improvements to all its users.

Perhaps Android manufacturers should be blamed for some of this. Their “policy” to not push new software updates to existing Android-powered devices after a specific interval of time continues to strand millions of customers out of support cycle every month. In case of smaller brands and low-cost devices, the support life cycle is often shorter. 

About 0.1 percent of all Android devices still run Android 2.2. While that number may seem minuscule, it still amounts to a lot of Android devices. As of September 2015, there were about 1.4 billion active Android devices. That roughly translates to 1.4 million devices running Android 2.2 version. 

WhatsApp will also kill support for devices running BlackBerry 10 OS, or Nokia S40, or Nokia Symbian S60 operating system this June. The company had previously planned to cut support for these platforms at the end of 2016 as well, but later it gave them a little more time.  

Users on affected platforms could try other instant messaging services, but finding one that still supports their device is going to be a tough quest. 

Telegram, for instance, has also quietly pulled support for Android smartphones running versions older than 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Facebook Messenger, also doesn’t likely support these older mobile operating system versions anymore.

Microsoft’s Skype, similarly, doesn’t support Android devices running Android versions older than 4.0.3, and iPhones running iOS 7. Perhaps purchasing a new smartphone is the bet for people to continue to operate in this increasingly growing digital age.

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