United Airlines Made Its App Stop Working On My Phone, And What This Says About How Broken The Mobile Tech Space Is

from the garbage-in-garbage-out? dept

This post isn't really about United Airlines, but let's start there because it's still due plenty of criticism.

One day my phone updated the United App. I forget if I had trusted it to auto-update, or if I'd manually accepted the update (which I usually do only after reviewing what's been changed in the new version), but in any case, suddenly I found that it wasn't working. I waited a few days to see if it was a transient problem, but it still wouldn't work. So I decided to uninstall and reinstall, and that's where I ran into a wall: it wouldn't download, because Google Play said the new version wasn't compatible with my phone.

Wait, what? It used to run just fine. So I tweeted at United, which first responded in a surprisingly condescending and unhelpful way.

Sometime later I tweeted again, and this time the rep at least took the inquiry seriously. Apparently United had made the affirmative choice to stop supporting my Android version. And apparently it made this decision without actually telling anyone (like, any of their customers still running that version, who might not have updated if they knew they would have to BUY A NEW PHONE if they wanted to keep running it).

Ranting about this on Twitter then led to an interesting argument about what is actually wrong with this situation.

But let's not let United off the hook too soon. First, even if United were justified in ceasing to support an Android 4.x capable app, it should have clearly communicated this to the customers with 4.x phones. Perhaps we could have refused the update, but even if not, at least we would have known what happened and not wasted time troubleshooting. Plus we would have had some idea of how much United valued our business...

Second, one of the points raised in United's defense is that it is expensive to have to support older versions of software. True, but if United wants to pursue the business strategy of driving its customers to its app as a way of managing that relationship, then it will need to figure out how to budget for maintaining that relationship with all of its customers, or at least those whose business it wants to keep. If providing support for older phones is too expensive, then it should reconsider the business decision of driving everyone to the app in the first place. It shouldn't make customers subsidize this business decision by forcing them to invest in new equipment.

And then there was the third and most troubling point raised in United's defense, which is that Android 4.x is a ticking time bomb of hackable horror, and that any device still running it should be cast out of our lives as soon as possible. According to this argument, for United to continue to allow people to use their app on a 4.x Android device would be akin to malpractice, and possibly not even be allowed per their payment provider agreements.

At this point we'll stop talking to United, because the problem is no longer about them. Let's assume that the security researchers making this argument are right about the vulnerability of 4.x and its lack of support.

The reality is, THE PHONES STILL WORK. They dial calls. They surf the web. They show movies. Display ebooks. Give directions. Hold information. Sure, at some point the hardware will fail. But for those wrapped in good cases that have managed to avoid plunging into the bath, there's no reason they couldn't continue to chug on for years. Maybe even decades. In fact, the first thing to go may be the battery – although, thanks to them often not being removable, this failure would doom the rest of the device to becoming e-waste. But why should it be doomed to becoming e-waste a moment before it actually becomes an unusable thing? Today these phones are still usable, and people use them, because it is simply not viable for most people to spend several hundred dollars every few years to get a new one.

And yet, in this mobile ecosystem, they'll need to. Not only to keep running the software they depend on, but to be able to use the devices safely. The mere ability to function no longer is enough to delineate a working device from a non-working one. The difference between a working device and a piece of trash is what the OS manufacturer deems it. Because when it says it's done maintaining the OS, then the only proper place for a phone that runs it is a landfill.

It is neither economically nor environmentally sustainable for mobile phones to have such artificially short lifespans. "Your phone was released in 2013!" someone told me, as if I'd somehow excavated it from some ancient ruin and turned it on. It's a perfectly modern device (in fact, this particular phone in my possession came into use far more recently than 2013), still holds a reasonable charge, and is perfectly usable for all the things I use it for (well, except the United app...). So what do you mean that I can't use it? Or that any of the other millions if not billions of people in the world running Android 4.x phones can't use them?

There are lots of fingers to point in this unacceptable state of affairs. At app makers who refuse to support older OSes. At app makers who make us use apps at all, instead of mobile web applications, since one of the whole points of the Web in the first place was to make sure that information sharing would not be device- or OS-dependent. At carriers who bake the OS into their phones in such a way that we become dependent on them to allow us OS updates. At the OS manufacturers who release these systems into the wild with no intention of supporting them beyond just a few years. And to various legal regimes (I'm looking at you, copyright law…) that prevent third parties from stepping in to provide the support the OEM providers refuse to anymore. Obviously there are some tricky issues with having a maintenance aftermarket given concerns with authentication, etc., but we aren't even trying to solve them. We aren't doing anything at all, except damning the public to either throw good money after bad for new devices that will suffer the same premature fate, or to continue to walk around with insecure garbage in their pockets. And neither is ok.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 3:48pm

    I believe that Android is a form of Linux. With Linux if you are NOT a very good geek techie due to dependencies the odds of you making any compiling and making any program work is very small. If you install any Linux distribution and then desire to install a program that did not come with the distribution you most likely will have problems. If you decide to install Wine so that you can run Windows programs you are going to have two problems. First installing Wine and second making the Windows program work. This is not something a non techie should try as even experience techies have major difficulty.

    It is simply easier and cheaper to simply buy a new phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:01pm

      Re:

      I believe that Android is a form of Linux.

      It uses the Linux kernel, yes.

      With Linux if you are NOT a very good geek techie due to dependencies the odds of you making any compiling and making any program work is very small.

      I'm not sure how that's Linux-specific. You really shouldn't be compiling programs from source on any OS if you're not technically savvy.

      This article isn't about compiling an app from source. It's about installing it from the Google Play store.

      If you install any Linux distribution and then desire to install a program that did not come with the distribution you most likely will have problems.

      The Google Play Store has absolutely nothing to do with common GNU/Linux package management solutions like apt, dnf, or pacman. It's more similar to the way Apple packages a program with all its required libraries. (There are ways of doing this on Linux, too, including Flatpak and Snap.)

      If you decide to install Wine so that you can run Windows programs you are going to have two problems.

      Whoa there, buddy, WINE has absolutely nothing to do with what we're talking about. You're so far off the rails now that I'd swear I was talking to a bot, except there aren't any links in your post.

      Nobody's talking about trying to run a Windows-native app on Linux. I have no idea why you're even bringing WINE up. Did you read the article? Have you ever even used Android? You seem very, very confused.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:03pm

      Re:

      You sound like an iphone user...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:23am

        Re: Re:

        He really doesn't. He sounds more like a MS drone who's bitter that their phone OS is so unpopular, but hasn't bothered to understand any of the issues beyond some half-baked stories he heard about Linux 15 years ago.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hey, I’m a bitter Windows Phone user and even I have no idea what that guy is going on about.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          He really doesn't. He sounds more like a MS drone who's bitter that their phone OS is so unpopular, but hasn't bothered to understand any of the issues beyond some half-baked stories he heard about Linux 15 years ago.

          He can be both.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:59pm

      Re:

      If you decide to install Wine so that you can run Windows programs you are going to have two problems. First installing Wine and second making the Windows program work.

      Installing Windows programs on famously user-friendly iPhones is, of course, a breeze.

      Oh, wait.

      Besides, you seem to have some 20 year old assumptions about Linux. Modern Linux is way, way more user-friendly than any version of Windows. For a home user, there is one, and only one, reason to stay on Windows: games. For anything else, Linux is so far ahead it's not even funny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:42pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 6th, 2018 @ 3:48pm

      First, lol @ your evaluation of the usability of Linux. You have no clue.

      Second, Android has a Linux kernel and the userland and the rest are all that famous Google Java clone.

      Java - write once, run anywhere. Right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:22am

      Re:

      It's easier to actually understand what the hell you're blathering on about before commenting. What the hell do WINE and Windows programs have to do with the majority of phones, for a start?

      "If you install any Linux distribution and then desire to install a program that did not come with the distribution you most likely will have problems"

      Yeah, that "double click on the APT/RPM to install" is really hard compared to the "go to your software repo and click on the program you want" in most modern desktop distros.

      Not that this has the slightest thing to do with the issue at hand, or even anything to do with Android, but the ignorant sure do love to spout nonsense about Linux...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 3:52pm

    At this point we'll stop talking to United, because the problem is no longer about them. Let's assume that the security researchers making this argument are right about the vulnerability of 4.x and its lack of support.

    The reality is, THE PHONES STILL WORK. They dial calls. They surf the web. They show movies. Display ebooks. Give directions. Hold information. Sure, at some point the hardware will fail. But for those wrapped in good cases that have managed to avoid plunging into the bath, there's no reason they couldn't continue to chug on for years. Maybe even decades.

    I think this misses the point, and it's an even bigger issue with the IoT: acceptable security changes over time.

