When we turn on our new newly purchased smartphone, one of the first steps that tells us that we must perform is to update the applications that are installed. This may surprise us, but the reality is that app updates will always accompany us.

If we do not activate the function to be performed automatically, our phone will remind us continuously through constant notifications. We may wonder why they are necessary or what happens if we deny them.

An unfinished product

software application is, in general, an ever-evolving tool. If this were not the case, it would most likely disappear from the market in the short term. The development of an app does not end, much less, when it is left accessible to users in a virtual store.

Much remains to be done to retain those who have already installed it and increase the chances of attracting new stakeholders. Let’s not forget that one of the criteria that you look at most when choosing an application is its popularity, determined by the number of users who already have it downloaded.

The most common reasons applications are updated are to fix bugs, improve their performance, improve their interface, and include new features. Reasons that are explained in more detail below.

  • Although the process of developing an application should include thorough testing, the tool will never be tested enough until end users use it. That’s when potential failures will be detected. These errors, often reported by those who use it, must be fixed quickly, otherwise they will uninstall it.
  • The performance of an application is also a key point for the user. We like apps to respond quickly when we interact with them. If we perceive that with its use the phone is slowing or consumes more battery than usual, we may consider looking for another tool to replace it.
  • Interface enhancements are another key point. Users generally prefer simple and attractive interfaces to the eyes,which allow us to access the functionality that we want in the fastest and easiest way possible. We don’t like going through multiple screens, pressing multiple buttons or filling out long forms to get what we want. Any improvement in this regard will always be well received.

    Sometimes, these interface changes are necessary to adapt to the style guides that define the design of new versions of operating systems.

  • Many applications see light with a limited number of features that are completed over time. The rhythms of the market impose it. Probably, some of the new features included didn’t make sense when it was initially created. Others are demanded by users themselves through the forums that app stores have. Fulfilling the wishes of the recipients will always facilitate their loyalty.

Let’s not forget either that the frequency of updates has psychological implications.

On the one hand, continuous modifications make a bad impression for us: we can think that the software contains many errors that need to be corrected continuously. On the other hand, its scarcity can convey the opposite idea: that the developer does not try to improve or give us the best possible service. That’s why setting good times for upgrades is a big challenge for your managers.

In general, if we use an app we should update it to continue enjoying it

In addition, updates also have a certain marketing component. Having non-specialized media echo the new functionality of an application makes users eager to receive it. Proof of this anxiety is that alternative channels are sometimes used to install the new version before it is available in the official store. This is not a best practice because official app stores perform controls on the apps they offer, while other platforms do not.

The importance of reviewing changes

In general, if we use an app we should update it to continue enjoying it. For us, some of the improvements may not be necessary, even though we liked the previous interface more, but it is always good to have a version that corrects programming errors that could be used to access the information that we store on our mobiles (contacts, messages, personal notes, locations of our house, our work, photographs, videos, etc.).

However, consenting to the update doesn’t mean we have to just accept it— it’s important to examine the changes you have. The usual ones are those indicated in the previous paragraph, but in some cases, an update may lead to permission changes that the previous version did not need and that we may not want to give, such as those that give an application the shopping list access to our contact book.

When the update involves new permissions, the application must indicate it and the user must explicitly accept them for the new version to be installed. Typically, a notification appears asking for the user to complete the update. When opened, a screen to accept the new permissions or not appears. If there is no consent, it will not be installed.

Similarly, there may be changes to data usage policies that jeopardize our privacy, a precious asset that we should preserve. Let’s not forget that a mobile stores a lot of personal information that misused can compromise our lives. As in the previous case, these modifications must also be explicitly accepted by the user for the new version to be installed.

In general, companies are very careful about this issue because they can have problems if they don’t have the approval of users. But there is a risk that they will not read the information and click accept automatically. It is important that we be aware that it is ourselves who protect our data.

If after reviewing all these aspects we decide that it is better not to perform the update, what would happen to the application?

There is no single answer and it depends a lot on developer decisions. Nothing could happen and it keeps working without problem or it could stop. This will depend, in large part, on whether that application interacts with external applications to function, such as a web service: the server may only respond to updated versions.

Operating system updates

While updating applications is important, I don’t want to finish this article without remembering the importance of operating system updates, especially those dedicated to resolving a detected vulnerability, what we know as security patches.

From the point of view of cyber criminals, it is much more beneficial to find a vulnerability in the operating system that allows access to data from all applications than one in a particular application. Even if you develop them, it doesn’t work hard to ensure that you don’t have errors.

In this case, if we decide not to install the update, the phone will not necessarily slow down. When a mobile is released to the market, it is validated that the operating system version is suitable for the hardware (processor, memory, …). And the same should be done for updates.

What’s more, some older mobiles do not receive updates (they should receive security patches) because the new version of the operating system could not run because of hardware limitations. The manufacturer’s own leave, which prefers you to buy a new phone model, can also cause some phones to never receive operating system updates.

In multi-manufacturer operating systems, such as Android, users should purchase those mobiles whose manufacturer guarantees us at least security patches for the lifetime of our device. With this and the responsibility of knowing why our apps are updated, we will have the precious information that stores our mobile safely.