Android 4.4 is the still by far the most popular Android tablet OS

Tens of millions of Android tablets have gone years without a security update and could be at risk of hacking. In some instances, both Google (author of the Android OS) and the tablet vendor have pulled support for the devices.

The latest data on operating system share, released by analytics firm Net Marketshare, shows 13% of tablets (that’s one in every eight) still run Android 4.4, which is nearly seven years old. 

The last time this version of Android received a security patch was in October 2017 when a fix was issued for four vulnerabilities, two of which were deemed critical.

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Other 4.x variants (Android 4.0 to Android 4.3) account for another 3% of tablets, while Android 5.x (Lollipop) devices make up nearly 10% of the userbase, making it the second most popular Android variant.

Built-in obsolescence?

Up to a billion Android smartphones still run on version 6.x or older and unpatched devices are at significant risk of being infected with malware.

Critics have highlighted the fact Android devices have a significantly shorter shelf life compared to other operating systems like Windows 7 or Windows 10.

It was not long ago that tablets were regarded as the rightful heir to the laptop throne, spawning countless articles on why “they were better than notebooks” (although that didn’t exactly pan out).

Android tablets based on Android 4.4 (AKA Kit Kat) were the first to truly bring the best out of Android on a slate form factor, boasting features that are now considered de facto standard.

Popular tablets that ran on Android 4.x include the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet LTE, Samsung Google Nexus 10 and the original Nvidia Shield tablet.

Owners of older Android tablets would be wise to check for available updates, back up their data and protect their devices using antivirus services.