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What happens if you don't update Android?

Written by James Delahunty @ 05 Dec 2022 8:50

What happens if you don't update Android?

Sometimes, Android updates can go horribly wrong. The intentions of manufacturers are usually good. After all, new updates bring about new features, performance improvements, security improvements, etc. Every now and then, however, a new Android update can pose significant problems for end users.
For an example of when things can go wrong, you only have to look at OnePlus' infamous Android 12 update debacle. This system update was completely rejected by users of updated devices. It significantly altered the user interface of the operating system - according to many users, for the worse. In addition, some users reported that the update was plagued with bugs.

This news made a lot of users of affected headsets ponder a delay to updating the device.

But.. What happens if you don't update your phone to the latest Android version?

In summary: In the short term, nothing really!

However, after six months or more, thing start happening under the hood that the user cannot see, but which can be potentially significant issues.



Device and Data Security degrade with time


A manufacturer will stop supporting older versions of Android with updates, because a new version is available for the device and they want you to update. Unfortunately, this can include security updates too.

At some point, a manufacturer will stop distributing security updates to the device. That is, even if there were still security updates for phones using the Android 12 operating system, they won't be pushed to the device if Android 13 is available. Instead, the security updates will be packaged with an Android 13 update.

This happens because more security updates are actually handled by the manufacturer, and not the O.S. developer (in the case of Android, this is Google). This a major difference between mobile handsets and say, Windows PCs, where Microsoft manages the distribution of updates from its own network. In recent years, Google has moved some of its security-related updates behind its own Play Services, but not all of them.

Deteriotation of data security is usually a process that takes place over a prolonged period of time. Typically, it could be said that a phone equipped with data security updates more than a year old is at some kind of data security risk. The official list of known Android security flaws gives a good guideline on how secure any version of Android is.



After a long time, applications stop working properly


Over a more dramatic passage of time (years), applications will no longer function on an older Android system. This varies by application, of course, but typically it requires several years and several iterations of the Android OS to be released before this becomes an issue.

However, when dealing with applications that take data security more seriously than most, such as mobile banking applications, compatibility problems are likely to occur much earlier. It's important to keep that in mind when using an older Android OS than is available.

In Summary


In the short term, missing - and delaying - a major Android update is not a big risk.

With time, however, the risk increases. It is definitely not worth postponing an update to a new Android OS for more than a year. Sometimes, of course, it also may be the case that a very serious data security problem is discovered in Android and all users are advised to update their devices as soon as possible. In such a scenario, it is vital to apply the update even if you dislike other parts of the update.

You can find information on the Android updates available for your handset from the Android Update Tracker website.

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