Watch out if you have an old Android phone or tablet. Google will no longer update its services, which can jeopardize your device's security, and you won't be able to download apps from the Play Store anymore.
If you're still using a smartphone or tablet running Android 4.4, you're going to have to make up your mind: in a brief blog post, Google has announced the imminent end of support for this old operating system for mobile devices. A logical and predictable end insofar as this version, nicknamed KitKat, was released in autumn 2013, ten years ago. And while it was very popular due to the many new features it brought at the time, it has since been replaced by multiple, ever more advanced versions, with most current models being marketed with Android 13.
However, even if they haven't been able to be updated to more recent versions, phones, tablets, and TV boxes are still working, albeit with limitations linked to their age and condition. And you may still be using one! But not for much longer. While this measure will not prevent you from turning on and using a device, it will have practical consequences that will greatly reduce its usefulness.
Android 4.4: the end of Google Play services
Indeed, as the publisher explains in its note, this end of support means the end of the famous Google Play Services. Entirely under Google's control, these "software bricks" manage many functions that are essential to the smooth running of Android and its devices. For example, these services automatically take care of the system security updates that regularly patch vulnerabilities, independently of the major Android updates that remain the responsibility of smartphone and device manufacturers. It's these patches that keep you protected against attacks and hacking, especially when you're using the Internet or 4G/5G mobile data, which amounts to the same thing.
And that's not all: Google Play services are used by a number of essential applications, in particular the Play Store, Google's application store. And with the discontinuation of these services, it will no longer be possible to use the Play Store to download and install applications! Finally, as Google Play services are based on APIs, they are used by a large number of third-party applications, some of them very popular, such as Uber, which uses them to access Google Maps data. And, of course, the major Google apps that use these services will no longer work properly, if at all!
End of Google support: which phones are affected?
Even if most of them have long since been retired, many smartphones were supplied with Android 4.4, including some very popular ones: Samsung Galaxy A5 and A7, Motorola Moto G, Google Nexus 4, 5, 7, and 10, Sony Xperia E4, Alcatel OneTouch Pop 2, Wiko Highway Pure 4G, Archos 50b Helium 4G, Acer Liquid Z410, HTC Desire 820s, ZTE Blade A450, etc. Not to mention the countless small Chinese brands that have flooded the market with low-cost Android phones, tablets, and TV boxes, most often without providing the slightest update service afterward... If you're in any doubt about one of your devices, you can easily find out which version of Android is installed by going to Settings, then to About Device, About Phone or an equivalent heading: the Android version number is shown in plain text. Note in passing that the latest version of KitKat bears the number 4.4.4. It was then replaced by the Android 50 version known as Lollipop, which will soon suffer the same fate.
But there's no need to panic. Firstly, because according to Google, only 1% of the world's active Android devices are still running the KitKat version, which is very few. Secondly, because the measure is not yet effective, you still have a few days to go to the Play Store to download or update apps that interest you. Finally, when Google Play services are interrupted, you can still manually install applications by downloading files in the form of APKs from other stores or websites. The operation is not always risk-free, but installing APKs is simple.
In any case, if your Android 4.4 device is still working, we strongly recommend that you use it as an accessory for ancillary, non-Internet-related uses, for obvious security reasons (alarm clock, portable music player, audio player, mini games console, GPS with downloaded maps, backup camera, etc.), installing specialized applications in versions that are still compatible. For everything else, and in particular to take full advantage of new apps, it's best to abandon it and turn to a more recent model.