Google has announced that it will drop support for some of its older Android versions when it delivers the next update to its Google Play services libraries.
The current release supports Android API level 9, which goes all the way back to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. But when version 10.2.0 of the Google Play services client libraries is released, Google will increase the minimum supported API level to 14, making Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich the oldest supported version of the OS. That change will inevitably see the end of support for Android 3.0 Honeycomb too.
The Gingerbread platform is almost six years old. Many Android developers have already discontinued support for Gingerbread in their apps. This helps them build better apps that make use of the newer capabilities of the Android platform. For us, the situation is the same. By making this change, we will be able to provide a more robust collection of tools for Android developers with greater speed.
The latest official data from Google shows that 1.3% of Android devices are now running Gingerbread, while less than 0.1% are on Honeycomb, and Google says it believes "that many of these old devices are not actively being used".
While older Gingerbread and Honeycomb devices will still have access to Google Play services using the version 10.0.0 libraries, apps built and maintained with the newest 10.2.0 libraries will no longer work on those earlier versions of the OS. Google says that developers "can build multiple APKs that support different minimum API levels, with different versions of Google Play services" - but it's unlikely that many developers will be willing to put in the effort required to do so for such a small proportion of users.
Google itself recommends that developers now target API level 14 and Android 4.0.1 as the minimum supported version, and that they should "discontinue support for API levels that will no longer receive Google Play services updates".
Google hasn't yet announced an exact date for these changes, but says that version 10.2.0 of the Google Play Services client libraries will be released "in early 2017".
Source: Android Developers Blog