    So a device's ability to function safely on the Internet is tied to its ability to update to new secure software.

    Unfortunately, United (and many other apps) delegate a lot of their security functions to the OS, and Android 4 has now had its security broken wide open.

    It's the same reason why I've got an old PPC Mac Mini running that potentially can do just fine at browsing the web. Except it can't, because the web browsers it supports use a version of SSL/TLS that has been deprecated in modern web servers. And most parts of the Internet now require HTTPS to connect.

    There's no easy solution to this problem; over time, network-based services using deprecated software will fail. But... as you point out, the up-side is that the phone will still work as a phone; you just won't be able to use it to manage a number of cloud-based services that people have come to depend on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sledge (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:22pm

      Re:

      This really is a big part of this. Phones not having guaranteed security updates have forced them into being disposable. The way to avoid this is increasingly difficult even for tech-savvy users as bootloaders are locked and root results in bans from many apps.
      Part of me wishes that items that are disposable should be taxed on the cost to recycle into a new item. We used to have 10 year warranties on things. Now we have 1 year.

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      • identicon
        Bruce C., 7 Sep 2018 @ 4:13pm

        Re: Re: Reversed Causality?

        " Phones not having guaranteed security updates have forced them into being disposable. "

        If you're a handset manufacturer, planned obsolescence is a feature not a bug. You almost never see a release full version upgrade to a phone OS. All of the IoT manufacturers, including phone manufacturers are putting profits ahead of security. So eventually we're going to have an internet pandemic where such a large % of devices on the internet are vulnerable that the whole network comes crashing down. Imagine a DDOS where half the internet is hooked into the botnet.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonamous Cowherd, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:20pm

      Re:

      You can get a modern and (somewhat) secure browser for Mac OS X on PPC. It's called TenFourFox

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:45pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 6th, 2018 @ 3:52pm

      Yes, there is an easy solution. Either privide updates to the OS or an upgrade. Choosing to make things hardware-incompatible is exactly that - a choice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 5:00am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 6th, 2018 @ 3:52pm

        Easy? I think we have different definitions of easy.

        The costs (time, effort, money) to continue supporting older technology grows exponentially as new devices & versions are released.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Atkray (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 3:54pm

    This is why Windows phones have always been the best.

    No apps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    justok (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 3:57pm

    Idea

    United should sell United branded phones to people with older phones. Pick it up on your next flight

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 7 Sep 2018 @ 9:06am

      Re: Idea

      I am pretty sure a United phone would break down unexpectedly, never start when you expected it to, charge you extra if you wanted to use little features like "calling", be horribly uncomfortable, very loud but impossible to understand, and require you to remove your shoes and belt to use it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 3:58pm

    This in a nutshell is the problem with the 'App' Internet. A basic website should be able to do anything the App can do and would only require the client have a reasonably modern browser. But companies want to lock folks in with 'Our Wonderful App'. The real reason most likely isn't security but that an app lets the company more easily gather data from the client's phone(personalized tracking device) then a website does.

    The App Internet seems to make things far less secure then the older browser based Internet. What is more secure, a single properly patched browser with 100 bookmarks or 100 single use apps each with their own update schedule and policy? Plus it is a lot harder for the end user to set the privacy settings on a hundred apps vs 1 browser.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:05pm

      Re:

      Ironically... in my experience, most apps can barely perform the same functions as the official website.

      I find that often times apps just perform a few of the more common functions, but you still have to go to the site to perform the more advanced tasks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mat (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:00pm

        Re: Re:

        You mean like the USPS's 'app' which is basically a glorified web broswer wrapper for most of its functions?

        That said, and I'm going to be very very blunt here, if using android 4.x or a rooted phone is in violation of terms with your payment provider, how the -bleep- do you manage to take payments over the web from a general computer that I, the end user, may or may not have root access to, and may have or have not granted any given program that level of access, at my whim?

        Put another way, I'm verrrry sad to see this mess being what it is.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:13pm

      Re:

      Show me an App for picking your nose... 'cause we have an App for just about everything else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 11:47pm

        An App for just about everything else

        The text editor I use on Android is sub-par in contrast to the text editor I have for Windows. It doesn't have a spellchecker or HTML codes, nor will it highlight known word types. I haven't been able to find a text editor with these features.

        Nor have I been able to find anything to convert web shortcuts for Windows Explorer into web shortcuts for Android, so that I can index them through (say) Dropbox or Google Backup and Sync (previously known as Google Drive).

        The mouse controls for Android don't allow for reversing the left and right buttons (which is important to me, since I use computers left-handed), and last I checked (granted it was last year) there weren't any app offerings for a full-featured mouse controller that allowed for proper customization (e.g. using all five buttons and the four-way scroll wheel)

        I've also not been able to get an autohotkey runtime library for Android, which would solve the above problem with the mouse.

        So as Munroe observed about Rule 34 there are a lot of apps for all sorts of purposes, but often there's a conspicuous dearth of the specific apps we want.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:44pm

      Re:

      If you've got the nutshell I've got the nut - Perfectly capable compute devices that you don't own unless you try, hard. And by trying I mean that you have the ability, desire and tech savvy required to both own your bootloader and what it's loading.

      Walled app gardens are yin and yang but ultimately the owner of a device must be in charge - no carrier, no google, no apple. These are too powerful, along with the information potentially in them, to entrust to others with what we trust is our own, data and device.

      The "mobile" world, while not completely beyond repair, is not on the right path and needs correction.

      .. oh and United just sucks all around so perhaps you should just choose another provider. Really.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Cdaragorn (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:36pm

      Re:

      While you can certainly do anything on a website that you can accomplish in an app, the ultimate reason so many companies go with an app instead is simply because an application on your phone is far superior to trying to do the same thing in a browser.
      The app gives far more control over things like presentation, data usage, and performance. With an app you also don't have to worry about supporting 12 different browsers and trying to force them to present your application the way you want them to.
      The web browser is a very powerful tool for simply presenting information over the internet, but at the end of the day an application running natively is far better for many other purposes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:39pm

        Re: Re:

        Not in a browser. The app merely needs to be a front end of a web application. And therefore should never break due to versioning. At least not for 15 years or so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2018 @ 1:52pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I really wish that were true, but it just isn't. Too many versions of browsers on different devices with different capabilities, and it's only been in the last couple of years that browsers have been given a subset of the functionality that apps have in terms of access to the device features. Even with apps there is a lot of work to maintain cross device version support, but it's still easier than with a website because you can rely on the dev tools to cover some of that for you. Also, the offline story for an app is insanely better than the offline story for a website (from a software development perspective)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 1:24am

        Re: Re:

        The app gives far more control over things like

        Collecting as much infomation about the user as is possible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:02pm

      Re:

      Reddit, it feels like, put an intentional delaying script on their site to freeze up browsers to make it appear that the app would make things better.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      "The real reason most likely isn't security but that an app lets the company more easily gather data from the client's phone(personalized tracking device) then a website does."

      This is exactly the reason. The overwhelming majority of websites that push you to use a mobile app instead of viewing the site in a web browser are offering an app that's literally just a glorified web browser designed to look at one specific website, one that also gives them much more data-harvesting capabilities about how you use their site.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 8 Sep 2018 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      True, but one thing to consider is design life and generations.

      A computer generation is about 18 months. Any device that can surf the web is arguably a computer for these purposes. A human generation is about 25 years -- comparing the two, a 2013 phone in 2018 is equivalent to a 65-70 year old human.

      If your phone has hit retirement age, why would anyone be surprised that it's time to retire it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2018 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re:

        A ten year old computer is still fine for may jobs, so long as the software is kept up to date. The main cause of hardware obsolescence are batteries that cannot be replaced, and, with a locked system, the vendor not providing software updates. You can still get Debian, for instance, for the i386 architecture, that is 32 bit only.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:02pm

    So dump United, and use an airline that beats the competition, instead of the customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:15pm

    Reverse that

    Had the exact opposite happen to my on my iPhone. I had paid for an add-free version of a weather app, it ran great for years.
    Then I upgraded my phone. The add-free version, that I paid for, was no longer available. Wouldn't download on the new phone because of incompatible something. Only the "free" add driven app could be downloaded. But if I wanted to get rid of the adds, there was a "Premium" available via ongoing subscription. Deleted that and found something else.
    But TWC had no problem taking my paid content away and selling it back to me!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Madd the Sane (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:06pm

      Re: Reverse that

      Ah yes, new iPhones dropped the 32-bit runtime which a lot of abandoned apps and games still used. I had planned on keeping my 5c to play some older games after I got my SE, but the battery on that started bulging so I recycled it.

