Google has started emailing users of very old Android devices to tell them it’s time to say goodbye.
As of September 27, devices running Android 2.3.7 and below will no longer be able to log into Google services, effectively destroying much of the Android experience on track. As Google says in an official community post, “If you log in to your device after September 27, you may get username or password errors when you try to use Google products and services such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.”
Android is one of the most cloud-based operating systems ever. Especially in older versions, many included apps and services were tied to your Google login, and if that doesn’t work anymore, much of your phone will be bricked up. While Android can update many core components without shipping a full system update today, Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread, released about 10 years ago, wasn’t quite as modular.
The individual Google apps started updating through the Android Market/Play Store, but signing in to Google was still a system-level service and is frozen in time. Any Google services that want to allow logins from those versions must comply with 2011-era security standards, meaning you’ll need to disable two-factor authentication (2FA) and enable a special ‘allow less secure access’ setting in your Google account . Really, these old Android versions have to die eventually because they are just too insecure.
Google shows active user base breakdowns for Android versions in Android Studio, and Gingerbread has such a low number of devices that it’s not even on the list. It’s less than 0.2 percent of active devices, behind 14 other versions of Android. Users of these old devices can still sideload a third-party app store and find replacements for all Google apps, but if you’re a tech user and can’t get a new device, chances are you can load a brand new one. operating system with an aftermarket Android ROM.
After September 27, Android 3.0 Honeycomb is the oldest version of Android you can sign up for, just for tablets. This operating system still isn’t modular, but Google realized that login security updates would become a problem in the future, and Honeycomb added a “login via browser” option to the initial install. The hard-coded Android login can still be broken, but “login via browser” will send you to a web page – which can be updated with newer technology – and then forward that login to the operating system. It’s still not enough to save Honeycomb from being “less secure app” and it doesn’t work well with 2FA, but it’s enough to keep the OS for now.
The login procedure can be updated in Android 5.0 Lollipop, which checks for initial installation updates before you even log in.
These devices have been obsolete for a while, so it’s not a big deal for everyday use, but Google’s server shutdowns are a conservationist’s nightmare. These days anyone can boot an old Apple II or install Windows 1.0 on an old computer and see the full experience, but once Google shuts down sign-in support, old versions of Android dead† If you can’t sign in to Google, say goodbye to Android Market, Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Talk. The base OS still works, but you can’t do anything that people have actually done on these phones. you will never be able to see these apps working on the phones again barring some sort of crazy login emulation system.
This isn’t the first time Google has disabled older versions of Android for increased login security. The apps from the Android 1.0 era have been broken for years. Here at Ars, we saw all this coming and documented every early version of Android in this massive article. The apps may not work anymore, but we always have the screenshots.