Google today announced Chrome will be dropping support for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). This change will go into effect with the release of Chrome 42, the last version for ICS and which is currently slated to arrive in mid-April.
After Chrome 42, ICS devices won’t get any more updates. In other words, when Chrome 43 is released at the end of May, it won’t work on ICS. These Android users will be able to keep using Chrome, of course, but they’ll be stuck on the old version.
Android 4.0 was first released in December 2011. When Chrome first arrived as a beta for Android devices in February 2012, it was only available for ICS, the latest version of Android at the time. Since then, Google has released 24 new Chrome versions and three new major Android versions (Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop).
Here is the company’s explanation as to why it is dropping support for Android 4.0:
In the last year, we’ve seen the number of Chrome users running ICS drop by thirty percent. 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.
The FAQ adds a bit more detail:
While the number of Ice Cream Sandwich devices is shrinking, supporting them in terms of engineering effort and technical complexity is increasingly difficult over time. 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 number of ICS devices is now sufficiently small that we can better serve our users by phasing out support for earlier devices and focusing on making Chrome better for the vast majority of users on more modern devices.
Google is getting the 30 percent figure quote above from its Platform Versions page, which is based on data gathered from the Google Play Store app. The Android adoption figures were updated just yesterday, and the latest figures peg ICS at 5.9 percent adoption:
ICS peaked in February 2013 at 29 percent adoption. It has been dropping ever since as new Android versions and new devices shipping with them have been released.
Google’s decision today is a big deal and sets a precedent for other Android apps. Many new releases support Android 4.0 and above, but if Google is starting to drop support, third-party developers may consider following suit.