      My fourth-gen iPod Touch is running just fine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:50pm

        Re: Re: Reverse that

        Yup - if that phone hadn't stopped charging I'd still be using it!!
        As it was, I had to run on on a Sunday to the nearest store that had the model I wanted. I actually can't perform my normal job duties without a smart phone anymore.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Crix of Water, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:30pm

    It's Planned Obsolescence

    In the modern electronics ecosystem hardware lasts far longer than manufacturers prefer. Therefore the only way to get customers to keep pumping money into the coffers of the tech giants is to force them to.
    Example time: I STILL have a Gen1 iPad. I still does everything I purchased it to do, but 3/4 of the apps, THAT I PAID FOR are "locked out" even though they work just fine there is an update available for a version of iOS that my device cannot support. The trouble first started when the Gen2 iPad hit store shelves, after a few iOS updates Apple stopped supporting Gen1 hardware, but before that even happened I was getting locked out of apps simply for not running right out and buying a new iPad. I actually have a service manual (PDF) that I paid a car manufacturer's legally licensed publisher for (the car in queston is a 1966 T-bird so it is 50ish years old and there is not a huge market for service manuals), then I had to pay another company (not Adobe) to use their PDF reader program(what you young whippersnappers call "an app") because it was the ONLY ONE capable of reading said PDF because of the embedded DRM, I ALSO had to pay the DRM manufacturer for a license for the DRM "key" for the app. SO I have a legal copy on my windows XP laptop (that started its life as a Windows ME laptop) and a legal copy on my Gen1 iPad (guess what one of the first apps to try and lock me out was, no the lockout didn't last long, letting the battery die cleared the cache), NOW IF I want to transfer it to say my phone, a new tablet, or a new computer I have to pay the same manufacturer for more "Licenses," then I have to pay the same app creator for a new version of the app, then I have to pay DRM creator for a new key... All things I have already purchased, all things that were not indicated when I bought the service manual. Now I can print as many hard copies as I want - There are no restrictions on printing hard copies, but the fine print in the updated license agreement (that you can't even access until you access the software and therefore must agree to in order to even see, since opening said software constitutes your acceptance of the agreement...) says that you agree NOT to scan the printed pages -or- use any means to create a new pdf containing any of the information, in whole or part, contained in said service manual. NOW the company that I bought my service manual through, well to put it nicely, they shut-up shop, more specifically their parent company and "publisher" decided they wanted out of that market for financial reasons, there is a different publishing company pimping the exact same service manual from 19bloody66, but for 12x (NOT Exaggerating) the price I originally paid, The company that encoded the DRM is out of business, the only company still in existance from the whole convoluted process is the pdf reader app, and last I checked the app stores hadn't updated any of their apps in over a year. So I have a legally obtained file, with only two "obsolete" devices that still function... decently... able to access the data, the original vendor no longer exists so I can't get a new license to transfer to a new piece of hardware, which qualifies as unnecessary replacements of items that still work that I can't afford, and a legal system that will brand me a criminal, smack me with fines and possibly jail time if I am caught attempting to circumvent a DRM that itself isn't even on the market anymore and whose registered creator isn't even around, they didn't get bought out, they got shut down. The only part of that convoluted DRM food chain still in existence is the PDF reader app's company... and they don't even support my Galaxy S6 smartphone (to the point I can't even download it from the PlayStore), because my phone is "too OLD"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:34pm

    At app makers who make us use apps at all, instead of mobile web applications

    Is this a thing? The only time I've seen this is in apps which are essentially flash browser games, which have rather significant practical issues to run on mobile devices (not to mention that if we want to talk about security nightmares, flash is actually the Devil). United certainly doesn't do this. (I guess technically many local applications do this e.g. notes, some calendars, calculators, but that's because they operate locally and therefore can't).

    At app makers who refuse to support older OSes

    While this example was certainly handled and communicated terribly, that's been the case in desktop programs for multiple decades so there isn't anything new here. Even most open source programs don't do this, so the interest really doesn't seem to be there. Honestly, you're four OS generations back and still have very high levels of support. I have an XP laptop somewhere whose hardware still works as well, but it gets no support at all. Of course if I actually wanted to use it, I'd update the OS for a large amount of money. Lucky you, with your free updates and all.

    At the OS manufacturers who release these systems into the wild with no intention of supporting them beyond just a few years At carriers who bake the OS into their phones in such a way that we become dependent on them to allow us OS updates. that prevent third parties from stepping in to provide the support the OEM providers refuse to anymore

    Ironically, none of these really apply that much in reality. Apple is extremely good at supporting older devices. Android is (mostly) open source and therefore has the support you want separate from carriers/OEMs. If you want to complain that said Android options are too complicated, that is just saying that the third parties that are stepping up to fix these issues aren't doing it well enough. And considering the difficulties Linux still has after so many decades, it seems likely that third parties just aren't all that interested in doing this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:42pm

    >"it is simply not viable for most people to spend several hundred dollars every few years to get a new one.

    >And yet, in this mobile ecosystem, they'll need to."

    So, root your phone and install a ROM with a newer version.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Madd the Sane (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:10pm

      Re:

      How does the average joe do this?

      For the average person, it's more of a hassle to learn how to root the phone than to just buy a new phone or do nothing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:32pm

        Re: Re:

        https://wiki.lineageos.org/
        Follow that Link.

        Near the top will be a link to supported devices.

        Each support device will link to it's page which will have the directions needed to install for that device.

        For the "average joe's": your mileage may vary depending on how well the device is supported, how well you can read&follow directions, and how hard the hardware manufacture made it to install custom OS's

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 8:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          And if your phone isn't supported, you're screwed. :) My old Android 4.0.4 phone isn't supported. I wound up buying a Samsung J7 Perx, but I still have my old phone.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Seegras (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 12:48am

            After-market distribution

            It gets worse.

            Even LineageOS only supports a small subset of rather contemporary phones.

            There are separate forks of LineageOS to support older phones:
            https://legacyxperia.github.io/
            https://www.unlegacy-android.org/projects/unlegacy-android/wik i

            Contrast this to the situation with true open-source Linux distributions, that run on ANY PC that was manufactured in the last 20 years (some exceptions may apply: only a few distributions are still available for 32bit systems. But these ALSO feature the newest software).

            In my opinion the manufacturers of the phones are to blame. They should support the newest Android on their phones for 10 years at least. Why the manufacturers? Because they are the ones that modify the basic Android to the point you have to have a special Android-distribution for their specific phone.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:00am

              Re: After-market distribution

              In my opinion the manufacturers of the phones are to blame. They should support the newest Android on their phones for 10 years at least.

              They are to blame, but your proposed solution just makes us further dependent on them. Some of them won't be around in 10 years.

              The solution is what you hinted at in your previous paragraph: make it so phones can run standard distributions. It's not that hard, they just have to quit locking the bootloader and including hardware that requires proprietary drivers. (To potential phone purchasers: make sure your phone is unlocked and is supported by some community distribution, even if you never plan to reflash it.)

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          cattress (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 2:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Excellent suggestion! And there's tons more custom ROMs and guides and advice on XDA Developers.

          Because Cathy, I feel your pain. Until this July, I was using a "legacy" device from 2011, Motorola Droid RAZR. While the battery was not supposed to be user accessible, I did my research and successfully swapped out the battery, twice. I learned how to back-up, install a custom bootloader and flash a 5.x ROM and later 6.x ROM that developers had continued to work on for practice and enjoyment. Android is open source, just because official support has ended doesn't mean you are entirely at their mercy.

          I couldn't afford a new phone, and my good ol' RAZR had plenty capable hardware to run the newer operating systems. Again, I did my research to make sure I understood the steps and that I found ROMS that were stable and met my needs. I literally could not afford to brick my device, so I was scared to take the plunge. It really wasn't that difficult, mostly just learning the lingo, and it extended the life of that phone quite a few years.

          Most devices are more on the disposable side, especially since wireless carriers scaled back most of their subsidy programs that made people accustomed to getting a new device for free, or very cheap, every two years. People still want a new phone for cheap on a regular basis, so hardware quality lower.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:44am

          Re: tl;dr

          LineageOS gets you farther; it supports up to Android v7 on my phone. But eventually, old phones reach a point where they don't support modern versions of Android, even if you're using a custom ROM.

          Plus, rooting your phone and running a custom firmware (though I recommend it for users who are savvy enough to do it) doesn't solve the problem of arbitrary limitations on app compatibilities. You may even find some of your apps refusing to run because your phone is rooted.

          About the only place you can get apps without risking some kind of malicious behavior is F-Droid -- and its selection is much more limited than Play's or Amazon's.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 6 Sep 2018 @ 6:34pm

        Re: How does the average joe do this?

        The same way they maintain their car, or fix their home appliances -- pay an expert to do it.

