Updating, and upgrading, the oldest systems we can support

How old is your mobile? And how often do you update your system software?

As a mobile based business, we are always conscious of the balance between

  • supporting as many versions of Android and iOS as possible so potential customers with older devices are not disadvantaged, and
  • the need to stay up to date with security, design and best practice.

We don’t want to force anyone to pay loads of money for new devices all the time, but standards change very quickly, and we must do our best to stay updated, particularly when it comes to security, but also functionality.

We’re coming to a point where we may need to update the minimum systems required to run our app, so I thought I’d get some views from the community.

Currently, Dozens can be run as long as you have:

  • iOS 11.0 (from 2017)
  • Android 5.0 (from 2014)

For context, the latest versions of these systems are:

  • iOS 14.6
  • Android 11 (version 30)

As you can see, we reach quite far back at the moment, and a lot has happened and been released to improve security and performance in that time.

We’re not planning on jumping all the way to today’s versions, of course, but in order to assume certain functionality, we are proposing updating the minimum requirements to:

  • iOS 13 - so requires iPhone 6S or later
  • Android 6.0 - Android devices from 2015 onwards

Existing users would be encouraged to upgrade their operating system if possible. I understand that if not, the older version of the Dozens app would still work, but would not be updated.

Would that affect you? We know this would be a very small number of existing customers who would be affected, but how would you feel if this affected you?

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It is natural these days for support to cease as versions evolve and this would not be an issue for me however it may be for others and banking is more conservative than many areas. I know you are not a bank and accept that Fin-tech is a different space to the high street. I think that as long as legacy functionality is retained then there shouldn’t be an issue.

Of interest I would assume you are able to capture device details, if so do you have any statistics you could share, or do you wish this to be a purely principled discussion? I wonder whether this would also be able to identify those who could and couldn’t upgrade their OS version without a change of hardware as clearly the real challenge is compelling people to buy new hardware merely to keep up with their banking app when the brand ethos is about saving and investment rather than frivolous expenditure :smiley:

So I think your approach is reasonable but an understanding of your user base might enable you to take greater leaps. Additionally this analysis set against the advantages of a greater shift forward in OS terms might also help inform a bolder decision.

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This is the general notice you get from Lloyds, Halifax et al

Undated, so no idea when they actually mean/meant :joy:

But yeah, Android 7.0 and iOS 11 seem to be common limits.

If a big consumer bank can do it - albeit with online banking too, I don’t think you could really complain that your 2014 phone is no longer supported.

Any plans for a web app?

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Don’t think it will affect me even though I only replace my iPhone every 5 years. Apple are pretty good at updating iOS to allow older phones to keep on going.

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I’m running iOS 15 Developer Beta 1, so obviously not the person to ask, but still!

I think iOS 13 does seem to have become a fairly common standard amongst apps as I’ve seen a few mentions in release notes recently that you will need to upgrade to continue receiving support if not on iOS 13 or above. It will be effectively two versions behind once iOS 15 is out, so probably makes maintaining the all easier.

However, banking apps do often seem to have longer support than most and I think Monzo still supports all the way back to iOS 9. iOS 11 is another common version.

I do wonder whether setting the limit at iOS 12 rather than iOS 13 would be better - that would allow the original iPhone 6 to still be supported, and might be worth doing?

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I believe that we are talking about a few hundred customers in total, particularly with older iPhones. Interestingly (probably for the price), Android is less affected.

It is a good question. My understanding (as a non developer) is that there are specific things in iOS 13 that we want (need?) to have available to bring the new experience to the app - in particular relating to performance.

That’s generally true, although they do occasionally make some big changes that mean you can only go back so far for the upgrades. For example, if you go too far back, (was in iPhone 5?) you’ll find it has no NFC.

We do develop in a flexible way, but screen size & resolution is also an issue that can affect future design, quite apart from the actual OS.

Obviously we’d love to support all versions, but it will not be feasible.

and that’s a key issue indeed. On the other hand, we are mobile-only and need to ensure our app is as secure, fast and reliable as possible for the many thousands of others who do have later models, so there does need to be a balance struck.

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This is easier on iOS as iPhone 6 to 8 all have identical screen sizes and resolutions, iPhone X and above have similar sizes but a range of resolutions.

iPhone 6 was the first iPhone with NFC, for the launch of Apple Pay. The NFC reader can’t be used for anything else in that model either.

OK - makes sense then!

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I think this should be a security-first situation.

iOS 11 hasn’t had updates in over 2 years. I wouldn’t do banking on it. I assume iOS developer agreements stop you from saying ‘we don’t support this OS because it doesn’t get security updates any more’… but there’s a reasonable justification to not support iOS 11 there, I think.

iOS 12 is still being supported by Apple, so I think ideally there should be a up-to-date security-wise Dozens app, with at least core functionality.

Also worth considering - if you find yourself with a damaged/stolen/lost phone many people have/can borrow an older phone (or perhaps can only afford to replace it with a cheaper/older phone) - and obviously banking access is pretty critical, so older version support is important from this point of view.

