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ACLU: Android fragmentation creates privacy risk

post #1 of 97
Thread Starter 
The slow update schedule for smartphones running Google's Android operating system, along with the resulting fragmentation in OS versions on the platform, creates a security risk for owners of those phones, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

iphone 4s
Android version distribution. via Google.


The ACLU has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to look into the policies of U.S. wireless carriers, who the ACLU says are too slow to upgrade the operating systems of the Android phones they support. The ACLU, reports SiliconValley.com, says that the lag in software updates leaves smartphone users with out of date and dangerous systems.

The group filed a 17-page complaint this week, naming AT&T, Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon among the carriers that have ignored the warnings of experts and government officials, who say that a failure to update software gives hackers an opening to steal data. The complaint says the carriers are exposing their customers to "substantial harm" by not pushing out software updates quickly.

Google makes its Android operating system available for free to a wide array of manufacturers, and the search company works with those manufacturers to ensure that updates to the OS will work on devices that can support it. Once updates are tweaked for individual devices, though, they are then pushed on to the assorted wireless carriers, who test them for compatibility with their own networks.

Sprint, the third-largest wireless carrier, has said that it follows "industry-standard best practices" to protect its customers, while Verizon says it pushes out patches "as quickly as possible." Industry observers, though, say that the carriers' inability to push out updates quickly is more reflective of their struggles in adapting to the fast-moving smartphone sector.

The ACLU's complaint notes that only two percent of the hundreds of millions of Android handsets on the market today are running the most recent version of Android. The majority of handsets run a version released in the last two years, but nearly half of all Android users are running software older than that. This fragmentation of the Android market has led to many users being locked out from some software offerings, such as Facebook Home. It has also led to no small level of discontent within the developer community, with some predicting that independent developers will be squeezed out due to their inability to develop across so many version numbers.
post #2 of 97
Nobody cares . It won't affect Google revenue . All people care is the display physcial size .
post #3 of 97
This is nothing compared to what's happening in the iPad Mini camp!

http://verynicewebsite.net/2013/04/spot-the-error/
post #4 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazy_mac_lover View Post

Nobody cares . It won't affect Google revenue . All people care is the display physcial size .

Twitter seems to care:

http://www.droid-life.com/2013/04/18/twitter-launches-music-service-forgets-that-android-is-the-mobile-os-dominating-the-world/

And if all people care about is display physical size then I'd say the iPad and iPad Mini have Google's smartphones totally licked!

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Edited by GTR - 4/20/13 at 1:00pm
post #5 of 97
A lot of iOS users commenting on the article too at Droidlife
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post #6 of 97
Android is a fragmented mess, but they're mixing up patches and versions. A person running an older version of Android can still get patches to fix flaws, but might be waiting a long time to get a newer version of Android (like ICS or JB).

And why is the ACLU getting involved? The market will take care of itself without them having to get involved.

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post #7 of 97
Apple has its own set of problems: if you have e.g. an iPhone 3G with the most up-to-date version of Facebook or Skype on it that phone can run and you need to reset it for any reason, you can't ever install these apps anymore because iTunes updates always to the latest versions which can't be installed anymore (minimum OS version too high) and the backups don't back up apps.
So users lose functionality they once had and are either forced to buy newer hardware or stick with a device that has less functionality than before the reset.
post #8 of 97

I cannot help but wonder how long it will be before the Android fragmentation becomes shatter, as that OS breaks apart & disintegrates, with so few handsets being able to update the OS.

 

If / when it does, OS will stand for something other than Operating System, & I don't mean 0 Support. lol.gif

post #9 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

Apple has its own set of problems: if you have e.g. an iPhone 3G with the most up-to-date version of Facebook or Skype on it that phone can run and you need to reset it for any reason, you can't ever install these apps anymore because iTunes updates always to the latest versions which can't be installed anymore (minimum OS version too high) and the backups don't back up apps.
So users lose functionality they once had and are either forced to buy newer hardware or stick with a device that has less functionality than before the reset.

Apple doesn't sell the 3GS anymore and the vast majority of iPhones are on iOS 6. In addition, if you have the 3GS, don't upgrade the apps in iTunes. In addition, developers are told they need to support ios version N and N-1.

