Samsung had a surprising announcement for us at the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 series as it confirmed a prolonged commitment to updates for its recent smartphones, foldable devices, and tablets.
In particular, the company is now offering three year / generations of Android version upgrades instead of two. This applies to the Galaxy S10 series (including the S10 Lite), Galaxy Note 10 family (including the Galaxy Note 10 Lite), the Galaxy A51 and above, the Galaxy Tab S6 series and above, and all of the company’s foldable devices .
In other words, if you bought a Galaxy S20 series phone, you can expect to get Android 13 at launch.
Solving one of Android’s biggest problems
The importance of this announcement cannot be emphasized enough. Android OEMs have for the most part long stuck to a two-year period for Android version updates.
Aside from Google – the owner and gatekeeper of Android – there were very few companies that went beyond the two-year update cycle. OnePlus is an outlier that was recently evidenced by updates to the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T. These two phones received three version upgrades, with Android 10 arriving earlier this year. But most of the time we’ve seen brands try to get out of delivering even two updates instead of over-delivering.
One of the more disappointing examples of this was Motorola, which initially said its Edge Plus smartphone was only guaranteed a single update to the Android version. The company later changed its mind after pressure on media and consumers began to mount, and eventually promised to offer two updates. The mere fact that the company tried to get away with an update to a $ 1,000 phone is an indication of the wider problem consumers are facing.
Samsung’s move to offer Android updates for three years is because some OEMs are struggling to cope with two years of updates.
We’ve even seen companies like Xiaomi update their MIUI Android skin only for some lower-tier devices instead of updating the underlying Android version as well. While this is better than no updates at all, it does mean that sooner rather than later your device will not be compatible with some apps and will not receive the same security patches as other Android devices.
It’s especially annoying when Apple’s line of iPhone products get updates for up to five years, which means an iPhone 11 or a new iPhone SE could still get updates in 2024/2025. In the meantime, it could easily happen that you have a phone released in 2020 that will stop receiving updates in 2021.
Connected: The iPhone 6S with iOS 14 is like the Galaxy S6 with Android 11. Imagine that.
Obstacles to further updates
There are a number of reasons why brands are foregoing extended update pledges for their phones.
System updates don’t just come out of nowhere, as developing, testing, and deploying often takes time, money, and labor. It is understandable, therefore, that some smaller businesses may not have this type of money or resources.
Another obstacle to lengthy update commitments is the diversity of phones in many companies’ portfolios. A particular OEM may need to prioritize certain phones as they are more popular or more powerful and therefore can provide a smoother user experience. An optimized portfolio is definitely beneficial in terms of updates.
Connected: Android 10 Rollout – Which Phone Brand Was The Fastest?
Until recently, OnePlus only benefited from this with two phone series per calendar year. Meanwhile, between its core flagships and its budget Redmi devices, Xiaomi has released over 20 phones in 2020 alone – and that doesn’t even include phones from its Poco sub-brand.
Technical challenges related to the development of Android updates are another reason why we do not commit ourselves long to updates from manufacturers. This isn’t that big of an issue today because of Google initiatives like Project Mainline and Project Treble that are making the process easier. However, between the numerous component combinations, various Android skins, and simple changes OEMs have made to the operating system, there is still a lot of work to be done if you’re not using Android One or Android in general.
Samsung goes one step further
Despite all of these challenges for Android manufacturers, Samsung has shown that brands can in fact offer critical version updates for more than two years. And not only for flagships, also mid-range cell phones like the Galaxy A51 will benefit from the revised update promise.
Admittedly, the South Korean manufacturer is a colossus of a company with annual sales of several billion dollars, so it can save resources for additional software updates. But this should also serve as a warning to other top Android companies like Huawei, Xiaomi and LG, which are also resource-efficient.
Samsung has sent a clear message: three years of updates are the new standard.
Samsung is effectively communicating to new and existing customers that they will be looked after for a long time. This is especially important in 2020 as smartphone spending has dropped dramatically and people have been holding onto their phones longer than ever before. By keeping this trend in mind, Samsung is also building goodwill among its existing users and promoting brand loyalty by showing that they are ready to go the extra mile for them.
The biggest name in Android by market share and reputation, Samsung is an incredible influence. Time will tell if others will follow in their footsteps and commit to longer updates, but right now this is an important step in the right direction.
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