WhatsApp ending support for BB10 and older Androids may affect millions of South Africans

If you’re currently using a smartphone running on old operating systems, we have some bad news: WhatsApp may be killing support for the OS your device is running on.

The world’s biggest instant messaging service has announced it will be ending support for mobiles running BlackBerry 10 and older, Android 2.2 and older, Windows 7.1, Nokia S40 and Nokia Symbian S60 by the end of this year.

“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future,” the company said.

While this may not mean much for those in developed countries, many users in developing countries like South Africa will essentially have one of the most widely used apps in the world cut off.

According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, over 90% people in South Africa have a mobile phone.

However, other data showed that the majority of mobile users don’t own a smartphone, but rather a 2G internet-enabled phone, or dumb phone (phones with no internet access at all).

Smartphones are more common in Europe, U.S., less so in developing countries

Just above 50% of adults have a phone not considered a smartphone (one that can connect to the internet and access sites services such as Facebook and WhatsApp, but not download apps).

Global divide on smartphone ownership

The latest data by market researchers World Wide Worx revealed that there are over four million BlackBerry users in South Africa and that WhatsApp has over 10 million users in South Africa.

The instant messaging service also happens to be the most popular instant messaging service in the country, followed by WeChat, according to the GlobalWebIndex.


Now, if the majority of mobile users in South Africa own phones that support the versions WhatsApp is cutting off, that could mean the above number will see a significant decrease.

“This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp. If you use one of these affected mobile devices, we recommend upgrading to a newer Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone before the end of 2016 to continue using WhatsApp,” the company said.

Considering that affordability is one of the main reasons why many can’t afford a mobile that supports the latest operating system version, the above statement seems easier said than done.

While users on Android 2.1 and 2.2, as well as Windows 7.1 have the option to upgrade to a higher version, BlackBerry 10 and Nokia Symbian on the other hand aren’t so lucky.

The only other options users will have is to use WeChat.




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