There are many Android sold with 2.x. The flagships may not be, but the cheapies are.
post #10 of 97

Google really screwed up the Android brand by allowing low quality manufacturers to damage the brand by not supporting any of their released devices. Ironically, the now Google owned Motorola was probably the worst offender in this regard. Google's Nexus devices though are kept up to date, but unfortunately they share the Android brand with the low quality, never updated devices.

post #11 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

I completely agree that ACLU seems to be reaching. They have plenty of actual civil liberty infractions to worry about these days. As for Android, it is hard to understand how Google managed to design the android world so poorly. You would think that they would have licensed the thing in such a way that anything claiming to run android would have top be up to date.

Google doesn't care. It makes its money from search. You can still search using 2.x.
post #12 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

A lot of iOS users commenting on the article too at Droidlife

There's life after droid?
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post #13 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by jungmark View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

Apple has its own set of problems: if you have e.g. an iPhone 3G with the most up-to-date version of Facebook or Skype on it that phone can run and you need to reset it for any reason, you can't ever install these apps anymore because iTunes updates always to the latest versions which can't be installed anymore (minimum OS version too high) and the backups don't back up apps.
So users lose functionality they once had and are either forced to buy newer hardware or stick with a device that has less functionality than before the reset.


Apple doesn't sell the 3GS anymore and the vast majority of iPhones are on iOS 6. In addition, if you have the 3GS, don't upgrade the apps in iTunes. In addition, developers are told they need to support ios version N and N-1.

 

That's not really the issue. The issue is, that Apple's system is either broken, or intentionally set up such that minor mistakes require you to buy new hardware if you want to retain the same functionality.

 

One solution would be if iTunes would analyse what iOS devices are synced with a particular computer, and if it would not suggest to update apps in the iTunes library beyond the point where they will be workable on the devices synced. Another solution would be if iTunes could download from that AppStore certain milestone releases of software that are the newest releases still working on certain versions of iOS.

 

There are now many apps that only support iOS6. My iPhone is running iOS6, my (original) iPad is forever stuck at iOS5. Obviously I want the newest versions of the apps on my iPhone, so my iTunes library automatically suggests, (and I download) the newest versions, such as to install them on my iPhone.

If for any reason I need to reset my iPad, I'll be up the creek without a paddle, because there's no way for me to download the older versions of these apps again which are now installed on my iPad. After a reset, my iPad would be half the device it is now, and I would be forced to buy a new device.

 

Greenpeace should look at the forced resource wasted through planned obsolescence rather than make bogus claims about e.g. Apple's data centers.

 

A friend of mine got someone's old iPhone 3G. Had Skype and Facebook on it. To get the phone unlocked through AT&T required a reset of the device. But by now, these versions of Skype and Facebook that run on iOS 4.2.1 are no longer downloadable. So now the phone is unlocked, and Facebook and Skype are gone forever. Forced hardware upgrade. Skype and Facebook are "free" apps, but there are for purchase apps where there's the same issue. So not only is your device functionally downgraded through the reset, you're also deprived of software for which you actually did pay money for, unless you buy new hardware.

 

Totally uncool, and basically class-action lawsuit material. Sort of like you buy a car, but if you have to reset the engine management computer more than two years after you bought the car, the electrical windows stop working, and if you want a car with windows you can open, you have to buy a new model.

 

There's no technical reason that Apple couldn't maintain a database of the highest version of iOS each device can digest, and then retain versions of apps for download for these cut-off releases. Since Apple musters out groups of devices, this isn't such a big deal. Even the original iPhone can run 4.2.1. So iOS 4.2.1 would be one such cut-off release. The next cut-off release is 5.1.1 for e.g. the original iPad. 

So all Apple would have to do, is to keep available for download the newest version of apps that were available for these cut-off versions, provided it did exist. Obviously I'm not saying developers should retain backwards compatibility forever, or should back-port apps. But Apple should keep older versions available for download for older devices if such software at some point was available in the past.


Edited by rcfa - 4/20/13 at 3:27pm
post #14 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

Apple has its own set of problems: if you have e.g. an iPhone 3G with the most up-to-date version of Facebook or Skype on it that phone can run and you need to reset it for any reason, you can't ever install these apps anymore because iTunes updates always to the latest versions which can't be installed anymore (minimum OS version too high) and the backups don't back up apps.
So users lose functionality they once had and are either forced to buy newer hardware or stick with a device that has less functionality than before the reset.

I think you're looking at the wrong backup: if you backup your phone to iCloud or iTunes it indeed doesn't backup your apps, as Apple allows you to simply re-download them again. True, latest version. But I backup to iTunes, and backup my iTunes media folder. And Time Machine keeps perfect records of old apps which I can reinstall at will.
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

Don't worry about Android too much. The high end devices are quite consistently running the latest major version (4.x in this case).

