Google pulls support for the old Android browser – could this force people to upgrade?

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Google has announced that is ending official support for WebView, which is perhaps better known as the original Android web browser. You know the one – it was used on Android phones before Chrome came along, and even then co-existed for a while.

android-lollipop-statue

According to The Register, the announcement will apply to anyone still running Android 4.3 (Jellybean) and below. According to recent figures, only around 39% of Android users are currently using KitKat and Lollipop – so potentially 60% of Android users could be affected.

The risk is, with the browser now unsupported that unscrupulous types might find and develop exploits using the older browser to hack into your phone. Which is why it is always a good idea to keep your software up to date, as supported operating systems will see the manufacturers release updates to combat any bugs in the software. By not supporting the software, this guarantee is no longer there – and this is the reason why every few years businesses and government have to spend millions updating Windows, so they can remain protected. In Android’s case, Google is suggesting that users of the older operating system upgrade to KitKat or Lollipop (which may require buying a new phone).

Whilst this could be viewed as a simple decision by Google’s engineers to focus on newer versions of Android, it could also be an attempt by Google to solve the “fragmentation” problem. As described above, a huge number of users are still using older versions, which isn’t optimal when Google wants everyone to be using the newest software, and running the newest versions of apps – so perhaps by cutting support for WebView, with the browser being one of the most important apps on the phone – it will help chivvy along the people who are still yet to upgrade?

James O’Malley

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