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Why do Android smartphones stop updating so early and when will this change

24 August 2020, Monday By Elena Arich
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Remember that some time ago, Samsung promised to update its smartphones within three years. In other words, devices released this year will be updated at least until 2022 and will receive Android 13. This is a good result for Android, but why can't others do it and how long does it take them to update at all? This question only seems complicated. In fact, there are at least three reasons why this happens, and all of them can be considered valid to some extent, but if you want, you can sort them out. The example of Samsung proved this. Why can't the others now, and will they ever? The good news is that they probably will. At the same time, soon enough, but it is not yet certain.

smartphones must be updated

Android Updates

Samsung really surprised many when it said it would update its smartphones within three years. I have already told you what advantages the company will get from this decision, but it is not this that is important to users, but the benefits presented to them. Now users of the Galaxy S10 and later series (including S10 Lite), the Galaxy Note 10 and later family (including Galaxy Note 10 Lite), Galaxy A51 and later, the Galaxy Tab S6 and later line, as well as all the company's folding devices will receive an update for three versions from the base one they came out with.

The significance of this decision is difficult to overestimate because the manufacturers of Android smartphones have already accustomed us to the fact that their devices are updated in the best case only two years. This has somehow become the gold standard in the industry. Only the Google Pixel and OnePlus offered larger, and some low-cost smartphones were updated only once, or not at all.

OnePlus is almost the only company that, apart from Google, can provide three years of updates for its smartphones. It recently proved this by releasing Android 11 for OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T. Most often, it turns out the opposite, and manufacturers are trying to avoid this and not release updates for their smartphones.

Motorola is an ideal example. She became so brazen that she initially stated that her Edge Plus smartphone would only be guaranteed to receive one update of the Android version. The company later changed its decision due to pressure from the media and consumers. Their discontent naturally began to grow and led to the fact that the company changed its mind and promised two years of updates. The very fact that the company tried to make do with a single $ 1,000 phone upgrade points to a broader problem that consumers are facing. 

How nice it is when a smartphone gets an update

Samsung's decision to make a three-year update is due to the fact that the company needs to somehow stand out from competitors, who sometimes struggle to cope with even two-year updates. For example, Xiaomi only updated its MIUI skin for certain lower-level devices but did not update the basic version of Android. While this is better than no updates at all, it still means that your device won't be compatible with some apps and won't get nice and important features. This will happen to every smartphone sooner or later, but in this case, it will happen very early.

Why Android updates worse than iOS

It is especially unpleasant against this background to look at Android's neighbors on the operating system - iOS. Apple is offering iOS 14 updates this year that will support the iPhone 6S, which was released in 2015. That is, the new product of this year - the iPhone 12 - will be updated until about 2025, and the Google Pixel 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 20 only until 2023. Of course, if nothing changes and everything goes on as usual. I've already talked about which smartphones would receive Android 11 this year if their manufacturers followed the Apple path.

It should also be noted that Apple does not make loud statements about how long it will update the devices, but simply updates them. If earlier this affected their performance, now often the old smartphone on the new iOS works even better than before. For example, the iPad Air 2, released in 2014 on iOS 8, worked better for me on iOS 13 than on iOS 10, although after iOS 11 I even stopped following updates for it, because I bought a newer one. 

It turns out that the manufacturer has no objective reasons not to update the smartphone. There is only a reluctance to do this. System updates do not appear out of thin air, because development, testing, and deployment often require time, money, and labor. Therefore, it is clear that some small companies may not have such money or resources. This, by the way, sometimes leads to a reduction in cost. The company just immediately admits that it is not going to spend money on updates and does not include work on them in the price of the device.

Google Pixel has been receiving updates for the longest time

Another obstacle to a longer upgrade is the huge variety of phones in many companies' portfolios. A particular manufacturer may need to pay extra attention to certain phones, as they are more popular. Performance is also important since more powerful tubes can be updated slowly and you don't have to worry too much about software optimization.

Why OnePlus is updated for three years, and the rest haven't

It is for this reason that OnePlus can allow itself to roll out updates within three years because they essentially release one or two smartphones a year and it is much easier to work on their optimization than when you have dozens of devices in the lineup and they are all updated every year. Only in 2020 and only Xiaomi released more than 20 phones. This is not even counting the Poco sub-brand line.

Today, thanks to Google initiatives such as Project Mainline and Project Treble, which help simplify the update process, we are getting a little away from technical difficulties when preparing updates. However, given the variety of shells, the variety of internal components, and the need to work on new devices, companies have to do a lot of work. In the case of Android One, it's all a little easier.

Despite all these problems faced by Android manufacturers, Samsung has demonstrated that brands can actually offer more than two years of updates to major versions. And not just for flagships: mid-range phones like the Galaxy A51 will also benefit from the company's new promise.

Of course, the South Korean manufacturer is a colossal company with revenue of billions of dollars a year, so it can save resources for additional software updates. But it should also serve as a warning to other leading companies working with Android, such as Huawei, Xiaomi, and LG, which also have a lot of resources. Most likely, they will simply have no choice and will follow Samsung in the matter of updates. After all, the Koreans have a strong trump card and it is necessary to respond to this somehow. It is the extra money that is needed for the development of updates, and the reluctance of companies to waste resources "just like that" is the third reason for the bad situation with updates. "This smartphone has already been purchased, so why support it when you can invest money in the development of a new one?" how do you like this logic? I don't like it, but smartphone manufacturers are completely satisfied with it.

even old smartphones need to be updated

Why Android won't update

As a result, we have three main reasons why Android smartphones are so poorly updated. Among them are a large model range and the complexity of its "averaging" for the release of updates, the reluctance of manufacturers to spend money, and the desire to work on new devices. The latter outrages the most because this is not done in order to make users' lives easier, but in order to sell more.

Samsung effectively tells new and existing customers that they will be taken care of for a long time. This is especially true in 2020, as spending on smartphones has plummeted and people are holding onto their phones for longer than ever. Following this trend, Samsung also builds trust in its existing users by encouraging brand loyalty and showing that they are willing to do everything possible for them.

Time will tell whether other manufacturers will follow in Samsung's footsteps and decide on longer updates, but for now, this is an important step in the right direction. And it can change a lot. It just seems like "it's an extra year," but in fact, it may turn out that now it's a year, then a year, and so we will get to the five-year whitewash. Someone had to start and with all my ambivalent attitude towards Samsung, now you can really take your hat off to them. This is not only a momentary benefit from sales, it is without exaggeration a step into a bright future.

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