Is Android finally catching up with Apple’s long-term software support?

OPINION: For years, Apple has paved the way for long-term operating system and security updates for its devices. But could Android handsets finally catch up?

Just imagine you’ve managed to save up and buy yourself a house (a heady dream indeed for those of us who live in London) – but as you cross the threshold you hear the estate agent mutter under his breath that you will never be unable to lock your front door again just a year or two after purchase.

We would all agree that such a concept would be utterly ridiculous, unfair and even negligent on the seller’s part. Yet a similar phenomenon has been happening for years on some of the most expensive Android phones on the market.

Software that protects your phone might be easier to ignore than a door lock that won’t lock, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important, but manufacturers have often avoided sending necessary updates. to their phones, most likely due to the “out of sight, out of mind” concept.

A notable exception to this rule has been Apple, which has a record to be truly proud of, even reliably rolling out comprehensive OS updates to the 2015 iPhone 6s. In fact, through the stable of its products, you know you can count on iPhones to last long after you buy them from the store, and it’s one of the few areas where Android brands have let themselves down again and again in comparison .

Even Google, the architect of Android in the first place, recently announced that it will not continue to support its own flagship Pixel 3 line, even with security updates, just a paltry three years of support.

There is more to this problem than just a security issue. While brands often make much of their environmental credentials at launch events, those wishes ring hollow when they’ve clearly been willing (or worse, impatient) for their devices to be replaced after just a few years.

However, it seems that eventually – ultimately – things could start to change on this point.

I was excited at the launch of the Galaxy S22 series to see that Samsung was finally taking its responsibility to consumers seriously and delivering five years of security updates to this new flagship line. Then came the Xiaomi 12 series, and again we were offered better software support – not as good as Samsung’s, with four years of security patches instead of five, but still a step in the right direction .

However, it’s worth noting that these are two premium product lines that would set you back close to a thousand pounds if you bought a handset. When you look at the crowded mid-range market, it seems phones are even more easily overlooked by manufacturers, being discontinued soon after launch when it comes to software.

When the new iPhone SE launched, we expected it to be the only smartphone of its kind to receive support years after release; yet, to my great surprise, good news was approaching.

While many fans may have been eagerly comparing the hardware specs of the new Samsung A-series, the announcement that most thrilled me was buried in the middle of the press release: the Galaxy A53 5G is guaranteed “until ‘to four generations of One UI and Android OS’. upgrades and up to five years of security updates” – that’s right, just like its flagship cousins. It’s unclear for the year whether all phones in the lineup, such as the Samsung Galaxy A33 5G, will also have the same longevity, but it’s still an exciting sign that real change is afoot in a long neglected area.

With so much convergence and competition in the Android market, this might just be the statement of intent we need for many other Android phone makers to finally step in and give us the software support to match their great hardware. .

Michael J. Chiaramonte