Way back in 2011 Google released Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”), a major update that substantially improved the platform both for developers and for end users. This left developers with a problem: how do they take advantage of all the new features without leaving users of older devices stranded?
For most developers the answer has been to support both older and newer devices. This requires a lot of work, but it’s worth it when it means many more people can use your software.
The downside is this approach slows development, resulting in longer delays between releases. It also means developers sometimes don’t take advantage of the latest Android features, because doing so requires more time and testing to make sure the app continues to work on older devices.
We’ve followed this approach for quite a while with WordPress for Android, supporting everything from the latest devices to ones running Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”). At the same time we’ve been seeing the usage of our app decline on Gingerbread, to the point that it’s now less than 10%.
This means over 90% of our users are paying a “Gingerbread tax” – waiting longer for new versions and not seeing features that take advantage of their phones – so that we can continue supporting older devices.
We’ve decided to abolish this tax. Starting with version 2.9 of WordPress for Android – due later this month – new versions will only support devices running Android 4.0 or later. If you’re using an older phone, the previous version of our app will still appear in Google Play and you’ll still be able to use it.
We’ll be honest: our developers – including myself – are happy about this because it’ll make us more productive. But the thing we’re the happiest about is that it will result in a faster, smaller, better app for the large majority of our users.