        Why are people expected to be experts on their own computers?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Too Much Coffee Man, 9 Sep 2018 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: How does the average joe do this?

          They're not, but if they barely know how to use a computer they wasted their money.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:45pm

    The generally accepted solution (and YES there are problems with it, but the alternative is basically trashing that circa 2013 phone) is installing something like LineageOS (and YES non-techies... if they can read and then follow the directions they read, can install LineageOS on SOME phones, the ones that are well supported). The root problem comes from manufactures abandoning their products long before they reach effective/hardware end of life. There are a lot of things that would make this situation MUCH better but most of them are of a more technical nature and about the relationship between manufactures and the floss community.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 4:51pm

    Open source is the answer

    Cathy, please reach out offline and let me know your phone model and type. Likely there are FOSS upgrades to your Android version that will get you to where the UAL app runs again.

    I understand this doesn't address the meat of the editorial, but it will as an end-result remove the immediate source of frustration.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:00pm

      Re: Open source is the answer

      Yes I said nearly the same thing right above, this comment made me realize something else.

      That is: In conjunction with (Possibly) installing LinegaeOS (or another F/LOSS alternative) I would recommend that any future phone purchases are bought with an eye for which projects support that phone.

      I personally NEVER run stock, for many reasons, partly because updates are frequently slow, partly because both the phone manufacture and possibly the carrier can inject what ever code they want, and partly because LineageOS has MUCH better privacy/security settings than stock AOSP (the android google provides to phone manufactures).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ehud Gavron (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 8:32pm

        Re: Re: Open source is the answer

        Yes, while it appears there's a 6 minute difference between your answer and mine I suspect that's composition time while I was thinking about what I was writing. You and I did suggest essentially the same thing... although I'm a fan not only of LoS but also of AOPK, Resurrection, and others.

        My own personal phone is a 4 year old Moto-G4. It runs Android 8.1.0 reliably, quickly, and solidy. The stock Moto [Lenovo] ROM is at 8.0 with security fixes from last year.

        I don't know what Ms. Gellis is using for hardware, but if it's able to be upgraded, there's probably something there for it.

        I agree as well that when purchasing a phone one of the PRIMARY CRITERION should be "can I put an FOSS version of Android on this?" If it's locked down, just pass on the phone. It may be the "best performer" today, but just like Ms. Gellis discovered, years later the lack of upgrades will leave it as an expensive monthly-billing doorstop.

        Respectfully,

        Ehud

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        asdf, 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:21am

        Re: Re: Open source is the answer

        >because LineageOS has MUCH better privacy/security settings than stock AOSP (the android google provides to phone manufactures).

        Not strictly true. The lead developer from CopperheadOS (Android security ROM) has said on reddit that AOSP is more secure/trustworthy than LineageOS.

        Also, if your rom comes with carrier bloatware - you aren't running AOSP.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BroD, 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:02pm

    This wonderful world of technology is turning out to be quite the shitshow, isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:09pm

    I've had an issue with the "incompatible with your device" flag when redownloading apps an old phone had onto a mewer model through the Play store. ~90% of the time, those "incompatible" apps (transferred through adb) worked completely perfectly, aside from not receiving updates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nastybutler77 (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:28pm

    The answer seems simple

    Either stop updating apps, and expecting them to work flawlessly on an old OS, or update to a new phone. This seems pretty straightforward to me, and I'm confused why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

    It would roughly be like being upset that VHS players can't play DVDs. A pretty luddish rant against the march of technology combined with a sense of entitlement.

    No one is saying you have to keep up, but you need to manage your expectations of what you think you're owed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:38pm

      Re: The answer seems simple

      this is kinda like telling a sick person to stop eating and the disease will eventually leave their system.

      It's not a static system, and leaving your device alone (not making changes), is the same as ensuring that it will inevitably break (BTW I consider easily exploitable security holes as broken)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:24pm

      Re: The answer seems simple

      Your comparison is farcical

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 12:53am

      Re: The answer seems simple

      Nope. It's being upset that your blueray-player can't play the latest bluerays, because they've changed the video codec and the manufacturer of your blueray player didn't produce the necessary firmware-upgrade for your player.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:32am

      Re: The answer seems simple

      "Either stop updating apps, and expecting them to work flawlessly on an old OS, or update to a new phone."

      She already stated that she didn't deliberately update the app. She also stated that she just wanted to continue using the old version, or at least have ample warning that the app would no longer be available on that phone from the next update.

      "It would roughly be like being upset that VHS players can't play DVDs"

      No, it's really not. It's more like saying that you've just been told that your VCR will stop playing particular movies and you need to buy a DVD player in order to continue watching them.

      It would be nice of you didn't misrepresent the arguments when responding to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      longtimelurker, 7 Sep 2018 @ 1:56pm

      Re: The answer seems simple

      The reason it's difficult for you to grasp is due to the lack of understanding of the difference between software and hardware. That phone in your hand is hardware, and it works fine. The forced obsolescence is in the form of the software changing.

      However, I do have to thank you for lightening up a pretty rough day. The irony of your misunderstanding combined with a bad analogy and namecalling was actually amusing enough to make me chuckle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:38pm

    Oh Cathy, Honey...

    Dear Diary, today I had a bad experience with customer support, ZZzzzzz....

    ...seriously though, while my initial response was to troll this comment thread relentlessly, I cannot in good faith do so, because, well, sadly, you bring up many many good points.

    I first had the same issue 3 years ago when my working-perfectly-fine Uber app stopped working on my working-perfectly-fine but outdated iPhone.

    Now having the same issue with my current phone. Slowly but surely, apps like Pokeman Go and Grindr are starting to spaz out, and/or not update properly nearby shirtless hunks. Surprisingly, Zynga's increasingly annoying Words With Friends still works. ...somehow, I guess desperation is actually the mother of invention, not necessity. Which brings me to my proto-point:

    You want to say it. You're on the edge of the cliff, you are looking over, but for some unknown reason you fail to actually jump over and into Galt's Gulch. Why won't you just verbalize it?!

    Here, I will do it for you: This is in effect a failure of unrestrained capitalism. If the self-proclaimed king of corporate concern trolls, Apple, cannot restrain its own greedy wasteful predilections, then what possible hope is there for Anarcho-Libertarianism?

    The market is not responding. How can this be? Well, maybe, just maybe, the government should step in, and stop Apple from forcing everyone in it's sick twisted 'ecosystem' from implementing environmentally wasteful and/or just plain annoying corporate policies in the actual ecosystem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 5:54pm

      Re: Oh Cathy, Honey...

      its

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:35am

      Re: Oh Cathy, Honey...

      Dear Diary, today I had a bad experience with customer support, ZZzzzzz...."

      Yeah, opinion blogs tend to be filled with opinions and peoples' personal experience. Plus, nobody forces you to read any of the stories, let alone spend half an hour typing up a response.

      "my initial response was to troll this comment thread relentlessly"

      Nice for you to admit you're just an idiot for once.

      Also, I love the way that you still go on an ignorant rant and try to make a story that's got nothing to do with Apple into something about them.

      "Now having the same issue with my current phone"

      Wait... so, you not only have the same experience but agree with her, yet you still felt the need to attack her and others for 7 paragraphs? What a strange, sad person you are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 5:45am

        Re: Re: Oh Cathy, Honey...

        Clearly you have a reading comprehension problem.

        You can agree with someone concerning the problem and disagree concerning the solution.

        My only criticism, if you can call it that, is that the while the author correctly identifies the issues, she refuses to explicitly state the broken philosophical and economic ideas which led to these issues in the first place.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 6:39pm

    It's the business model

    I understand that the tech industry has built itself predicated upon a certain amount of churn. Once everybody has a computer/phone/pad/etc. the industry dies...unless they can sell new ones. Therein lies the problem. The churn. Now I don't have a particular problems with churn, as every industry does it, but I do have a problem with the time parameters that have been chosen.

    Now part of the difficulty is that the technology has grown tremendously during its existence. A certain part of that growth required new hardware to keep up with the new software capabilities, and the reverse as well, new hardware capabilities paved the way for new software capabilities. In some instances one could add on a piece of hardware if it didn't already exist on their system. The reverse hasn't always been true. It wasn't always possible to just add some software as some of the new software required better hardware to run properly. Some guy named Moore made some projections about this process.

    Back to my issue and the time frames involved. The industry grew and expected the market to keep up, or rather depended upon the market keeping up in order for them to survive. But in that process, some things got built that were good enough. It satisfies my needs, I don't need any more. But the industry, both hardware and software (and now outside companies) find ways to take it away...because they need the churn.

