While iOS and Android are both mobile operating systems that aim to perform the same tasks, they also are the proverbial “apples and oranges”, especially when it comes to software updates.
Apple fans have always made fun of Android users for their short-term device support and updates compared to what iPhones get. And I shamelessly agree with them.
As an Android user, you’ll be lucky to get support past 3 years, which is why it was a big deal when Google announced 5 years of software updates for the Pixel 6. This has continued with the latest Pixel 7 series.
No doubt it was a huge step from the previous offering, but this is still not good enough. And it’s especially true given that some of Google’s competitors are doing a much better job with software updates and support.
Google’s policy of 3 Android OS updates and 3 years of security updates had been a class leader for quite some time until Samsung turned the tables with a shift to 4 years of OS updates and up to 5 years of security updates.
Effectively, this means Google is playing catch-up despite the move to step up security updates to 5 years. Unfortunately, nothing has changed with respect to major Android updates.
While it’s impressive to see Samsung making such boss moves, it’s an absolute embarrassment for Android’s custodian, especially since Samsung relies on Qualcomm chipsets while Google now has an in-house Tensor SoC.
Sure, Google and Qualcomm already laid the groundwork needed to support the latter’s chipsets for up to four OS versions, but Samsung is even taking it a notch higher with an extra year of security updates.
If Samsung can provide 3rd-party chipsets with up to 4 Android OS updates, it shouldn’t be a problem for Google to provide even longer support for an in-house chipset.
The likes of Apple and NVIDIA have demonstrated that relying on in-house chipsets is the best recipe for longer software update support, something Google needs to learn from going forward.
Heck, even companies that have traditionally been poor with software support are now ahead of Google. In case you just came back from a cave, Oppo is the company in question, which now offers 4 Android OS updates.
This follows in the footsteps of OnePlus, which also announced that software support will now include 4 Android OS updates and up to 5 years of security updates for its flagships.
Unlike recent Google Pixels that use an in-house chipset, OnePlus and Oppo smartphones rely on third-party players for their chipsets. Again, this could imply Google may deliberately be limiting Pixel software support.
These moves by Samsung, OnePlus and Oppo have definitely dragged Google further down the pecking order with respect to duration of software support.
Sure, some may be okay with Google’s policy by claiming that Pixels arrive with an OS that other phones require an update for, which is why they get one less update.
However, it doesn’t matter which version came pre-installed — the count of updates it received thereafter is what really matters. And this is where Google is lagging behind Samsung, Oppo and OnePlus.
Unless this changes, Google may quickly find itself behind a host of other players. A great way to stay on top of this queue would be to give the Google Pixel 8 up to 5 Android OS updates to match the 5 years of security updates.
If independent custom ROM developers can support older devices with newer Android versions for years albeit with minor hiccups, Google shouldn’t have an excuse to not seed 5 Android OS updates for its Pixel phones.
Furthermore, if Samsung can offer 4 OS updates to its mid-range models, 5 OS updates for a flagship smartphone shouldn’t be that big of a stretch, especially for a company with Google’s software expertise and financial muscle.
Google’s software update policy is increasingly making it harder to recommend a Pixel phone based on software experience.
While the Pixel has some unique features such as Now Playing and Call Screening, they are nowhere near the number of features found in competitors’ phones — phones that are now receiving fast updates and for a longer duration.
It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds, but for sure, the Pixel 8 standing out in this crowded market will require something unique — and what better than 5 Android OS updates?