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Explaining the WhatsApp expiration rumors: The truth and the lies

WhatsApp is a big part of the communication ecosystem in Sierra Leone, despite the low internet penetration rate in the country. According to DataReportal, an online platform that produces data on global internet usage, internet penetration in Sierra Leone stands at 29.7%.

In recent days, some messages were sent to users’ phones with the claim that Facebook will stop supporting WhatsApp on 53 types of mobile devices from November 1, 2021.  

Some users have even misinterpreted this message, suggesting that WhatsApp is about to be shut down. But, that’s not the case; WhatsApp is not shutting down and secondly, not all the 53 types of phones that were listed on the WhatsApp message will be affected.

These messages have been backed up with audio, claiming that users who don’t share the audio would now be billed for using WhatsApp, among a number of other claims.

All these messages are coming with increased frequency, on the backdrop of the sudden six-hour shutdown of Facebook and its associated apps last week–Whatsapp and Instagram.

And perhaps it is necessary to understand why millions of people are so gullible about this latest hoax.

 In the social media space in Sierra Leone, there has been some panic and as a result people are migrating to apps like Telegram. But WhatsApp has explained how people can upgrade their phones or transfer their chats from one device to another, (if you decide to change your phone). 

 Here is an entire page detailing the process on its website.

On Android operating systems, Google was the first to pull the plug when it announced in 2018 that it will no longer support Android devices that run on 4.0 systems, so users will have a difficult time finding compatible apps for their devices.

It is important to note that Google is the owner of Android, they acquired the company in 2005.

What is an Operating System?

Mobile phones have evolved, they are not just used for calling and texting, phones also have different purposes, from setting a reminder to predicting the weather pattern for the day to indicating the physical location of callers.  For modern mobile phones to be that functional, they use a software that runs the phone, from managing its resources to processing its memory, which allows the user to be able to perform multiple functions on them.

 An Example of Operating System (OS) is Apple iOS.

Smartphone users can know which OS their phone is using by going under the Setting function.

The truth about WhatsApp usage on some phones

 WhatsApp had announced early this year that the app won’t be supported on Android phones that run on O.S 4.0 or older models and it won’t run on iPhones that run on I.O.S 9 or older versions, taking the cue from Google.

 In a statement on its website, WhatsApp stated: “We provide support for and recommend using the following devices: Android running OS 4.1 and newer, iPhone running iOS 10 and newer, KaiOS 2.5.0 and newer, including JioPhone and JioPhone 2. Once you have one of these devices, install WhatsApp and register your phone number. WhatsApp can only be activated with one phone number on one device at a time.”

From WhatsApp’s statement, it is clear that the actual iPhones that will be affected are those that range from Iphone4. With the launch of IOS 8 in 2014 iPhone 4 and older models of the Apple designed smartphones could no longer be supported.

So, claims that iPhone 6, iPhone 6S plus, iPhone SE are among the list of phones that will be affected is not entirely true.  All three phones have I.O.S 10 system upgrade option available and you can use WhatsApp on it once you upgrade. Some other phones that can run on the same system include Iphone5, Iphone5C, Iphone5S. 

WhatsApp on Samsung

The following Samsung phones were listed in the message making rounds on social media with the claim that WhatsApp won’t be supported on these devices:

Galaxy Trend Lite, Galaxy Trend II, Galaxy S II, Galaxy S III, Galaxy XCover 2, Galaxy Core, Galaxy Ace.

According to Samsung’s official website and GSM Arena, of all the phones listed, only Galaxy SII and Galaxy Ace fall under the category of phones that won’t be supported by WhatsApp.  The operating system of Galaxy S II is 2.3.4 and its 2.3 for Galaxy Ace.

This further diminishes the “53 phones” claims.

A further digging into all the devices listed on that WhatsApp message could further take a number of other phones off the list.

However, despite the growing number of phones that may have been erroneously included on that list, what is certain is that millions of people could lose access to the popular messaging app, if they don’t upgrade or change their smartphones.

There is a streak of vulnerability among social media users that those who generate fake messages prey on. WhatsApp has over 2 billion users in 180 countries across the world, so there is a huge population out there who are targets.

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