    Looking at the automotive industry as a sort of parallel example, cars tend to be turned in after a certain amount of time. Yet there are decades old cars still on the road. Some of them for show purposes only, but others in daily use. The ability to update or repair a car or for that matter rebuild or restore one has been around...well since they were invented. The new tech is however a bit more complex, and the ability to repair or rebuild or restore isn't always made easy by the manufacturers, and in some instances is proactively blocked and discouraged.

    So, for me, I understand the first ten or twenty years of the technology boom as needing a certain amount of churn as the capabilities, both hardware and software, needed more, and the change was rapid. Today there just isn't the same amount of growth that obsoletes either hardware or software, but the mindset of the industry has not changed. They still want the same churn. The market is beginning to resist, and will likely resist more in the future.

    So the question becomes, when will the industry right size itself so that it can continue to exist yet still serve the market even if they want to hang onto their stuff, hardware and/or software, for more time? As pointed out in the article and several comments, not everyone can buy a new phone every two years, and the phones (or other hardware) should be eminently repairable by any Tom, Dick, or Henrietta. It should be built to last. It will die, and it will be replaced. But that should be on our terms, not theirs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    carlb, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:02pm

    If automakers made motorcars this way?

    Can you imagine what would happen if Bill Ford made motorcars the way Silly Valley makes computers? Automakers are required to recall defective models and are required to keep parts available for several years after the vehicle is discontinued. Computer makers, meanwhile, are free to sell products with serious security deficiencies and tell the victims of these shoddy products that they should have to buy the entire OS again because they have no intention of fixing the existing product. I read today's headlines about a DPRK operative being charged for a ransomware attack against various UK NHS trusts, and the responsibility for the manufacturer of the flawed, insecure Win XP systems that created these vulnerabilities? Zilch. If these were exploding Pintos instead of bugware PC's, this would be going to the highest court and their makers would have to recall and fix everything. Fine double standard, that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:05pm

    Look you bought into a phone system with a history of OS fragmentation that only has about 2 years of support from the manufacture and cannot be updated. At this point you’re basically one of those lone holdouts that force every web dev to support some archaic versions of IE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:14pm

      Re:

      You've missed the entire point of the article.

      Her app still worked. The phone still worked. There was no need to support the app. Everything was working. The RUP cycle had been completed. No more iterations were necessary.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      "OS fragmentation"

      LOL - wth does that mean?

      Lets see, you have to defrag after so many OS upgrades? - LOL Because it can not update the OS properly?


      "lone holdouts that force every web dev to support some archaic versions of IE."
      - Blame it on IE, why not? It used to be that the tech folks maintaining web sites would test their interfaces with all browsers while maintaining backward compatibility, apparently this has become too large and/or difficult a task.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:58am

        Re: Re:

        "LOL - wth does that mean?"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_fragmentation

        "Blame it on IE, why not?"

        Indeed, why not? It was their refusal to stick to standards and try and force incompatible stuff on to developers that still haunts IT departments to this day. Some of them still have to support IE6, because not even MS wanted to continue supporting some of their harebrained ideas.

        They have improved, but a lot of the headaches people still face today are directly down to what MS did with IE in the late 90s/early 00s.

        "It used to be that the tech folks maintaining web sites would test their interfaces with all browsers while maintaining backward compatibility"

        They still do, they just tend to ignore non-mainstream browsers with low usage in favour of the ones that a majority of their userbase will be using. Why spend 99% of your testing trying to get something to work with a browser less than 1% of your customers use, rather than just tell those people to change?

        "apparently this has become too large and/or difficult a task"

        Do you know how many different browsers and versions of those browsers there are? Of course it is. Unless you're using very basic HTML, you cannot write a site that will be modern enough for daily use today but still work on the first version of Netscape. So, they don't try, they say "upgrade to a new browser".

        Would you rather be using a modern website, or one that can conform to before stylesheets were invented?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Would you rather be using a modern website, or one that can conform to before stylesheets were invented?

          A website should be able to degrade gracefully if a cosmetic feature like CSS is missing (though "modern" practice is to just ignore all that). In most cases I would prefer to use a "basic" site. If I'm checking whether a flight's on time, all I need is a list of flight numbers and times; if the page is more than a few kilobytes, something's gone wrong.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Well, true, ideally a site should be able to retain basic functionality no matter what's being used. But the majority of the testing won't be for that. They will not be testing to see if the site still works in Lynx, no matter how much you might personally like browsing to a text console.

            Anyway, whatever your personal position, they are going to be testing for a subset of what 90% of their customers use more than they are going to be testing for older versions that few people still use.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 1:17pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              They will not be testing to see if the site still works in Lynx, no matter how much you might personally like browsing to a text console.

              Testing graceful degredation wouldn't be testing for that per se. It would also cover "unknown" situations, like maybe 2 years from now a browser adopts a really strict Javascript origin policy that stops your page from loading JS. Or your image host disappears, or some browser vendor decides not to pay an MPEG license, or someone's using assistive technology you didn't see before...

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 9:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Obviously an operating system is not a market, and the op simply omitted "market" from their comment. I get that, couldn't resist the snark - my bad.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:48am

      Re: tl;dr

      At this point you’re basically one of those lone holdouts that force every web dev to support some archaic versions of IE.

      Hi, web developer here. Your analogy is bad and you should feel bad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MikeVx (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:12pm

    There is a trend here...

    I don't know why anybody would be surprised at this...

    {Insert country music here}
    "'cause United breaks their app"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 7:18pm

    Oddly enough...

    The reality is, THE PHONES STILL WORK. They dial calls. They surf the web. They show movies. Display ebooks. Give directions. Hold information.

    My 10 year old flip phone works. It dials calls. Holds information.

    It doesn't do anything else, but I have a desktop for that. It runs Vista, it can still play Minecraft and Civilization IV, and still handles text editing, email, browsing. And as I locked it down when I got it, it has a smaller attack surface than Windows 10 does, even if the New Hotness is kept updated regularly where Vista is dead.

    It doesn't have the beef to play Fallout IV or Civilization VI, but I have friends for that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ehud Gavron (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:38pm

      Re: Oddly enough...

      Ten year old phone, so you bought a flip-phone (Nokia 6162?) in 2008.

      That is entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand, but THANK YOU for playing! Also did you happen to buy an antique chair at that time, because the Forum Of Irrelevant Has-Beens is calling your name.

      E

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 4:33am

      Re: Oddly enough...

      "It doesn't do anything else, but I have a desktop for that."

      So, you don't do anything on the move? Good for you, I suppose, but I always find it weird when people denigrate others for doing *more* with their tech than they do. If you found a way to get things done without needing the new tech, fine. Boasting that you have different needs to others, or simply do a lot lot less in life, is a little strange.

      "It runs Vista"

      So, you are boasting that you switched from XP but never wanted to install the update when they took Vista out of beta and rebranded it as 7? OK, whatever you fancy, I suppose, but you shouldn't be feeling proud that you decided to keep running the commercial test of a broken product. This makes it sound less like you opted to stay away from upgrades 10 years ago, and more like you were just too poor to buy the things you actually wanted or needed since that point.

      "It doesn't have the beef to play Fallout IV or Civilization VI, but I have friends for that.."

      So, it's not that you're proud to not want or need the newer tech, you're just proud that you can freeload it of others when you want it? OK, I guess.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:04am

        Re: Re: Oddly enough...

        I always find it weird when people denigrate others for doing more with their tech than they do.

        Cool story, but what does it have to do with the post you replied to? Nothing in there is close to "denigration" or "boasting".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jamie, 6 Sep 2018 @ 8:01pm

    Software industry perspective

    I work in the software industry, and have some insight into the thinking here. There are two main reasons for dropping support for older phones: (1) support costs, and (2) security changes.

    It costs time and money to support older versions of phone OSes. You need to maintain test devices for each significant OS version, and each change needs to be tested on all versions to make sure it works consistently. If you look at Google's figures on Android OS version share, versions prior to 4.4 KitKat make up around 4.4% of all users and versions prior to 5.0 Lollipop make up 13% of all users.

    If you're writing software, you've gotta make a decision about whether that bottom 4.4% / 13% of the market are worth chasing after. If they don't bring in any significant amount of revenue, they may not be worth the extra support cost.

    On the security angle, the big thing here is TLS version support. Android versions prior to 5.0 Lollipop didn't have good (or any) support for TLS v1.2. The current security community opinion is that anything older than TLS v1.2 is considered to broken to use, and some industry regulations (e.g. PCI DSS) state that you cannot use older TLS versions.

