Yes, you read that right: "is your Android phone stale?" asks Christopher Budd, Threat Communications manager at Trend Micro.
"How can a phone be stale and how can you tell?" Budd questions.
"It’s not like bread where you can squeeze it and tell it’s stale because it’s hard and know it’s not good to eat."
A phone can be stale when its operating system is out of date according to Budd. You know the operating system? The program on your phone that makes everything else run? That's the one.
"It’s what you use to install and navigate to all the apps you use," explains Budd. "Every time you look at your phone and its icons, you’re looking at the operating system."
Just like any app or program, an operating system can have security bugs. And companies that make operating systems give updates to fix these bugs, just like companies that sell apps and programs do.
"The problem is that not all Android phones get the latest updates," Budd warns.
"In most cases, your wireless carrier (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) or your phone maker (Motorola, HTC, Samsung) decide what updates they want people on their phones and networks to have.
"And so they often don’t make updates available. For instance, my two-year-old Android phone hasn’t gotten an update in nearly two years.
"This means if you’ve got a stale Android phone, it’s probably got unfixed security issues (I know mine does)."
What can you do about stale Android phones?
What can you do about this? First, you can check to see if your phone is out of date or not according to Budd, in your phone’s settings, look for something that says “About Phone.”
"Different Android phones have different layouts, so you might have to look around for it," he advises. "Once you find it, look for something that says “Android version.” The current version is 4.2 – so if you have something earlier than that, it may be stale (mine is 2.3.5…very old).
"If your phone is stale, the best thing you can do is to make sure you run a security program on it. That won’t fix the holes but can help protect you if someone tries to take advantage of them."
How not to end up with a stale phone?
Budd says the other thing you can do is to try and not end up on a phone that will be stale in the first place.
"Android phones have a real problem with going stale because the makers and carriers don’t support them very well," he says.
"Apple’s iPhone has a better record of keeping up-to-date.
"If you like Android, you can get a Nexus phone from Google directly: they keep the Nexus up-to-date a lot like Apple does with the iPhone.
"You can also look at Windows Phones and BlackBerry phones: they also do a good job of keeping up-to-date.
"If you want another Android phone, though, you may have to accept that you’ll end up with one that’ll go stale at some point.
"If you get one, make sure you get a security program for it."