But what happens after Google releases a new version? Does it depend on the carrier if one can upgrade, or do people simply go to Google.com to update their phone?
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post #15 of 97
Samdroid does have bigger screens & bigger more aggressive advertising campaign, should be easy for Apply to remedy, add bigger iPhone & bust loose with some cash for aggressive marketing
Edited by Everett Ruess - 4/20/13 at 3:10pm
post #16 of 97

It is odd they did not name Google, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony as well. This is primarily the fault of Google that rushed the design of Android so they did not get the ability to update Android as needed.  For proof, look to MS and Windows that shows it is very possible to design a component based OS supplied by multiple hardware vendors and provide centralized updates. Google simply took the cheap and easy way out and never considered updates as part of the feature set of Android.

post #17 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven N. View Post

It is odd they did not name Google, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony as well. This is primarily the fault of Google that rushed the design of Android so they did not get the ability to update Android as needed.  For proof, look to MS and Windows that shows it is very possible to design a component based OS supplied by multiple hardware vendors and provide centralized updates. Google simply took the cheap and easy way out and never considered updates as part of the feature set of Android.

The hardware makers decide what/when to update to the version of OS they want to support.  It's up to each mfg. to update which ever model they want to and then it gets submitted to carriers before they are approved and released.  It's just the downfall of the Google/Android business model and how it is organized, or in this case, disorganized.

post #18 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

 

That's not really the issue. The issue is, that Apple's system is either broken, or intentionally set up such that minor mistakes require you to buy new hardware if you want to retain the same functionality.

 



Oh please.  Get off your soapbox.  By your rationale, I should be p!ssed that a reset of my old Palm Pilot will forever remove my apps too.  

We come across some folks with the 1st-gen iPads that are forever stuck in OS5.0 running certain enterprise-apps at our shop.  We do out best to make sure whatever app we create is iOS5.0 compatible.  That's fine for business stuff and we try.  The problem is not with Apple necessarily, but the app developers themselves to make every app as compatible as possible with older system.  Even then, there's a balance in deciding that certain features only available in the newest OS warrant an iOS6+ minimum level to use.  That's the reality of it all.

However, guys like you complain that your iPad can't upgrade past 5.0 and get the newest, greatest apps.  Too bad.  You know why??  Because the next thing you'll do if you were ever to upgrade is immediately complain that Real Racing 3 runs like crap on it.  That's exactly what you'll do.

Name one device that is 100% future-proof.  Don't worry... we'll wait... /s
 


Edited by sflocal - 4/20/13 at 5:25pm
post #19 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

And why is the ACLU getting involved? The market will take care of itself without them having to get involved.

 

I completely agree that ACLU seems to be reaching. They have plenty of actual civil liberty infractions to worry about these days. 

 

Just think about who is going to exploit these loopholes besides criminals, and you know why the ACLU is getting involved.

post #20 of 97
Malware also continues to be more prevalent in Google Play than Apple's app store. Somewhere between 2 and 9 million downloads of "Bad News" SMS malware recently according to Ars. While perhaps not very many relative to the number total Android community it still is another black mark when comparing to iOS. This one was reportedly not Google's fault but I doubt those affected care. Fair or not it adds to the perception that malware is a problem.

Edit: Sorry for not mentioning how this ties in to prompt updates to the latest Android versions. Those running 4.x Android have little danger from SMS malware.
Edited by Gatorguy - 4/20/13 at 4:37pm
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post #21 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

 

That's not really the issue. The issue is, that Apple's system is either broken, or intentionally set up such that minor mistakes require you to buy new hardware if you want to retain the same functionality.

 



Oh please.  Get off your soapbox.  By your rational, I should be p!ssed that a reset of my old Palm Pilot will forever remove my apps too.  

 

Totally not comparable. With PalmOS you download the apps from anywhere, they don't have DRM other than maybe a license key, and you have to manage the apps yourself. Even if you deleted the apps, you can get the app from someone else, enter your license key after reinstalling it, and you're good to go. And of course, you still should have your original download, download link, or could ask the app vendor to resend you the version. None of that works with iOS apps, because it's AppStore or nothing (unless it's a jail-broken device, and even then that would only work if you were to use pirated apps or apps which someone bought and someone removed the DRM from for future use on other devices by people who bought them and are in a pickle)

 

With the AppStore model, there is no way to re-download the app you had, and the entire app management is automated by iTunes, so unless you're a power user, it's difficult to go back, even if you do have a backup somewhere. Also, even if someone else has the app, you can't use it on your device, because of the DRM system. So you're totally stuck, while you're not stuck at all in the Palm example.