    There are possible workaround that allow TLS v1.2 to be used on older devices, but again this comes down to market share and support. Is that bottom 13% of the market really worth the effort?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:35pm

      Re: Software industry perspective

      It's worth the effort not to make thing purposely incompatible in the first place. Microsoft liked arbitrarily changing things, and hardware vendors and their microcode and sriver writers had to support Windows versions. In the handheld device space, the hardware people and device manufacturers do this to Android. Writing a security update or such should not tax a HAL in a way that makes it incompatible. The ecosystem simy chooses to do this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jamie, 9 Sep 2018 @ 3:58pm

        Re: Software industry perspective

        You can partly blame Linus Torvalds for this. He has staunchly refused to create a stable HAL for Linux, instead requiring that drivers are constantly updated whenever changes are made to the interface.

        This makes it extremely difficult to allow the OS to be upgraded, because the kernel cannot be upgraded independently of the drivers. Any change to the driver interface prevents the kernel from being updated.

        It's only recently that Google have implemented their own Android HAL over the Linux kernel, which will help ensure that the OS can be updated independently. Not many devices support this yet, and it's only been available with Android 8.0 Oreo and newer, but it'll help to stop these devices from becoming obsolete in the future.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2018 @ 4:42pm

          Re: Re: Software industry perspective

          If the driver is Open Source, and in the Kernel tree, then any changes in the kernel that affect it are dealt with by the Kernel team. Proprietary drivers do require the vendor to maintain them, but this applies under Windows as well. Try pluggimg older devices into Window ten, and try and get them working.

          Linus has much better support for old devices and open source drivers, to the extent that I can lug an old LaserJet 4 into a Raspberry Pi, via an USB to parallel adapter, install cups, and have it Available on the network.

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    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 12:58am

      Re: Software industry perspective

      This is besides the point. I don't expect app developers to program for ancient and insecure operating systems.

      I expect the phone manufacturers to support modern operating systems on their old phones.

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    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 7 Sep 2018 @ 5:11pm

      Re: It costs time and money to support older versions of phone O

      Only if you insist on doing it all yourself. Or you could just open up the specs for your platform and, if your product is popular enough, there will be no shortage of volunteers to step in and fill the gap.

      Consider that the Linux kernel will run on an absolutely bewildering variety of hardware, both new and old. Instead of fighting that, why not take advantage of it?

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      • identicon
        Jamie, 9 Sep 2018 @ 4:10pm

        Re: It costs time and money to support older versions of phone O

        Android is very open. There are projects like LineageOS that can run new Android versions on older phones.

        For example, I recently installed LineageOS on my wife's old (unused) Samsung phone. The most recent firmware version from Samsung is Android 5.0.1. The version of LineageOS I installed was Android 8.1, which is only 1 version behind the latest.

        The biggest problem is getting people to update their old phones in this way. It's quite a technical process, and if you don't know what you're doing there's a fair chance of turning your phone into a shiny paperweight. But if you can make your way through, it's definitely worth the effort.

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  • identicon
    Mike Rosoft, 6 Sep 2018 @ 8:11pm

    Apparently you've just now been affected by horrible software.

    It's been industry standard procedure since mid-80s at least to cause and then ignore problems. They don't care. The money rolls in regardless. -- Why don't you SUE THEM?

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 8:34pm

    Stop living your life through your phone. I no longer have any sympathy for people whose phones fuck up their lives or cause them distress. There is a simple fix for that. Use a phone to make phone calls. If you can't live without apps, well, accept the shit and frustration that goes along with that.

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    • icon
      Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:22pm

      Re:

      Wow, I was about to sarcastically say "thank you gramps!" when I realized I had become entangled in a recursive trolling error.

      Apparently, the same logic making fun of old iconoclastic technophobes, such as yourself, can be applied to the author with such retorts as:

      "Quit living in the past! Just get a new phone!"

      Still, I wonder, given the complete lack of logical reasoning skills in most of the readership here, would anyone actually notice?

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      "I no longer have any sympathy for people whose phones fuck up their lives or cause them distress. There is a simple fix for that. Use a phone to make phone calls."

      What about people who fuck up their lives through phone calls?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:38am

      Re:

      I have no sympathy for people who are so arrogant and opinionated that they go around shaking their fists at clouds while yelling at those who are addicted to their phone applications.

      Please explain how living without apps will cause shit and frustration. How did the pilgrims survive? If you do not like apps - cool, but why can't others use them, why do you care?

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      • icon
        Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re:

        >How did the pilgrims survive?

        Most of them died.

        However, the larger point you are missing, is that the author had an app and a phone was working perfectly fine.

        Then out of nowhere, without recourse, she was told "Nope! Girl you need to upgrade to another $1000 phone before you will allowed to use our shitty H1B coded Airline app."

        Naturally, she was upset.

        Arguments to the effect of "In my day if you wanted to use a phone you had to go to the segregated whites only General Store and pay 5 cents at the counter" are fun little tales but sadly miss the point entirely.

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      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 11:17am

        How did the pilgrims survive?

        Most of them died young of dysentery, influenza and tooth decay. They were also reduced to settling near fresh water sources, and were prone to famines during years with drought or bad winters.

        Technology really is a wonderful thing, and I can confidently say technology as a monolithic entity, given the discoveries that propel bad technologies often also propel good ones, or they push each other forward.

        As for United's app, backwards compatibility is a feature that historically generates customer loyalty, which is why (say) Microsoft Word is set up not only to import old word documents, but prior versions are kitted up with mods to import documents from more recent versions.

        In this case United, which is a monopoly for a fuckton of commute lines, doesn't care. They don't care for the same reason they don't really care about bad publicity when an innocent person gets dragged of the flight to make a seat for a VIP: If you want to fly, you're probably going to have to fly United.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:47am

      Re: tl;dr

      Stop living your life through your computer. I no longer have any sympathy for people whose computers fuck up their lives or cause them distress. There is a simple fix for that. Use a pocket calculator to do math. If you can't live without apps, well, accept the shit and frustration that goes along with that.

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  • identicon
    gak guk, 6 Sep 2018 @ 9:34pm

    an imperfect solution that can (maybe) work

    There are a number of sites allowing you to download the apk for the older versions of the app you wish you hadn't updated. And android allows you to install apps from "untrusted sources" if you dig into the relevant option.

    Yeah I know united can block on the server side the older versions from working. But it's worth a try.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:49pm

    This was part of the issue with smart devices out of the gate. They should be GP systems, particularly as they still make for very poor appliances.

    Forced updates with awful arbitrary changes and bad, unalterable UX decisions are fun as well.

    I finally got a device several years ago when they finally seemed worthwhile as a light computing platform with better reasons to use, but they still piss me off. Been long enough now that i am ready to root or replace the rom. App vendors... well that is another story. "We can't continue to support your device." Well, give me back the last version, which worked fine, you asshats.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2018 @ 10:50pm

    Any vendor which lets a device upgrade to an incompatible version is stupid AF anyway.

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  • identicon
    BOF-supporter, 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:18am

    Here's the call for a solution.

    Hi Cathy,

    The Dutch digital watchdog Bits of Freedom has posted this article on the problem with update. You might find it interesting.

    https://www.bof.nl/2018/06/27/12-much-needed-updates-for-security-updates/

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  • identicon
    dickeyrat, 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:34am

    Service With A Smile!

    I'll go one better for you. In 2006 I finally obtained cell service, 2G with Cingular, and a one-panel Nokia phone built to survive a nuclear war while holding its charge.

    Six months later Cingular was swallowed by AT&T. Once we got past the initial billing-scam games, I found the service adequate. I needed: A) to make and receive PHONE CALLS, and B) to exchange the occasional text with my daughter. No Internet required; I have two home PCs and a laptop to cover that. As technology progressed, I found I got by perfectly well without a phone that would walk the dog, do the dishes or undress the neighbour's wife-simultaneously. I laughed at fools spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on the "latest" "smartphone", which of course became obsolete within a year. I went with this for nine years; suddenly one morning I found I had to go outside to the street, to be eaten by gnats as the sun came up, to obtain service.

    Later that day AT&T very rudely confirmed what my tech-knowledge made me suspect: the corporate giant, with NO warning, decided to "upgrade" its system for 4G service--meaning the cell-tower 700 yards from my home no longer handled my old reliable 2G; the erstwhile service had been relegated to a tower probably ten miles away. A very smarmy, rude-ass power-drunk "customer service" animal
    informed me that AT&T just couldn't remain "behind the times, just for (my name used here, in third-person)". I told them they should give me a free upgrade to a compatible device; she emphatically told me "AT&T doesn't give free phones away to ANYone!" I responded acknowledging the fact that AT&T had unilaterally decided to stop our 9-year old business arrangement, so as such I would be immediately switching to another carrier (Verizon), and they needn't bother sending me a final bill; I would not be paying anything toward an expired business arrangement. The customer-disservice animal attempted to reply as I hung up my friend's updated AT&T smart-phone.

