Why do smartphones need continuous updates to work? And why are updates so frequent?

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Edit – also why do phone refuse to work without an update or force you to do so? (Like my phone forcing an update and restarting itself)

I imagine it’s just programming built into a phones os to keep all other smartphones “on the same page” since they all deal with internet but is it actually necessary for operation?

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Same reason your computer and other devices need to be updated.
Because technology and potential threats are always changing and/or improving. Without updates, you’d be missing out on new or improved features, and be vulnerable to new threats

Many reasons for updates, usually to patch holes in the security of the app, but sometimes they’re done to improve backend processes, or to make aestetic changes or add new features and settings.

The updates are a mixture of security fixes, bug fixes and feature improvements.

The frequency is because of security issues, you don’t want to have to wait 6 months to patch a bug that lets someone remotely take over your phone.

They are forced because the one consistent behaviour of people with internet connected devices is that they don’t install patches unless they are forced to. Companies got fed up with getting blamed for security holes that they fixed but people hadn’t installed the patch for.

If they weren’t connected to the internet and didn’t need new apps, they wouldn’t. They need security updates to fend off malicious code and attacks. (Newly found vulnerabilities require a code change to fix.) Security updates will rarely if ever break your installed apps. Feature updates (the ones where the first number in the version number changes) are needed to support new APIs (application programming interfaces, the code available to all the apps) that apps might use. These can break your installed apps because once in a while, an old API is removed. If an app was using that API, and there’s no update for it to use whatever replaced the API, the app won’t work anymore. But, eventually a phone’s software will become too outdated to run modern apps, so keeping it up to date will mean new and updated apps can run on it.