 

This isn't about devices eventually not being upgraded, this is about devices LOSING functionality because of how the AppStore model ratchets versions upwards, even for devices that can't follow the new version.

post #22 of 97
This is funny.

No Wireless Company or Smartphone company - other than Apple - is interested in updating the operating system on smartphones because it costs a lot of money to do so. And the customer will never give them any money again to do so anyway.

But the actual solution for Wireless Companies is to simply FORCE customers to upgrade to new phones when their 2 year contract is up or do so even more frequently or FORCE customers to pay for software upgrades. This way, the Wireless Companies and Smartphone companies are paid for doing the work of upgrading.

Of course consumers will be aghast at the new cost of Android Phones.

And Apple stands to benefit tremendously.
post #23 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven N. View Post

It is odd they did not name Google, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony as well. This is primarily the fault of Google that rushed the design of Android so they did not get the ability to update Android as needed.  For proof, look to MS and Windows that shows it is very possible to design a component based OS supplied by multiple hardware vendors and provide centralized updates. Google simply took the cheap and easy way out and never considered updates as part of the feature set of Android.

 

Is this a joke?  Nexus branded devices (aka. the 'pure' Google devices) get updated to every new OS version when it's released.  

 

It's only the OEM modded models that have delayed OS updates...  

post #24 of 97

Im sure this has happened to you and it's frustrating, but I do not believe that Apple and developers can be held responsible for 3 year-old apps. I had a 3GS until just a few months ago and finally upgraded to the 5. The 3GS was on IOS 6 and worked fine and all of my original apps, including the oldest worked until I changed phones. This may be problematic for a small percentage that have not upgraded their OS, but I feel sincerely that it is not law suit material. In reply to RCFA's thoughts.

post #25 of 97

Golly,I guess we should all just go hide under the bed.

post #26 of 97
Why can't OEMs push updates directly to Android? Why are the carriers involved at all?

If we look at the comparable (ish) iOS versions to those main 3 Android versions we get Gingerbread (2010) [iOS4], ICS (2011) [iOS5] & Jelly Bean (2012) [iOS6], none of the rest have made any significant impact, so to pretend any developments between have meant anything at all (so far including 4.2) would be fallacious. If nearly half of iOS devices ran iOS4, from nearly three years ago, 5&6 would be seen as complete flops. Indeed, if Apple sold mainly iPhone 4 units as would be equivalent to Samsung, how would that fare with pundits? Google and OEMs deserve strong criticism for these clear failings, but... well, we'd all asphyxiate, put it that way.
post #27 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by jungmark View Post

There are many Android sold with 2.x. The flagships may not be, but the cheapies are.

Can you show me a phone still sold with gingerbread in America? I searched and couldn't find one.
post #28 of 97

One has to wonder if Samsung is actually behind the stock shorting...

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post #29 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

 

Totally not comparable. With PalmOS you download the apps from anywhere, they don't have DRM other than maybe a license key, and you have to manage the apps yourself. Even if you deleted the apps, you can get the app from someone else, enter your license key after reinstalling it, and you're good to go. And of course, you still should have your original download, download link, or could ask the app vendor to resend you the version. None of that works with iOS apps, because it's AppStore or nothing (unless it's a jail-broken device, and even then that would only work if you were to use pirated apps or apps which someone bought and someone removed the DRM from for future use on other devices by people who bought them and are in a pickle)

 

With the AppStore model, there is no way to re-download the app you had, and the entire app management is automated by iTunes, so unless you're a power user, it's difficult to go back, even if you do have a backup somewhere. Also, even if someone else has the app, you can't use it on your device, because of the DRM system. So you're totally stuck, while you're not stuck at all in the Palm example.

 

This isn't about devices eventually not being upgraded, this is about devices LOSING functionality because of how the AppStore model ratchets versions upwards, even for devices that can't follow the new version.


Not having the ability to download the same app that is compatible with your old hardware is not Apple's problem.  If anything, it is the "problem" of that app developer, if even that.

If I as an app developer come out with a new release, it is my decision (not Apple's) to make in terms of OS compatibility.  I the developer will decide "iOS 5 is just too confining and I don't want to support that anymore, therefore I will make a new version that takes advantage of all the new API's, rendering my old apps obsolete."

