Opinion: Why Pokémon GO And Ingress Dropping KitKat Support Won't Matter

Niantic Support's official Twitter channel has confirmed that it will be discontinuing support for devices that run on Android KitKat software for its Pokémon GO and Ingress games on July 1. This might seem like a big issue, but Niantic dropping support for this version of the Android operating system isn't really going to matter. At least not in the grand scheme of things.

That's not to downplay the bad news for those that are still on Android KitKat which may be playing either of these games. For those users, this is certainly not good news and there's no disputing that.

The thing is, Android KitKat makes up a very small percentage of the overall Android operating system when you look at the distribution numbers. The most recent ones displayed by Google on the Android Developers website put KitKat at only 6.9-percent of overall users worldwide. Now, 6.9-percent is no doubt going to be a lot of people, but not when compared to the number of users on Android Lollipop and later.

For contrast, Android Lollipop makes up 15.1-percent of all Android users, while Marshmallow makes up 16.9-percent. Nougat makes up 19.2-percent and Oreo makes up nearly 30-percent sitting at an exact 28.3. Android Pie rounds things out with 10.4-percent of users.

All of these versions of Android are still supported and by and large account for way more people on Android that could be playing these games than Android KitKat users. Niantic choosing to drop support for KitKat also likely has a lot to do with the amount of work it takes to keep those devices capable of running both of these games.

Ingress, and Pokémon GO especially, are growing larger in terms of file size and with all the new features it's more than likely a lot more difficult to ensure that older, less powerful versions of Android are able to run the games smoothly. When you consider this factor then it makes less sense for Niantic to keep support going when it may be less work and more fruitful to focus on continuing support for later versions of Android.

Also worth considering is that any devices on Android KitKat are probably old devices with little use, or older devices which may be hand-me-downs. New devices don't ship with KitKat, not even in emerging markets where devices are much less expensive at the cost of losing some hardware power. That's thanks to Google's work on the OS that allows even the latest versions to run on low-powered devices.

New users to the Android platform in emerging markets where smartphone growth is more rapid than in places like the US are still going to be on versions of Android that are relatively recent, so the chance that KitKat users are logging on to catch Pokémon or take over Ingress portals is probably small.

These decisions aren't ones that are made lightly especially by a company like Niantic that very clearly cares a lot about its player base.

Though the company doesn't mention anything of the sort, it probably looked at how many people using KitKat devices were playing Ingress and Pokémon GO and weighed it against how much time and resources they use up keeping support going for that version of the software, and in doing so likely realized that the time is better spent on focusing on newer Android versions where there are more players.

It's a painful realization but an inevitable one. No device is going to continue receiving support forever, and KitKat is already halfway to being a decade old. It simply doesn't make sense to keep support going for it when the number of users on it will only continue to dwindle from the already very low number.

The good news for anyone that is still on KitKat and playing one or both of these games, is that support is still being kept up for the next week or so until it hits the July 1 cutoff date. So there's still time to enjoy the game before then.

Though, it might be worth dedicating some of that time to updating software if at all possible as suggested by Niantic, as July 1 isn't that far away and Niantic has stated that more information on this change is available in-game.

Users who are still on KitKat and playing Ingress and/or Pokémon GO may want to open up the games while there is still time to see what Niantic's further details on the changes will be, but there's no stopping the change. All old software eventually dies and it's no different in this case.

Niantic knows that most of its players aren't using older devices, so continuing to support them costs time and labor. Time and labor cost money, and like any company Niantic probably doesn't see the need to spend any of those things frivolously.

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About the Author
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Justin Diaz

News Editor
Justin has written for Android Headlines since 2012 and currently adopts a Editor role with a specific focus on mobile gaming and game-streaming services. Prior to the move to Android Headlines Justin spent almost eight years working directly within the wireless industry. Contact him at [email protected]