Monday, April 15, 2024

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Which company has the most effective policy for updating their software in the mobile industry?


google pixel 8 pro rear obsidian 1

Credit: Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
Opinion post by
Andrew Grush

In the past, Android was not known for timely software updates. However, in recent years, there has been significant improvement in this area. By 2023, it’s common for top-of-the-line Android phones to receive several years of operating system updates and security patches. Even some budget phones now receive at least one OS upgrade. Of course, not all manufacturers have the same level of dedication to providing software updates.

Google and Samsung are both top contenders in providing software support for the Android market. However, neither has been able to match Apple’s exceptional support until recently. Google has just revealed a significant update to its policy, which is highly commendable. The competition is intensifying, but it’s not easy to determine who has the superior software update policy in the mobile industry.

The newest ruler is Google, but not without certain limitations.

google pixel 8 pro camera car all colors

Credit: Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google Pixel was one of the best Android phones for long-term software support until Samsung took over with the Galaxy S22. It seems Google isn’t content to let this situation remain. The new Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro promise an impressive seven years of OS updates, seven years of security patches, and seven years of Android feature drops.

This type of enduring assistance is unparalleled. Even Apple does not provide this level of dedication. While we are delighted with this assurance, there are certain conditions to note. For instance, Google has stated that this new update pledge does not extend to its older devices. This implies that the Pixel Fold, Pixel 7, and any devices older than those will only receive three major operating system updates and five years of security patches.

Google has not officially promised to support all upcoming Pixel devices for seven years. While it’s possible that the Google Pixel 9 or Pixel Fold 2 may receive the same treatment, it’s uncertain if the more affordable Pixel 8a will receive the same level of support. However, Google’s recent commitment gives us hope that they will continue to maintain high standards in the future.

Apple is the most historically consistent with its software updates

Apple iPhone 15 Pro with older iPhones in background

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

From the early days of Android, we have all bemoaned the issue of fragmentation caused by manufacturers neglecting to properly support their devices. In contrast, Apple has consistently shown a strong dedication to providing updates.

In the past, even the first iPhones received at least three updates, while Android updates were scarce. With the release of the iPhone 6, Apple started supporting its phones for at least five years. The iPhone 6S, which came with iOS 9, continued to receive updates until iOS 15, which is quite impressive.

Apple’s update policy has always been vague and lacking official guarantees. Each phone is individually assessed by Apple for updates. Despite the iPhone 8 and iPhone X being released much later than the iPhone 6S, they only received five years of operating system updates.

In general, Apple provides support for its phones as long as there are no significant alterations to the operating system that would have a negative impact on performance. The duration of support may also be influenced by the long-term popularity of the phone. The positive news is that all iPhone models can expect to receive updates for at least five years. This includes even the newer iPhone 15 and more affordable options like the iPhone SE.

in the Android world

Samsung remains one of the top providers of long-term software support within the Android community.

samsung galaxy s23 ultra hero

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google may have surpassed Samsung in terms of update policies for the Pixel 8, but Samsung remains dedicated to providing updates. The company promises four years of operating system updates and five years of security patches for the Galaxy S21 and newer models. This policy also applies to their newer Flip/Fold devices, such as the Galaxy Tab S8, Galaxy Watch 4, and select members of the Galaxy A series geared towards a more budget-friendly market.

Can you provide information on Samsung’s more affordable devices, such as the Galaxy M series? While not all Samsung Android phones receive a four-year commitment, they are all guaranteed at least three years of OS updates and four years of software patches.

Samsung has gained a strong following among Android users due to its consistent long-term support. This applies to those with limited funds as well, as they can expect regular security updates and operating system upgrades. A notable advantage is that Samsung is usually quick to release new versions of Android, particularly for their premium devices, in comparison to other non-Google manufacturers.

four times in

Xiaomi is dedicated to providing updates for its top-of-the-line devices, with a minimum of four updates.

Xiaomi 13T unboxing Eufracio López 502 3

Credit: Eufracio López 502

Xiaomi has just revealed that they will be providing four years of operating system updates and five years of security patches for their Xiaomi 13T and 13T Pro models. This could possibly continue for all their upcoming high-end models as well. However, it should be noted that while this may seem promising, Xiaomi has a history of being delayed with updates, sometimes taking up to six months or longer to release them after Google has launched a new OS version. It’s also important to mention that this promise of four years of OS updates does not extend to their mid-range or budget phone options.

Xiaomi has stated its dedication to providing security patches for a minimum of two years on all of its products. However, there is no definite guarantee for operating system updates or a commitment to delivering updates promptly.

The update policy of OnePlus and OPPO is superior to many others, but still has some flaws.

OnePlus 11 With Oxygen OS 14 Beta Home Screen Phone In Hand

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Oneplus and OPPO are effectively the same company, sharing the same staff and resources. This includes the same commitment to Android updates as well. Recently, OPPO promised its 2023 flagships would receive at least four OS upgrades and five years of patches, similar to Samsung’s policy. This also applies to the OnePlus 11.

Although this may seem promising, OPPO and OnePlus have a history of not following through with their promised updates. A prime example is the OnePlus 9, which experienced significant performance issues upon the release of its Android 12 update. Additionally, the company is known for being slow in delivering updates.

Their dedication does not extend to mid-range and budget smartphones, although we do acknowledge their effort to clarify this. Mid-range devices will receive two years of operating system updates and three years of security patches, while budget phones will only receive one OS upgrade and two years of patches.

Fairphone seems impressive on paper.

Fairphone 5 10

Credit: Damien Wilde / Android Authority

Fairphone is renowned for incorporating eco-friendly methods in the creation of their smartphones, with the ultimate aim of reducing their environmental footprint. In addition to being easily fixable, Fairphone devices also boast exceptional long-term software maintenance.

The company has consistently been ahead of the game, even preceding Samsung and Google. The Fairphone 2 was launched in 2015 and continued to receive updates for almost seven and a half years. In a more recent development, the Fairphone 5 has extended its commitment to updates. It now guarantees five years of Android updates and 8 years of security patches.

Although it may seem ideal in theory, there is a drawback. Fairphone does not guarantee yearly operating system updates or regular security patches. In simpler terms, you will receive long-term support but not the most reliable consistency.

Things will only get worse from this point on.

motorola edge plus 2023 in front of box

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The top three brands that prioritize updates are Google, Samsung, and Apple. The positive development is that Xiaomi, OnePlus, and OPPO are making efforts to improve their update process. Even Motorola, known for poor updates since being acquired by Lenovo, has committed to providing three years of major operating system updates and four years of security updates for the Edge Plus until 2023.

It remains to be seen if companies such as Motorola will follow through on their commitments, as there is currently no concrete evidence to support this. Furthermore, there are numerous manufacturers who either provide limited updates or have ambiguous policies in place.

Interested in gaining more knowledge? Our phone update policies guide provides a comprehensive overview of the current update policies for all Android OS manufacturers.

Things are getting better, but who is the top performer?

At the start, we posed a question and it would be negligent not to provide an answer. In actuality, there is not a singular superior choice. If you prioritize the most recent top-of-the-line models, then it is evident that Google is the best option currently. On the other hand, in terms of reliability, Apple and Samsung reign supreme. Regardless of which Samsung or Apple phone you choose, you can expect to receive a minimum of three years of support. If receiving updates is important to you, these are the three brands we suggest sticking with.

Fortunately, as we witness Android companies such as Google and Samsung enhancing their update protocols, it is probable that this trend will also influence their competitors. Currently, there appears to be a competition to determine which brand can offer the most reliable update commitments. This marks a significant improvement from the state of Android several years ago.

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