Ever wondered why mobile apps, particularly those on Android, need to be updated so frequently? Reasons are many: The fragmented nature of Android ecosystem, absence of a standard user interface, growing cyberattacks and stiff competition from rivals.
The updates occur more frequently on Android compared to iOS, simply because there are more Android devices out there. According to a StatCounter report, 75.33% of mobile devices run on Android operating system (OS) while only 22.4% run on Apple’s iOS, as of March 2019. “Many users with a wide range of phones means there is more likelihood of your users experiencing a bug," says Sachin Dev Duggal, founder and CEO of Engineer.ai. Also, updates to iOS apps require a more stringent approval process than Android. Therefore iOS developer bunch together multiple bug fixes and do the updates less frequently, points out Anil Chopra, vice president-research and Consulting at CyberMedia Research. There is also the issue of OS fragmentation. According to the Android distribution dashboard published on 26 October, 2018, the four-year-old Android Lollipop runs on over 17% of devices while Marshmallow runs on 21% of devices.
Duggal points out that for numerous devices, a developer has to write multiple lines of code keeping in mind the Android OS and hardware compatibility. This can make the app bulky which is not so in the case of iOS.
Besides hardware, governmental policies also impacts the software development industry as a whole.
Many of the updates are also rolled out to address bugs that originate due to compatibility issues with the custom user interface (UI) or version of OS.
Third-party updates is another reason for the frequent updates. “Think, for example, of the number of times the Facebook login API changes. Or, alternatively, when a payment gateway changes. Or maybe there’s a new product feature which could really benefit from a push notification, for example, when notifications were not previously included as a core feature. Apps are businesses and they need to keep up the momentum to remain both relevant and profitable," says Duggal.
Further, despite strict verification systems in place, malicious apps show up on the Play Store from time to time, simply because millions of apps are downloaded every year. “Developers have to continuously monitor their apps for vulnerabilities and ensure that their apps remain secure," points out Chopra.
Users can always choose to skip automatic updates if they want. But skipping these updates can prove risky.
According to McAfee labs, software updates take up a few minutes and may not seem that important. But not updating them regularly is a mistake and can open the door for hackers and latest security threats.
The recurrent update cycle can be annoying for users, but at the end of the day, they are only trying to improve user experience by ensuring the apps are running smoothly and in sync with the software and hardware of the device.