Upgrade or die?

Okay, follow my logic on this.

The UK government has made a huge fuss about a piece of software developed by Apple and Google together I understand. This is the NHS Covid 19 app. It uses your mobile phone and Bluetooth to look at your location over the course of the day and determine whether you have been in close proximity to somebody suffering from coronavirus infection. It’s full of other bits as well telling you about symptoms and so forth. And it’s pretty firm on what you should do if you start to cough, can’t smell the roses or get hot under the collar.

With me so far?

Okay I’m not going to dive into the civil liberty issues – where does all this information go and who has access and why – and take the thing at face value. The rather Huxleyesque overtones of this detailed surveillance are a subject for another blog on another day. Let’s just assume that this is an honest piece of software devised by our governments for our own benefit (although I recognise that sentence seems more absurd reading it a second time).

So, being a good and obedient citizen, I chose to download it. Simple enough you would think. After all every TV and radio advertisement break has been exhorting us to do exactly that.

I have an iPhone 6+, the ever so slightly larger version of the iPhone 6, made for those of plumper finger and weaker eyesight (such as myself). I bought it in the latter part of 2014 as a birthday present to myself. Apart from the usual patronising gobbledygook from the salesman, the purchase process was largely painless.

And let’s face it, that’s not always the case when you are buying technology above your pay grade. More than once I have been clubbed into purchasing inappropriate and needless “support” services only to find myself transferred from one geek to another in an endless vortex of deliberate obfuscation.

I digress. On this occasion the process was painless. A quarter hour spent transferring the contents of my previous phone (an iPhone 4) onto the new phone and I was good to go.

After a couple of years, O2 contacted me with details of the upgrade that was available to me. Indeed their wording made it seem much less an invitation than an expectation. My contract had expired and I was therefore eligible for a new phone. All I had to do was go to their webpage where a veritable cornucopia of telephonic devices strutted their stuff. What the “invitation” omitted to mention was that the spanking new phone would commit me to another two-year contract. Under contract in which I would have to pay for this phone. It was taken as read that every right-thinking individual on the planet would automatically want to upgrade their phone every two years or yearly or whatever.

On the other hand, my existing phone, worked fine. I have never suffered from phone envy, never been tempted by these concoctions of brushed aluminium and chrome. Remember I’m from Yorkshire. We are not easily swayed by these fancies. So rather than tie myself into a new contract with the new phone, “practically a gift” at £48 per month for two years, I elected to persevere with my iPhone 6+, paying only for the airtime at around £20 a month.

All fine and dandy. The iPhone 6+ continues to work well and allows me to do most if not all of what I want. I can make phone calls, send and receive texts, trawl the Internet, write blogs, make podcasts, read and write emails and probably a whole bundle more things that I have never taken the trouble to learn. The phone has served me well and, up until now, continues to do so.

This is where I get to the point. And I can hear that collective sigh of relief.

I log onto the Apple store, locate the app, click the “get” button, authenticate myself with my fingerprint and wait. After a second or two a pop-up informs me that I need to upgrade my operating system to iOS 13.5 before installation can proceed.

A quick check in the phone settings informs me that my phone has iOS 12.4.8 as its operating system. Ah, that will be the problem thinks I. I asked the phone to check for upgrades and to download them where appropriate. It does nothing. “Computer says no”. Not only is iOS 12.4.8 the current operating system on my phone, it is as good as I’m ever going to get. For the iPhone 6+, life ends at iOS 12.4.8. Stop those foolish dreams of iOS 13.5. You are obsolete.

Well I’ve been called many things in my time so “obsolete” doesn’t hurt. Besides, I didn’t want this stupid app anyway. See if I care.

But that’s exactly the problem. I do care. I do want the app. I want to be protected and to help my fellow man.

The wider implications, and this is where I was heading all along, are that people with older phones will not be protected. And what kind of people predominantly own old phones? That’s right. Old people have old phones. The very people who are most vulnerable to Covid 19 have been thrown under a bus. Not for them the protection of a spanking new iPhone. Some don’t even have smartphones at all. They will die in their droves (just remember that, Richard).

So the options for the elderly, whether chronologically or technologically senile, are very simple. They can either cash in their pensions to buy the latest iPhone, at the price of a second-hand car or they can take their chances in that great Covid lottery.

Perhaps it should be Apple’s new slogan – “Upgrade or die”. You’ve got to admit it’s catchy.