As of today (February 1), WhatsApp will stop working on millions of iPhones and Android devices running older operating systems. Smartphones affected are those on Apple iOS 8 or earlier and devices using Google Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread or prior versions.
According to stats, the number of users impacted by the WhatsApp move runs into millions. Google’s distribution figures show 0.3% of the world’s 2.5 billion users are still on Android Gingerbread or earlier. Official figures detailing the number of iPhone users on iOS 8 or earlier are not available.
First announced back in 2017, the move is intended to protect people’s security, according to WhatsApp.
But if you’re a WhatsApp user and you’ve got a very old iPhone or Android device, this could be very bad news. For example, an iPhone 4s on iOS 7, which cannot be updated, would no longer be compatible with WhatsApp.
“Because we no longer actively develop for these operating systems, some features might stop functioning at any time,” said WhatsApp in a blog post. “For the best experience, we recommend you use the latest version of iOS or Android available for your phone.”
Time to update your Operating System
Some people choose not to update their operating system, especially when new versions arrive as they want to wait for any bugs to be ironed out first. But this is a seriously bad idea: Each new version will also be resolving security issues in iOS and Android, which is why you should install it as soon as it arrives.
“Operating systems lacking the latest updates put you at risk, because they have a lot of known vulnerabilities,” says security professional John Opdenakker.
He advises people to “always install the latest updates.”
If your phone is running a really old version of your operating system, and a new one is available, it’s a good idea to update it now. You’ll then be able to use WhatsApp again straight away.
What if my phone can’t run a newer Operating System?
Of course, some iPhone and Android phones will not be compatible with newer operating system versions. In this case, the first choice if it’s available to you, would be to upgrade your phone now.
“When you can no longer update the operating system and apps on your device, the only solution is to buy a new phone,” Opdenakker says. “When you do so, it is important to check for how long, and how often, updates are released by the vendor.”
This might not be an option for you, but it should be noted that if you remain on an old operating system, your phone is not as secure as it should be.
Go for alternative messaging apps!
WhatsApp is probably used by most of your friends and family, so it’s hard to break away and try another app. However, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook which has already put many people off, especially as back-end integration is currently ongoing.
There are several alternatives you can try, including Signal or Wickr, that could make your communications more secure. At least try them out for size, and see if you can persuade others to get on board too.