Old phones and updates – part 2…

By | June 15, 2020

Last week, I wrote to you about old equipment and when it starts being risky to use it online.

We’ve had several people writing in asking how to find out whether or not their phone or tablet is still getting updates, and what to do if it isn’t.

The simple one first – what to do if it isn’t getting updates any more

At the end of the day, it’s your choice – people use old devices every day and the world doesn’t end.  But if you have credit card or bank details stored, or you have a browser like Chrome remembering your passwords (rather than something like LastPass), then an out of date operating system does put that information at risk.

Like I said last week – you’re unlikely to be a direct target, but thieves do tend to be opportunists.

If you have an old device that you don’t want to replace, you could just use it without an internet connection – but that rules out things like email, WhatsApp, Facebook and most of the other things you’d want to use it for.  So I wouldn’t really recommend that.

If you’re looking to just reduce your risks, I suggest you avoid using the web browser (e.g. Chrome) because that gives crooks various ways onto your device.  And store as little personal information as possible on your phone or tablet, so it isn’t a disaster if it does get hacked.

Your safest route, though, is to upgrade to something newer.

How to find out whether your phone’s still getting updates

Now this one is a bit trickier, for two reasons.  The first reason is that different phones and tablets are all a bit different from each other, but I’ll do my best with that.  

The other reason has only just occurred to me, actually.  It wasn’t until I started writing this that I realised just how insane some of the messages you get from Apple or Google really are!  So, phones and tablets automatically check for updates and let you know if there are any to install – which works fine until they get to the point where they can’t run the newest version of the system.  

After that, if you check for updates, it’ll just tell you that “Your software is up to date”.  But.  But, no it isn’t!  That’s the point!  What a thoroughly useless message!!  There are still ways to tell whether your phone actually means up-to-date, or is just lying to you though…

On an iPhone or iPad: Open the Settings app and tap on “General” in the list of categories.  Then tap “Software Update”.  It’ll check for updates and tell you which version of iOS you have – the current version is iOS 13.  If yours is on an older version (a lower number), but it says “Your software is up to date”, that means your device is too old to get the most recent security updates.  Apple release a new version of iOS towards the end of the year every year – so we’re expecting iOS 14 some time in September.

On an Android phone or tablet:  Open the Settings app and search for a setting called either “About”, “About phone” or “About tablet”.  That might take you straight to a screen full of information, or you might need to tap on something like “Software information” first.  Once you get onto that screen, you’re looking for “Android security patch level” – and there’ll be a date under it.  If the date is more than 6 months ago, you don’t have the most recent security update.  You can check whether there are any more updates available for you by searching in the settings for “Update” (the setting you want will be called something like “System Updates” or “Software Updates”).  You’ll have a button to tap to check for updates – it might say “check for updates”, “download updates manually” or any number of other similar options.

Or if you can’t face trawling through your Settings app to check – there’s a simple rule of thumb.  Android devices get updates for about three years. Apple devices get updates for more like five or six years.  But remember that that’s from when the model comes out – not when you buy it.  For example, you can still buy an iPhone 7 brand new – but that model is already four years old (so I wouldn’t).

By the way – I’ve finally chosen a new phone.  After much umming and ahhing, toing and froing, I decided to just go for a newer version of the one I had before!  Creature of habit…

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