    Verizon promised my home-cellphone delivery in 48 hours; it arrived in 24. My 3G was immediately activated, replete with all kinds of bells & whistles I don't really need, but they are there anyway. Verizon verbally committed to no future planned-obsolescence; that was exactly three years ago. Flip-phone, minimal cost, that makes and receives PHONE CALLS, and the text works fine for my daughter & me. It does access Internet even, after a fashion, but it feels almost abusive to do so. Among other features it has a world clock, a "tip calculator", a camera & photo storage crammed full with pix of my beautiful granddaughter (all of which I have also easily sent to my two primary e-mail accounts). Hell, it probably can walk the dog and/or wash the dishes, I just haven't explored it that far yet. Service is $5 per month cheaper than AT&T. I have the same phone number I have had since landline service was initiated in 1998.

    A slobbering AT&T rep did contact me the beginning of the following week, all over herself apologizing and offering to ship me a free upgrade-phone overnight. I told her, sorry, too little too late. If they had no more respect than that for me after nine years, I could certainly return the sentiment.

    Oh yeah, AT&T did forward my final bill to a collection agency, the lowest of scum by definition. That was bounced around to at least half a dozen other scum-agencies, before it disappeared. Every time one of these clown-cars would deposit something on my credit report, I informed the credit agency in question that AT&T had unilaterally chosen to end the 9-year business arrangement, therefore the account was no longer valid. Worked like a charm every time! No dings on my credit, and as I told AT&T three or four times, AT&T can go fuck itself.

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    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:00am

      Re: Service With A Smile!

      I found I got by perfectly well without a phone that would walk the dog, do the dishes or undress the neighbour's wife-simultaneously.

      Really? Because I've found that I can't live anymore without that last feature. ;)

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:22am

        Re: Re: Service With A Smile!

        Any of those would be nice, although the reason I have a cat is so that I don't to do the first one! It's also always amusing to see people going on about how they used to be OK with things how they used to be, and everyone else should be too... on the internet.

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    • identicon
      Isma'il, 8 Sep 2018 @ 9:45am

      Re: Service With A Smile!

      Whilst, the AT&T customer service rep's attitude was abhorrent and effort should have been made to accommodate you (either by another CS rep or the retention department), the simple fact of the matter is that mobile network technology is advancing and there's nothing that can be done about it.

      To your point, AT&T decided (rightly so) that their legacy GSM network was too inefficient and decided to transition to 3G/LTE. Granted, there should have been more communication from AT&T about the customer impact and more efforts made to mitigate said impact. However, this is a trend that's occurring worldwide. An example is the current deployment of VoLTE (voice over LTE) and Wireless Calling. Heck, even some carriers have LTE-capable flip phones. Soon, 5G networks will be commonplace and all the legacy 2G/3G networks will be decommissioned. Would I have the right to get all bent up and demand my carrier give me a 5G phone? Absolutely not.

      Technology must evolve or it becomes stagnant and its users become vulnerable to security and performance issues that inevitably crop up. That means that most devices WILL have to be replaced. A case can be made about how "unfair" it is, but such changes are inevitable, given how our understanding of technology improves.

      When 5G becomes mainstream and more networks transition to it, I'm going to have to shell out more money for a new iPhone. Am I relishing it? No, but I recognise that I'll have to do it eventually.

      Many may not agree with my statement here, but change is a fact of life.

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  • identicon
    dadtaxi, 7 Sep 2018 @ 5:47am

    Just how hard is it to bake a "test the OS and don't update if its older than X" decision into the App update?

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  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 7 Sep 2018 @ 6:31am

    You should thank them

    Android 4.x hasn't been officially supported in a long while. It's current state is a nightmare of open and unsupported published vulnerabilities, and that isn't looking to change any time soon. The phone might still work, but continuing to use it is simply unsafe and irresponsible. You should be thanking them.

    So let's look at blame here.

    United is actually doing the right thing. It's not just about saving costs (though that is a factor), but about not wanting their customers connecting to the their service from a device is more likely compromised than not.

    That brings us to Google. You could argue Google should still be supporting 4.x Android. Their decision to move on was, again, only partly driven by costs. Android 4.x is in that space where they can't update anything without carrier permission, and carriers have notoriously dragged their feet in this area. Each later version of Android has added been more modular and allowed Google to update more of the device without passing through the carrier gateway. Android 5.0 is also not safe, but last I checked 5.1 was okay, and it was released in 2014.

    It's hard to entirely blame the carriers here, either. They're the ones usually left holding the bag when an update doesn't work on an end user device. For them, holding back updates is about not breaking things on their network. Also about selling new phones with new contracts, but again, that's not the whole picture.

    So we're left the phone makers. The Samsung's, HTCs, and Motorola's of the world. Why don't they push more OS updates to devices? And that's a good question. This is largely about costs. And also about planned obsolescence. But it's also about how hardware capabilities advance in lock-step with software demands, and how the later software releases are often designed to take advantage of features only available in newer chips. Really, though, I think this group is holding the largest part of the blame.

    But Android 4? Really? And you call yourself a journalist? If you're serious about your craft, you ought to at least be on Marshmallow.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:37am

      Re: You should thank them

      It's true, for the average consumer this is the normal way to go for security updates. It is somewhat strange that the download does not warn you about needing to upgrade the device prior to the download, but security maintenance is a top priority for any software for commerce that can accept payment transactions, which I would assume this app does.

      The first version of Android 4 is late 2011 and there have been some serious security concerns since there that were addressed. A lot of the functionality of the app is likely on their actual website too, so you may still be able to do a lot of what you have been doing on your device, just via a web browser (though again, on an older browser on Android 4).

      For stuff such as non-commerce apps such as games or basic functionality utilities it can be frustrating to lose support for a device, especially if it is an update that disables it with no way to roll back. But for a payment terminal for a company, unfortunately you have to accept that they are going to do periodic security updates because they absolutely do not want any liability for security breaches resulting in supporting old infrastructure with known security issues.

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      • icon
        Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:06am

        Re: Re: You should thank them

        > "It is somewhat strange that the download does not warn you about needing to upgrade"

        How is that strange? Did the Pharaoh announce to the slaves they would be building his pyramid?

        Apple employees are much too important to be bothered with such things. When they want you to know something, they will announce it at their annual cult meeting.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:23am

          Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

          I do love the way that you keep trying to turn an article about Android into an attack on Google. Nowhere in either the article or in the comments you're responding to is any of their products referred to.

          It does illustrate how interested in the actual conversation you are, however.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

            "Android into an attack on Google"

            ...and by Google, I of course mean Apple.

            Hey, it's nearly 5:30pm on a Friday, I'm entitled to be distracted!

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            • icon
              Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

              Paul are you really this dense? Here you go, don't say I never gave you anything...

              > "It is somewhat strange that the download does not warn you about needing to upgrade"

              How is that strange? Did the Emperor of India announce to the Dalit slaves that they would be building the Taj Mahal?

              Google employees are much too important to be bothered with such things. Sundar Pichai is like a God. A God doesn't speak to mortals directly. If you have questions perhaps you can channel his spirit through one of his emissaries at the Google customer self-service portals.

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              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 8:53am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

                "Google employees are much too important to be bothered with such things"

                So... why then did you say this?

                "Apple employees are much too important to be bothered with such things"

                What about other phone and OS manufacturers, are they all like this or is there one you approve of?

                Not to mention that Google probably have very little to do with the upgrade path of the device that Cathy is talking about. It's more likely that she's running a device with bespoke addons that Google don't control that the manufacturer opted not to upgrade than it is an issue with stock Android. Ironically, had Apple been the target of the article, your comment would have made more sense than it does now.

                Not only did you decide to attack the wrong company in your comment, your comment is nonsense even if you had targeted the correct one!

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                • icon
                  Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:22am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

                  >Not only did you decide to attack the wrong company in your comment, your comment is nonsense even if you had targeted the correct one!

                  Now that Steve Jobs is dead, there is very little difference between the two companies, and is exactly why they can be used interchangeably.

                  Both companies employee a small, delusional self important teams which come up with use cases, user interfaces, and entire ecosystems out of thin air, with little to nothing to do with how people actually use or want to use their products.

                  >"What about other phone and OS manufacturers, are they all like this or is there one you approve of?"

                  Grrrrrrl Please! Like what?! Ubuntu Phones? Windows OS? You are seriously delusional, or perhaps you are experiencing a Mandela Effect.

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                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:24pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

                    "Now that Steve Jobs is dead, there is very little difference between the two companies, and is exactly why they can be used interchangeably."

                    At least you admit you attacked the wrong people.

                    "Both companies employee a small, delusional self important teams which come up with use cases, user interfaces, and entire ecosystems out of thin air, with little to nothing to do with how people actually use or want to use their products"

                    So, that's why they revolutionised a market with little competition and dominated it within a few years of launch...

