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Marketers should not forget older smartphone models in rush to new software

Marketers are undoubtedly eager to try new features associated with iOS 8 but should remember a balance of old and new mobile marketing tools since a percentage of users are still on older models unable to update to the new software. 

While a  small percentage of smartphone users are operating iPhone 3 and 4 models, which face some challenges with newer versions of iOS, marketers still want to be able to reach as many highly valued iPhone users as possible with their marketing efforts. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind some oldie-but-goodie techniques, such as mobile Web and SMS. 

?As for consumers who are still using the iPhone 4, since the model is already four generations behind, statistically there are few users,? said Derrick Lin, mobile strategist at Resource/Ammirati, Columbus. ?In the rare case when brands have a noticeable amount of engaged users on old OS versions, updating to iOS 8 is not an immediate priority. 

?However, when brands do choose to upgrade, they could update their apps with a message to older version users that encourages them to leverage features from other touch points such as a mobile site and SMS. They could also tout the new benefits and features of the new app and encourage consumer to upgrade their phones.? 

Efforts going astray
Software updates are undeniable and inevitable. As marketers begin to be more comfortable with marketing techniques, such as push notifications, they must not forget about the backbones of the industry.

Apple has already made millions from preorders of the new iPhone 6, but plenty of customers are still walking around with 5s and even fewer 4s. 

?When smartphone operating system makers update their OS, the goal is to improve user experience, but a negative side effect is the fact that OS updates are rarely compatible with late model hardware,? Mr. Lin said. ?While it?s not an ideal situation for consumers who don?t regularly upgrade their devices, OS updates allow smartphone makers to stay competitive and increase demand for the latest technology.?

The challenge then is locating a middle ground. Pushing for new technology while maintaining conservation could make marketing efforts well rounded.

Marketers aiming most heavily toward Apple users can fortunately be less concerned.

?The good news is that in the iPhone world, most iPhone users are running the latest release,? said Carl Howe, vice president of data sciences research at 451 Research, Boston. ?I am a registered Apple developer, and according to the Apple Developer Web site, as of September 7, 92 percent of Apple mobile devices are currently running iOS 7. 

?The other 8 percent are likely devices that are too old for that OS, but still run fine using iOS 6 or earlier. I have an original 2007 iPhone sitting in a drawer, for example; I believe it is running iOS version 2.?

These statistics were gathered prior to the release of iOS 8, but no changes have been made according to the Developer Web site as of press deadline.

Android anxiety
For Android operating systems, the situation is a bit different. The most obvious cause of concern for marketers is Android software, as Android users are not as prevalently using the most updated software.

?Users of Apple?s iOS have a tendency to quickly upgrade to the latest version, so the issue of neglecting a large group of users is minor,? Mr. Lin said. ?However, the fragmentation of OS versions is very serious in Android. 

?Brands almost always have to take many versions into consideration when they plan app updates.?

Often times, brands will announce an update or initial release of an iOS app, but crickets are heard once Android is mentioned. Perhaps brands are more hesitant to engage with Android because of software issues, but these facts open doors for more generally focused campaigns. 

While Android users cause some grey area for marketers, they can still rely on the aforementioned oldie-but-goodie techniques.

?The Android world is where much of the challenge is because unlike Apple, Google does not control how OS releases get to devices,? Mr. Howe said. ?Instead, both carriers and device manufacturers control that process, and because upgrading a device is less financially lucrative than selling a consumer a new phone, a lot of devices are still stuck on old versions. 

?According to the Android developer Web site, as I'm also an Android developer, 12 percent of Android users are still running version 2 Android, which are Froyo and Gingerbread. Roughly 10 percent are running Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0.3-4.0.4), and 54 percent are running Jelly Bean (v4.1.x, v4.2.x, and 4.3). 

?Only 25 percent are running the latest version 4.4 called Kitkat.?

For consumers that may be having issues with their Android software, they can visit their carrier?s office, rather than making an appointment with a technician in an Apple Store. While carrier locations are much more extensive, residents in less urban areas are met with a challenge by finding a nearby Apple store.

?If you're a developer, that means that Android is harder to develop for, because only one out of every four devices is running the latest version, and therefore, you can't reliably depend on features in the latest version,? Mr. Howe said. ?It's not a problem if you are doing simple apps. 

?On the other hand, if you're trying to develop using Google's latest and greatest, your market is extremely limited compared to the iOS world, where you can be sure that 90 percent of people upgrading to the latest and greatest within about nine months.?

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York