How old is your Android phone? Many of us like to hold onto our phones simply because it’s expensive to buy a new one. We also get comfortable with how they are set up and don’t want to go through the hassle of learning a new one. So should you still use an older Android phone?
Well, even if you’re not interested in a newer camera, clearer displays and other features of newer phones, the key reason you shouldn’t use an old phone is security. There are, however, ways to keep using an old phone in a secure way.
How long do phones get security updates?
There are hundreds of different models of mobile phones out there using the Android operating system. It’s so popular because it is easy to customize, modify, and set up your device precisely as you want it. The manufacturers can do these customizations, too, and therein lies the problem.
The amount of different models makes it impossible to keep finding and patching security holes for every one of them. So after about a few years, the manufacturers stop providing OS updates then, usually a little bit later, security updates.
Android updates by manufacturer
The fact that different manufacturers make Android devices complicates the picture, as each of these companies can set their own rules about how long they update their devices. To give you a general idea, here’s a list of the big Android manufacturers and how long they keep providing OS and security updates.
It would make sense for the maker of the Android operating system to lead the way when it comes to OS updates, and Google does pretty well in offering three years of OS updates, as well as monthly security updates through that time.
Samsung used to be pretty notorious in terms of how quickly it would deprecate old devices, but as of February 2021 the Korean company has committed to offering four years of security updates to devices launched since 2019, as well as three years of OS updates to certain S-series and A-series devices.
The resurgent Finnish manufacturer promises just two years of major Android updates for its devices unfortunately, but at least it gets the market-standard three years of security updates.
If your LG phone is from 2019 or more recent years, then it’s probably going to get three years of Android updates as well as three years of security updates, which is pretty good. With that said, 2019 is now three years ago, so you may need to look into upgrading your phone soon (or rooting it and installing something like LineageOS, which will keep your phone up to date indefinitely).
Flagship phones at OnePlus receive three major Android updates and four years of security updates, while cheaper models get less Android updates but still three years of security updates.
Is my phone safe?
Which phones are at risk for these security breaches, and how can you tell if you have one?
- Any Android phone that is three years old or older
- Phones running anything earlier than Android 9 Pie
- A phone that says it has all the updates but was updated months or even years ago
Recently out-of-support devices won’t have problems right away, but without security updates, the risk of being hacked increases exponentially. You may not even notice that your phone is outdated until you attempt to download software, but the app is incompatible with your phone’s operating system.
To tell if your phone is still updating, go to Settings and check your software updates. Going to “System -> Advanced -> System Update” is a good start. Usually you’ll see some indication here as to when the phone was last updated.
Make your phone safer
Because Androids are customizable, it is possible to add extra security to your device. Most of these solutions are easy to implement and maintain. It just takes a little time.
- Add extra security to your device, like a reliable third-party antivirus and anti-malware application. Tools like password managers, ad blockers, and two-factor authentication can help extend the lifespan of an old phone, too.
- Download an Android VPN to protect the Internet connection.
- Be extra careful when downloading anything from the Google Play Store. Although most apps will be safe, there are some malicious apps that could more easily affect an older phone.
- Don’t download apps from third-party or unofficial app stores.
- Consider rooting your device and switching to an open-source Android OS, like LineageOS. This way you’ll receive regular security updates to give you more protection than you’d have on an unsupported operating system. Rooting your phone may sound like a bad security decision, but now you have full control over the security of your phone rather than relying on outdated and unsupported OS.
- Finally, consider getting a new device. It doesn’t have to be the latest flagship model. You can get a decent, budget Android phone running Android 10 for about $200.
Many Android users are perfectly happy with their older phones and don’t see any reason to update. Nothing seems to be wrong with the phone. It still runs great, and they have all the functionality they need. However, the outdated software issue is lurking under the surface, making it easy for hackers to access the phone.
If you want to hold onto your old phone a little while longer, make your device as safe as possible. Try implementing as many of the suggestions in this article as you can. That way, you will make it more difficult for someone else to infiltrate your phone and get your data. Alternatively, you can repurpose your old Android phone, like turning it into a dash cam, a smart speaker, and more.
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