Google Will Stop Patching Chrome on Android 4.0 Next Month

Ice Cream Sandwich's small share triggers halt to browser updates after Chrome 42

Android on Chromebook

Google today said that it would stop serving updates to Chrome for Android on devices running "Ice Cream Sandwich," or Android 4.0.x, in mid-April.

By the time Google halts updates to Chrome on Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), the three-year-old mobile operating system's share of all Android editions should have shrunk to just above 5%.

Those ICS users who rely on Chrome will be left without a way to patch security vulnerabilities in the browser, and will have to make a decision: Run Chrome nonetheless; move to a still-supported browser, like Firefox, Opera or a version of the old "stock" Android browser many device makers preloaded on their phones; update Android, if that's possible on the device; or acquire a new smartphone or tablet.

"Developing new features on older phones has become increasingly challenging, and supporting ICS takes time away from building new experiences on the devices owned by the vast majority of our users," wrote Aurimas Lutikas, a Google software engineer, on the Chromium blog today.

In a FAQ on the Chrome support stoppage, Google explained its reasoning in more detail. "Each new feature or Web capability that's added to Chrome must be built and tested for ICS. Often workarounds and special cases have to be added specifically for ICS, and that adds code complexity, slows performance and increases development time," the FAQ stated.

This was the first time that Google pulled support for Chrome on Android, as the browser's minimum OS requirement has always been ICS.

The last version of Chrome served to ICS devices will be v.42, which Google expects to release in the middle of April. "After Chrome 42, users on ICS devices can continue to use Chrome but won't get further updates," said Lutikas.

Chrome 43, slated to ship in late May, will be the first not to update on ICS.

In the seven-day stretch ending March 2, ICS powered 5.9% of all Android devices that accessed Google Play, the OS's official app distribution mart. The number, then, does not account for the large numbers of smartphones running AOSP (Android Open Source Project) in countries such as China, where use of Google Play is minimal.

By the time Chrome 42 appears, ICS's share should have dropped to 5.2%; the estimate was based on ICS's declines since early December 2014.

One alternative to Chrome for ICS users is Mozilla's Firefox, which requires Android 2.3 (aka "Gingerbread") and later; another is Opera Software's Opera, which runs on ICS and later.

ICS users could also punt, and surf with the often-tweaked older Android browser that many device makers, including Samsung and LG, continued to pre-install on their hardware long after Google introduced Chrome on Android in early 2012.

This story, "Google Will Stop Patching Chrome on Android 4.0 Next Month" was originally published by Computerworld.

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