Final thought - basic web interface for situations like this, please? Ideally with a ‘cash in bonds, send me a new phone ASAP’ button? :slight_smile:

(Same logic for Android, of course, but far more complicated with different manufacturer update practices…)

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Indeed it is. I gather there are a set of APIs we require that only appear in iOS 13, hence the issue.

As we said, we will still allow customers on older phones back to iOS 11 to use the current app, but they will not be able to update the app for more recent changes, sadly.

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I think this might be one of those cases where things are situationally dependent.

Given its a relatively small amount of users right now, I’d be tempted to bite the bullet and make a (much?) more recent OS version the minimum.

But in the future after (hopefully) some significant growth, it might well be a different decision.

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yeah, that’s tempting, but also not really necessary today, so it seems a shame as it would then affect more customers for no urgent reason

As a matter of fact, with the release next week we will upgrade the minimum requirement for Android only as it affects so few customers. I think the iOS upgrade is still on the cards, but might be next release .

Some interesting additions coming in this release :slight_smile:

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You tease, you! :joy:

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Amusingly enough, running the A12 beta so not quite a problem :stuck_out_tongue:

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With my Security Hat on, I would always say a minimum version should be the one still receiving security updates.

With iOS that’s easy. iOS 12 is still doing so (though appreciate what you said about wanting certain features, in which case fair enough if it’s a product need, though as you said old versions of app could still run without those)

With Android it’s so much harder as the eco system is a mess. Samsung and Google (big surprise!) are generally the best at patching but with other vendors and even samsung sometimes are massively behind. I’d still try and take Google’s lead though and look at what they/the open source community are still providing security updates for and declare that the oldest. Which is currently Android 8 Oreo :slightly_smiling_face:

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With Android there is also the issue of if an app supports custom ROMs.

Otherwise, it’s all well and good that the community supports a device with updates (LineageOS etc) only to find an app complains that the bootloader is unlocked…

We should be encouraging people to keep their phones longer - a phone should really be able to last 5 or 6 years. This is purely for an environmental/sustainability reason.

Therefore, you should make sure that the app works on phones of this age.

If people are forced to buy a new phone purely because an app they use no longer works on it, then I don’t believe that that will reflect well on the company that makes the app.

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Thanks @Stephen, we completely agree

In this case, however, it isn’t actually the phone that is the issue because the app relies on the software it is running, particularly the Operating System. This is what guarantees the highest level of security, but also the tools for interactive features.

We do have some hardware needs, but the key one is only the camera for Onboarding. You can use an older phone even if it doesn’t have NFC for digital wallets, or biometric security.

But if we know there are security vulnerabilities associated with older software, we need to make sure these are fixed.

The connection is that not all phones are able to run the latest operating systems, but that is out of our control. The point has certainly been made that these companies need to do more to keep older models secure.

It is a bit like driving a vintage car. You can keep it on the road, but it will not meet the latest safety standards, or be easily serviced, and new features like built-in sat nav will be incompatible, but it could still be used. At least for cars there are MOTs. Sadly there are no safety MOTs for old handsets.

Yes, I realise it’s the underlying software that is often the issue. However, at some point a phones software cannot be updated. So my original comments are valid.

Of course! We do our best to support phones with reasonable security, but if they fall behind a certain level, then it is something outside our control. If we can’t be sure your account is safe, then we need to take action.

Still, for example, the version of Android we support dates back to 2015, and that probably still works on phones from a couple of years before that, so that covers phones that are almost a decade old. For iOS, this is similar, as iOS 13 can run on the 6S that was released in 2015.

It is really up to the handset manufacturers, and those who design the operating systems (that basically become too large in memory and processing requirements), to do more to support phones for longer.

I know there is pressure on Apple in particular (there was something about older phones getting slower if my memory serves), but I guess the same is true for manufacturers using Android.

I think there was a movement to make phones modular, so that key components could be upgraded if necessary without having to replace the full handset.

As a matter of interest, what phone are people here using? Or, more to the matter, what is the longest you’ve ever held on to a phone?

I currently have the latest Samsung S21 Ultra … because of the cameras, and because I upgraded in order to hand my older phone to my son.

The longest I had a phone was probably my Samsung S3, or possibly the Nexus 5 (I am a committed Android user since trying an iPhone 3 back in the day), both of which I kept for around 3 years.

I currently have an iPhone 12 mini, but my previous phone was an iPhone 6 which I think I had for nearly 6 years. It still worked fine and was sold on to someone else.

The original question was about how long do people keep phones for. My answer is 5 to 6 years for me. This is how long I feel Dozens should support a phone/operating system.

You can say that it is up to Apple to support older phones, but unless you can influence Apple in any way, you are left to ‘manage’ the situation as it is, as best you can.

Hypothetically, if I couldn’t run Dozens on my phone (because it was no longer supported), I’m unlikely to upgrade my phone purely based on this. I’m more likely to move finances elsewhere that did support my phone. This is just my view point, which I believe is what you wanted.

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