Again within the early days of Android, system updates had been very random: they’d roll out at completely different occasions, and usually a number of occasions per 12 months. Now, Google has taken a way more streamlined strategy, releasing one main Android replace per 12 months and a lot smaller, security-focused updates as soon as monthly.
However when you’re not working a inventory Android handset that’s up to date by Google—like a Nexus or Pixel machine—who is aware of when, and even if your telephone will ever even see any of these updates.
New Android customers are sometimes dissatisfied to find that their shiny new smartphone received’t get any updates—or worse, that it’s working previous software program the second they purchased it.
The Android Ecosystem
Not like Apple’s ecosystem, the place Apple releases a single iPhone every technology, Android is a way more open (and messy) setting. Any producer could make a smartphone or pill, throw Android on it, and launch it. Whereas there have been 14 completely different iPhones launched since 2007, 1000’s of various Android telephones have been launched in the identical time frame.
As such, Android telephones use all kinds of various . Some telephones are made to be tremendous low-cost, obtainable free on contract or for cheap buy by individuals in creating international locations. Some are “flagship” telephones, with extra superior than the iPhone.
All that stated, there’s a sequence of Android telephones made to straight mimic (and compete with) the iPhone by way of launch cycle and product assist: the Pixel line. Whereas any producer can launch an Android telephone custom-made to their liking, the Pixel is Google’s in-house model that’s designed with the purest (and cleanest) of Android experiences in thoughts. Updates to the Pixel lineup of telephones is dealt with by Google, in order that they’re usually the primary telephones to obtain the latest software program when it’s launched.
For the remainder of the pack, nonetheless, it’s a very completely different story.
Why Your Phone Hasn’t Acquired That Replace
To make Android work on their , machine producers (like Samsung, HTC, or Motorola) should write Android machine drivers particularly for his or her telephones. These are sometimes closed-source, to allow them to solely be up to date by stated producer. Google can’t simply launch a brand new model of Android that works on all gadgets—they launch the brand new model, then producers should go in and tweak it for every of their telephones.
It’s not simply drivers, although, both. Most Android handset producers—like Samsung and LG, for instance—“pores and skin” their telephones to make them stand out within the crowd. And by that, I imply they add/take away/change the interface and apps to make it their very own. However all these additions take lots of time and power so as to add. So each time there’s an Android replace, the producers should take time including all their fancy crap in. That causes an enormous delay.
And, in fact, some new variations of Android simply include elevated necessities, stopping them from engaged on older gadgets—the identical is true for the iPhone (and even desktop computer systems).
Nevertheless, since there are such a lot of Android telephones, lots lose assist a lot earlier. If a producer comes out with six completely different fashions yearly, is it value persevering with to assist all of them…each single 12 months? Android producers usually aren’t as as they need to be in updating gadgets after they’re launched (particularly cheaper ones). With the big quantity of fashions being launched, there’s little incentive to place lots of work into updating an older mannequin that’s been changed by a more moderen one, particularly once they’d reasonably encourage you to purchase the latest mannequin anyway. This has gotten higher over time as shoppers have pushed for higher assist as flagship telephones get extra and dearer, however we nonetheless have a protracted approach to go for producers like Samsung to assist their the identical approach Google does.
Lastly, Android smartphone producers are additionally beholden to cellular phone carriers, who can delay updates by months on their networks. Whereas Apple has the muscle to overrule carriers and roll out new variations of their working system, Android telephone producers (largely) don’t. Once more, that is getting higher, but it surely’s nonetheless not nice.
The best way to Get Updates Sooner
When you’re sick of not getting updates, there’s one very clear path to take: purchase a Pixel. These telephones are designed, offered, and maintained by Google, in order that they get up to date when the most recent variations of Android can be found—on time, each time. Google additionally ensures that degree of assist for at the least two years for all main Android updates, and an unprecedented three years for month-to-month safety updates. That’s rattling good assist proper there. (And regardless of what you’ve heard, it’s not unique to Verizon.)
When you completely can’t purchase the Pixel, although—say, when you’re lifeless set on getting the latest Samsung Galaxy—then go for it. The excellent news is that a lot of the main gamers, like Samsung, have gotten significantly better about supporting their flagship handsets, at the least for a few years. For instance, my one-and-a-half 12 months previous Galaxy S7 is working the identical model of Android because the much-newer S8: they’re each working Android Nougat. However that’s additionally the issue: they’re each working Android Nougat.
Although the S8 is Samsung’s present flagship, it nonetheless doesn’t have Android Oreo, which has been obtainable for a number of months now. So, when you’re nonetheless prone to see the replace on a non-Pixel flagship, you’ll probably nonetheless be ready months for that to occur. It’s all about deciding what’s vital to you, actually.
There may be one other, a lot less-recommended approach of constructing certain your telephone has the most recent model of Android, so long as you’re very tech savvy: Customized ROMs.
Customized ROMs and Neighborhood-Developed Android Updates
Android is open supply, so it’s doable for Android customers to take its supply code and roll their very own working techniques—often called a customized ROM—for his or her smartphones. In case you have a fairly in style machine, there are probably different Android customers on the market creating and tweaking customized ROMs for it—LineageOS is at present a fantastic place to begin when you’re trying to get in on some ROM motion.
Nevertheless, customized ROMs aren’t formally supported, and require lots of work to put in and handle (far more than the typical Android person would wish to do, and even have the technical know-how for), however many Android geeks use and love customized ROMs.
Customized ROMs enable Android geeks to purchase they like and set up a extra inventory Android working system on it, eradicating the producer’s software program customizations and updating the working system to the most recent model. Common Android telephones usually tend to be supported, although as time goes on, producers are making it more durable and more durable for builders and ROM hackers to get the required entry to construct ROMs for gadgets.
The very best factor you are able to do if customized ROMs are of curiosity to you is scour the XDA Builders boards for all the data you can in your specific handset. Satirically, Pixel telephones are additionally going to be among the most ROM-friendly gadgets on the market as a result of Google permits the bootloader to be unlocked, eradicating the safety that retains the OS from being tampered with.
What to Keep away from When Shopping for a New Phone
So, when you’re out there for a brand new telephone and correct updates are a priority, there should not solely clear instructions on what you should purchase, however even clearer tips on what not to purchase.
First and foremost: when you care about updates, don’t purchase low-cost telephones. Keep in mind how we stated producers aren’t incentivized to replace low-cost, much less in style telephones? You will virtually actually expertise that firsthand when you purchase one thing underneath $500. And the decrease the value, the much less probably that telephone is to get updates.
Motorola telephones may be an exception—and that in itself is an enormous perhaps. I can’t anticipate Motorola to place the identical degree of assist behind the budget-minded Moto E as they do the flagship Moto Z. It’s unlucky, however that’s simply how it’s.
The extra you go up in worth (and reputation), the extra probably a telephone is to get updates. However there aren’t any ensures, except you purchase a Pixel straight from Google. However hey, at the least Android provides you the selection.