                    "Grrrrrrl Please! Like what?! Ubuntu Phones? Windows OS"

                    Yes, among others. So, are you saying you would not have the same criticism of those existing competitors, or that you only criticise the dominant players?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 9:27am

          Re: Re: Re: You should thank them

          Apple employees are much too important to be bothered with such things.

          Certainly you are not including the slaves in china building iphones.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:04am

    At this point United airlines obviously doesn't WANT customers.

    If they did thryd stop sexually molesting children in the aircraft toilets, authorizing staff to punch peoplecin the face (and issuing those staff with promotions and pay ruses once 'thd heat is off').

    Who knows they MIGHT want to reconsider hiring convicted terrorists and murderers and bank robbers because background checks are 'too expensive'

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 7:25am

    I had an iOS device that I did a backup on, and at one point did a full wipe and restore. Some older software I still relied on and used was not restored on the backup because, as it turns out, the backup does not actually image the device or save the programs themselves. Instead, it simply attempts to redownload each program to the phone and if the program has since been removed from the Apple store, the download quietly fails, and your program is now gone forever from your device.

    Android also does not natively support downloading older versions of software as far as I am aware, so the only real way to safely maintain older, working software is to root the phone and install advanced backup software so you can save the actual APKs.

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  • identicon
    Anomalous Cowherd, 7 Sep 2018 @ 9:19am

    Humbug!!

    I'm just a cranky old man, but here's my two cents worth. We the users see our phones as essential parts of our lives and our jobs while the mobile phone industry (manufacturers, carriers, app creators) sees them as a huge profit center.

    If you are a working adult you probably rely on your phone. But the industry's nonchalant handling of updates implies they have a different view of the situation, one that sacrifices utility and security for convenience. It's as if nobody needs a phone for anything other than playing games or looking at Facebook.

    This disjuncture between our needs and the industry's offerings seems insurmountable. The entire industry is geared towards entertainment and profit.

    I feel like throwing my phone away but I won't. Health reasons require I keep it. I'm concerned that installing a different OS may affect the phone function.

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  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 10:47am

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it

    I know I'm going to get a lot of arguments from security experts, but my motto is: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    This holds doubly and triply true for software updates. There are countless stories on the web, and on this site, about how an update (usually Windows) broke someone's computer or forced an app to stop working or whatever else. Okay, sure, the company usually fixes the update within a day or 2, but that doesn't help anyone who has a dead computer right now.
    Yes, I know software updates include security patches, but each person should weigh the risks: is there a higher change that a "remote user could exploit a vulnerability in a Windows ocx file" (or however Microsoft puts it) or there a higher chance that the update could break something?

    As an example, I don't remember the last time I installed Windows 7 updates. But the last time I did it, Windows started displaying the menus on the left instead of the right. It took me 2 hours to figure out how to search Google to even get a usable answer.
    (The solution was that the Windows update read my Intous tablet as a pen input device and decided to set all the menus to display on the left for no reason. There's an option in the Pen & Tablet Control Panel to set the direction of the menus.)

    Anyway, United should follow the lead of Chrome, Firefox, and other companies and make their software use more and more system resources so that users are forced into getting newer hardware just to keep up. Then United could put out the usual press release saying "For a better user experience, please use the latest phone." Then it's not their fault people are still using older phones. /s

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  • icon
    Jim P. (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 11:04am

    Old Versions

    And Windows 95 machines are probably still out there, running just fine too.

    Stuff improves, things change, companies want to do things they can't do if their software must support ageing system software.

    The real problem is phone makers who make the affirmative decision to stop upgrading most phones' software after two years of production. Even if the older phones are still perfectly capable of running updated software.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Old Versions

      A phone with an OS released in 2013 that was supported through 2017 isn't really analogous to a desktop with an OS released in 1995 that was supported through 2001.

      If you want to compare a phone to a desktop, this would be a little more akin to a current Windows program not running on Windows Vista.

      Except that there are still very significant differences between the two situations. For starters, phone apps are often just stripped-down websites. There's no technical reason why a standards-compliant website shouldn't run in a standards-compliant browser. Is the United app using HTML or CSS features that weren't present in the last supported version of Chrome for Android v4? I doubt it.

      Second: on a Windows desktop, you would not expect a program to automatically update itself into an unusable state, without any option for acquiring and reinstalling the previous, working version.

      (Sadly, that is now a common problem on Macs.)

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      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 1:10pm

        Old system support

        The habit of backwards (and forewards) comparability, I think, comes from the position of serving businesses. From my years doing tech support, I remember any half-working system that might be turned into a web-browser terminal or a data-entry station would.

        As such Microsoft (and IBM and Digital Research) all worked to make their stuff as interconnectable and interchangeable as possible.

        The consequences for not doing so was readily evident. Either businesses would not upgrade for fear of destabilizing their working (if poorly so) system, or they'd upgrade, and resort to pirating OSes and productivity software when they couldn't afford the extra expense updating everything simultaneously.

        It was definitely in the best interest of operating system and productivity software providers to make everything work with everything else, even when nothing is using the same version.

        Android and OSx were both made with home systems in mind, with the notion that no IT person would be available to fix incompatibilities, as such it does a lot of automatic updating leaving to app providers to do the technical legwork.

        The risk is they don't always, but the gamble is that automatic maintenance will solve more problems than a lack of maintenance, since non-IT savvy users will happily let their systems go unmaintained until it dies from insecurity, fragmentation, register decay or whatever.

        And yes, it seems some companies are using these effects as built-in obsolescence. Heck, iPhones were intentionally slowing down to encourage their parishioners to upgrade to latest models. Also, I think that's part of the Win10 model is to use mandated OS updates to push hardware and software updates to retain compatibility.

        My own bank continues to struggle with providing an app (through which I deposit checks) that is compatible with my phone and my tablet, or stays consistent with my phone.

        As such I've ended up on long protracted calls to Customer Service where they don't know what's going on either. It's gotten better, slowly: I haven't had to make such a call for months now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 2:57pm

          Re: Old system support

          I don't have an issue with automatic app updates in principle.

          I do have a problem with an app auto-updating to a version that's not supported in the current environment. I also have a problem with old versions of apps getting memory-holed so that it's impossible to manually reinstall an earlier version.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 11 Sep 2018 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re: Old Versions

        Is the United app using HTML or CSS features that weren't present in the last supported version of Chrome for Android v4?

        Per conversation elsewhere in these comments, it's probably using TLS 1.2 or later, which wasn't (necessarily?) supported on 4.x Android versions. So not HTML or CSS features, but a HTTP(S) feature.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:17pm

      Re: Old Versions

      >And Windows 95 machines are probably still out there, running just fine too.

      And MSDOS 6 ones as well, complete with green screen monitor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 7 Sep 2018 @ 2:30pm

    This exact problem has been present over the years for computers. Microsoft says a version of Windows is out of date, so almost everyone stops supporting it. Then you don't have the latest web browser anymore so web sites decide that you're no longer entitled to access them, even though they're nothing truly important.

    I have an older system, which still has XP on it. I've heard all the arguments about it being insecure, but it still works and I don't have a spare $500+ to buy a new system right now. Recently, Google's stupid recaptcha stopped working for me in both the older version of Firefox that I use and the latest version of Palemoon available for XP. This had the effect of locking me out of certain websites. Other captchas work fine, but recaptcha has been a PITA for quite some time now. Even when it works, you have to go through about 6-7 challenges before it accepts your answers.

    I ended up downloading a copy of Opera, which for now seems to work OK. I don't like it as an everyday browser though.

    "Just get a new computer!" My friend has Windows 10 and he's always having problems with it. Besides not being able to run the latest software, I have less trouble with XP than he has with Win10. I could get a refurbished Win7 system, but MS will be dropping support for that in a couple years and then all the software authors will start abandoning it a few years after that. :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 7 Sep 2018 @ 2:59pm

      Re:

      Would Linux Mint meet your needs and run on your hardware? That would be my recommendation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2018 @ 3:25pm

      Re:

      Try Linux, Linux, or PCLinuxOS, the latter being a stable rolling release. Both have live version, so you can try them out safely, and install from the live version which means you have Internet access available during the Installation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    twinkiekat (profile), 9 Sep 2018 @ 8:06pm

    updates

    This same thing happened to me with both of my banking apps, Citibank and Chase. I couldn't use the apps unless I updated them. So they forced me to do manual updates which then rendered the apps useless on my phone and tablet. When I called them about it they said I had to use a PC to access my accounts. Neither of my devices were old and I have no intention of replacing them so I can use their effing apps. Needless to say it was infuriating, happened last month and I'm still steamed about it. They can pay their CEO's millions but they can't maintain functioning apps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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