Decommission APIs used by old versions of your mobile app

Switch off without losing users

Gabrielle Earnshaw
Geek Culture
Published in
4 min readMay 25, 2021


Photo by Piret Ilver on Unsplash

You can’t guarantee that users will ever update to the latest version of an app, so you can expect that a few users will remain on every historic version of your app.

APIs that support your app are likely to evolve. Maintaining and running old versions of an API is expensive. You need to pay for the platform it runs on, you need to pay for the maintenance needed to keep it secure and working. Sooner or later, you should decommission it.

However, when you turn an API off, any historic versions of your app still using it will stop working. This could also be expensive. You could lose users who are contributing to your revenue stream. Or, you might get poor ratings in the App Stores, making it harder and more expensive for you to acquire new users.

To decide if or when to decommission an API, you need to balance the cost of keeping the API alive with the cost of losing users. This article covers the things you need to consider when assessing when and how you should decommission your API.

Understand why users haven’t upgraded

There may be good reasons why your users haven’t upgraded to the latest version yet.

  1. They might have automatic updates switched off, and haven’t chosen to manually update yet.
  2. They might know they need to update, but they don’t know how. If you ask users to update, make the UX as simple as possible.
  3. Updating the app might mean that they lose access to features they use. They might have been removed from the app, or they might be behind a paywall in later versions.
  4. Their device might have an OS that doesn’t support the app’s latest version. E.g., if they are an iPhone user on iOS 12 and your latest app version supports iOS 14 and above, they won’t be able to update to it. They would need to update their OS to be able to update.
  5. They might be on an old version of the OS because they are using old hardware that doesn’t support the latest version. These users would need new hardware to update.



Gabrielle Earnshaw
Geek Culture

Mobile app technologist. CTO at Bearable, and creator of @Tasktimerappuk and Windsurf Caddy