The hallmark of Android has been fragmentation. Many phones do not receive the latest updates to Google’s operating system until several months after its release … or not at all.
In contrast to Apple’s Iphone, which often runs the latest version of iOS several years after the phone was launched. But which brands are best at keeping Android up to date?
Why do not all Android phones get the latest version of the operating system?
There are several reasons why some Android phones get updates, while others are left to their fate. The first thing to keep in mind is how many different models each manufacturer offers. Each year, Apple launches a maximum of about four iPhones, not many devices iOS needs to support.
This is not the case with Android, where some of the largest manufacturers are launching twice as many phones or more, which means that the market is flooded with phones that all need dedicated support. Because of this, some manufacturers prioritize their flagship phones, while the cheaper models end up in the wilderness of operating systems.
In other cases, the interface must be optimized and tested to ensure that it works with newer operating systems, which is a cause of delays.
Google has addressed this recently, using the Google Play Services app, which is a way to introduce new features without the need for a complete system update, but security updates still need to be applied at the operating system level (although these are separate from Android version updates).
However, there are exceptions. The Android One application is available to help devices get the latest version of the operating system, while providing a “vanilla” interface, which reflects Google’s ideal for Android.
Phones running Android One are usually guaranteed updates up to two years after launch. If you want the latest features, Android One models are for you.
Which brands are best for Android updates?
Here is a selection of manufacturers that have committed to releasing regular updates and that support older models for an extended period of time.
It’s no surprise that Google tops the list, as they develop Android. If you have a Pixel phone, you are guaranteed three years of major updates, which you usually get on day one or shortly afterwards.
If you want the latest version of Android and experience it as Google intended, then you should buy a Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5.
Another brand that is regularly at the top of Android updates is Oneplus.
The company managed to get Android 11 for all its flagships launched in 2020 (Oneplus 8, 8 Pro and 8T) before the end of the year, while Oneplus Nord and older models such as the Oneplus 7 series received the latest version of Android in April 2021.
Oneplus Nord N10 5G, Nord N100 and older Oneplus 6T and Oneplus 6 are also expected to be updated in the near future.
After integration with its sister company, the code of Oneplus Oxygenos and Oppos Coloros is said to be about to be merged, which provides a more stable basis and easier for updates, there is talk of several years of operating system and security updates.
- Flagship phones as far back as the Oneplus 8 series (including all T- and R-labeled phones) get three major Android updates and four years of security updates.
- The original Oneplus Nord and Nord CE have been promised two major Android updates and three years of security updates.
- The Nord N series – including the N10 5G and N100, only gets a major Android update and three years of security updates during its lifetime.
- Flagship phones released before the Oneplus 8 series get two major Android updates and three years of security updates.
Nokia still has a good selection of phones with different price points, which is much like Android One. This means that they are guaranteed two years with major updates in connection with the release of new operating systems. They stumbled a bit and were forced to delay the first of their Android 11 updates – intended for Nokia 8.3 5g – until 2021, but since then we have seen a steady stream of new firmware for the entire range.
Unlike the roadmap HMD Global (which manages Nokia’s telephone operations) showed last year (see above), Nokia 8.3 5G, 8.1, 4.2, 2.3 and 2.2 were updated to Android 11 in April 2021, while Nokia 7.2, 6.2, 5.3, 3.4, 2.4, 1.3 and 1 Plus still waiting its turn.
The market analyst Counterpoint Research had Nokia as number one for updates when they released their report in 2019, while Aosmark (which tracks security updates) currently has the company as number four, behind Google and Oneplus, among others.
Until recently, Samsung was one of the worst when it comes to keeping their Android phones up to date, which was probably a result of their launch in batches and minutes. But in February 2021, Samsung promised to offer four years of Android security updates to devices launched from 2019, whether it was the Galaxy S, A or M series. This is in addition to the promise to deliver three years of updates to many S, Note and other devices, such as the 2020 Galaxy A51 and even the 2019 Galaxy A90 5G.
While security updates arrive monthly or quarterly, the question remains how quickly these promised updates will be released to the phones. But the fact remains that Samsung’s long-term support has given the company positive attention.
Another problematic OEM manufacturer is LG, but that may change. Although LG has confirmed that it is closing down its mobile business, in the same breath they have also promised to deliver at least three years of Android OS (and security) updates to a number of their products, some of which are from 2019.
Admittedly, not all phones from the last two years are covered, but it is positive, benefits consumers and deserves our respect.
While the company is still establishing itself in new markets outside China, Yujian Shi-Vivos, senior vice president, confirmed that their X-Series, launched in July 2021, will be guaranteed for at least three years by major Android OS updates and security updates .
“Our X-Series flagship phones are built to last – and we want to ensure that our customers receive software support that lives up to their expectations,” says Shi.
A commitment that is currently affecting Vivo devices in European, Australian and Indian markets.
“Best of the rest”
In addition to Google, Oneplus and Nokia, there are several brands that work hard to get new updates quickly and to a large selection of their devices. These include Xiaomi, Redmi, Oppo, Sony, Motorola and Realme.
In a conversation with Android Planet in May, Oppo announced its intention to extend monthly security updates to its latest flagship phones – the Oppo Find X3 series – by an additional year (from two to three years). In addition, Oppo stated that they are considering extending this to four years for a wider range of units, but this has not yet been communicated through an official press release.
Original article by Martyn Casserly
Translated and edited by Petter Ahrnstedt