Last week I chronicled how when shopping for a new smartphone I was delighted to find a no-name Chinese brand phone for 1,100 pesos that provided all the features and capabilities of a name-brand phone costing 8,000. That no-name phone was still working well three years later when I decided to replace it only because the software Operating System was out of date and could not be updated.
The no-name Chinese manufacturer followed the sell-it-and-forget-it policy with regards to software updates. No matter how serious the software bug, how urgent the need to fix the bug, how much the bug put the customer in danger, the manufacturer just does not give a damn. No updates! They got their money when they sold you the phone, and that is the end of the story.
The problem with sell-it-and-forget-it is that today many people use their cell phones for banking and other important communications that need to be secure. Using an insecure cell phone to access your bank account creates the potential for cybercrooks to compromise your account and steal your funds. Understanding this, many banks and financial institutions code their smartphone apps not to run on any phone more than three or four years old. That was the situation in which I found myself when the apps for my banks all stopped working.
In a paper titled “Understanding the Product Lifecycle of a Smartphone,” Samsung Corporation explains the usable life of the smartphones it manufactures, which may be broadly applied to other brands. The usable life of a smartphone is about physical attributes as well as the ability to update software. It is of great importance whether or not it will continue to be supported by the manufacturer with ongoing firmware and security updates.
Samsung’s paper lays out its own policy commitment to two years of market availability (two years during which a particular model will be available for sale) and three years of monthly security updates. That general timetable is also followed by Apple and Google.
It is unclear to me whether the aforementioned policy means that a new Samsung phone will receive updates the two years after it is purchased, plus three more years, or only for the three years. What I am very clear on is that my banks will not let me use my three-year-old no-name phone because it cannot be updated to the latest software version.
If you only use your smartphone to make phone calls, snap photos, and play music, you can do that with a phone that is many years old. But if you also use your smartphone for online banking, you will need to buy a new one about every three years. Regrettably, this new normal has been forced on us by the need to be safe online.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8@SMAguru.com.