Apple so-called "planned-obsolescene" is a tired argument and I'm surprised folks still bring it up.  You want to continue using a 1st-gen iPad or 3GS, go right ahead and more power to you.  However, don't come back crying as to why the developer (not Apple) doesn't allow you to re-download old apps.  You need to accept that and move on.   That is the nature of the tech industry.

post #30 of 97

I guess it's one advantage computer companies have over phone companies: long established systems and procedures for rolling out software updates.

post #31 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

 

Don't worry about Android too much. The high end devices are quite consistently running the latest major version (4.x in this case).

 

I'm not worried about Android & said 'so few', meaning Nexus only / mostly. We all know the vast majority of Android h/sets cannot be upgraded, or if they can it's only to the next release, as has been mentioned numerous times before.

 

On a slightly different track, I have to laugh when Android users say iPhones / iOS is getting outdated & left behind, we can update the OS for several years no problem, unlike the vast majority of Android users. Hell, here in the UK we even have networks & shops advertising old Galaxy Ace models etc as the latest smartphones you can play games, email etc on for just xx a month, or they bundle either tablets / consoles / tv's with them for free or at reduced cost, again on contact. I'd say it's obvious they have old unsold stocks of phones & tablets they are desperate to try & shift.

post #32 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

Apple has its own set of problems...

And you think the hundreds of millions of Android users affected by fragmentation and don't receive major operating system updates is comparable to the minority of people who use a five year old device, are either unwilling or can't afford to upgrade, and can't run a few apps?

Are these the kind of people that either Apple or developers would consider worth supporting anyway?

Do you think it's good business strategy to spend time and resources on a minority of customers who don't spend?

Microsoft doesn't think so.

Samsung doesn't think so.

Hell, Google themselves don't think so.
post #33 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post

 

This isn't about devices eventually not being upgraded, this is about devices LOSING functionality because of how the AppStore model ratchets versions upwards, even for devices that can't follow the new version.

 

You're not going to mention the dollar getting ratcheted up by inflation and losing functionality shortly, are you?

 

Or the human race ratcheting up a version with new kids while the older versions lose functionality?

 

Life.

 

It's probably best to try and adapt to it.

post #34 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazy_mac_lover View Post

Nobody cares . It won't affect Google revenue . All people care is the display physcial size .

 

phabulous!

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post #35 of 97

Even more Android awesomeness! What an incredible OS! Open!!

 

http://gizmodo.com/5995139/this-family-of-data+stealing-android-malware-got-downloaded-from-google-play-millions-of-times

 

 

Quote:
Everyone knows there's malware on Android, but for the most part it just hides out in the seedier back alleys of the OS. You're only likely to run into it if you start side-loading pirated apps, or frequenting sketchy unofficial app stores. But a newly uncovered family of malware—fittingly called "BadNews"—was just chillin' in Google Play, and has been downloaded somewhere between two and nine million times. In other words, a whole lot.

 

Sweet! I can't believe I'm missing this type of action on iOS. Malware just chilling in the Google Play store, no biggie. All it does is steal your phone # and serial #. 

post #36 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by tookieman2013 View Post

Im sure this has happened to you and it's frustrating, but I do not believe that Apple and developers can be held responsible for 3 year-old apps. I had a 3GS until just a few months ago and finally upgraded to the 5. The 3GS was on IOS 6 and worked fine and all of my original apps, including the oldest worked until I changed phones. This may be problematic for a small percentage that have not upgraded their OS, but I feel sincerely that it is not law suit material. In reply to RCFA's thoughts.

He's talking about the 3G, which turns 5 in a couple of months.

Which Android phones were around then?

I think they ran donut.

I cannot get Facebook Home on my Nexus 4, for the simple fact that Facebook Home is US only.
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post #37 of 97
Originally Posted by igriv View Post
There is iOS malware too (just google for it), here is one example:

 

Both Apple and Google have now removed the app from their respective app stores.

 

Funny.

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post #38 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

Oh, stop it. There is iOS malware too (just google for it), here is one example:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adriankingsleyhughes/2012/07/06/first-ios-malware-hits-app-store/

The 1st one (although I actually think that happened much earlier) in late 2012 compared to a plethora of data stealing apps from Google Play nee Android Market from the start. That's the problem with trolls: no concept of gradation, it's either all or nothing. They are to excellence what Prosopagnosianists are to faces.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/21/13 at 7:37am

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post #39 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Neither. Stop the insults.

I am the one who opened that door this time around.

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post #40 of 97
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post
I am the one who opened that door this time around.


You're right. I read the last 'you' as plural, but it could have been either. Trimming both, I think.

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone] exists, it doesn’t deserve to.
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