Is "bit rot" appropriate as a term to describe how software on a mobile phone appears to degrade in performance as a consequence of receiving updates which are intended for a more powerful hardware platform?

I am torn, since I always understood this term to refer to the degradation in the performance of an immutable piece of software as a consequence to a change in its environment.

In the example given above, it appears that the change is the other way around, and so a degradation in performance is experienced due to the hardware of the platform being immutable and being pushed to its limits by greater demands in the software.

  • In language terms, 'bit rot' has a meaning and is grammatical. However it's appropriateness with regard to software and phones would be better suited to one of the technical communities on Stack Exchange in my opinion. Jul 29, 2015 at 11:45
  • 1
    Sounds more like silicon rot.
    – TimR
    Jul 29, 2015 at 11:53
  • To my knowledge, the term has always been somewhat vaguely defined.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:13

2 Answers 2


To this engineer's ears, that sounds more like a description of a hardware issue such as flash memory degradation or lack of memory retention.

I would think something like software bloat would convey the intended meaning better.

  • 2
    Software is never inefficient, it is designed for the next generation of hardware. :)
    – TimR
    Jul 29, 2015 at 13:11

Bit rot is the supposed reason why unchanged software seems to suddenly fail after a long time working correctly. It isn't applied to problems due to upgrading, no matter how annoying they are.

  • You're right, but I think a bit of leeway is a good idea in the context of mobile systems in which updates are not always obvious and an update to a seemingly unrelated part of the system may break your application. To some extent both of these are true on desktop operating systems as well but the issue seems more marked on mobile.
    – Chris H
    Jul 30, 2015 at 7:23

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