Much has been made of the “fractured” nature of Android, with many phones only receiving updates to the latest version of Google’s operating system months after its release…or not at all.
This is in stark contrast to Apple’s iPhones, which often stay on the latest version of iOS for years after they were first released. So which brands are the best at keeping their Android devices up to date?
Why don’t all Android phones get the latest OS version?
There are several reasons why some Android handsets get updates while others get left behind. The first thing to consider is the number of different models offered by each manufacturer. Apple only adds a maximum of about four iPhones to its lineup each year, so cumulatively the number of iOS devices it has to support is relatively small.
That’s not the case with Android, where some of the biggest manufacturers release double or more every year; flood the market with new devices; all of whom need dedicated support. Some carriers/networks also require custom updates to push to their specific version of a device, which can also cause delays (although that seems less of a problem these days). Because of all this, some brands will often prioritize their flagship devices, with the cheaper models being overlooked.
In other cases, the “skins” or interface overlays used by many brands need to be optimized and checked to ensure that they work with new versions of the operating system, which is one reasons for the delays.
Google has fixed this problem for the past few years, using the Google Play Services app as a way to introduce new features without the need for a full OS update, but security patches should still be applied. at the operating system level (although they are separate from Android version updates).
There are exceptions, however, with the existing Android One program to help devices stay on the latest version of the operating system, while bringing a clean, standard interface that reflects Google’s ideal interpretation of Android.
Phones running Android One usually stay up-to-date for a two-year guarantee after release, so if you want the latest features, these are models worth seeking out.
Which brands are the best for Android updates?
Here’s a selection of manufacturers who are committed to releasing regular updates and often support older models for longer.
Until recently, Samsung was one of the worst offenders for updating its Android devices and this was mainly due to the fact that it released so many of them. However, in a surprising and positive move in February 2021, the company pledged to offer four years of Android security updates to devices it launched from 2019 onwards, regardless of status (Galaxy S Series , A Series, M Series and the like).
This is on top of the promise to deliver three years of OS updates to many S, Note and even A series devices, starting with entries like 2020’s Galaxy A51 and even the Galaxy A90. 5G of 2019.
It then upped the ante with the launch of the Galaxy S22 lineup in early 2022, pledging to provide “up to” four years of OS updates and five years of security updates. not only to the S22 range but also to the 2021 flagship phones (covering The Galaxy S21, S21+, S21 Ultra, S21 FE, Galaxy ZFlip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3), even surpassing Google in keeping its top devices relevant longer.
While security updates arrive on a monthly or quarterly basis, the question remains how quickly these promised OS updates will reach supported devices. However, the fact that Samsung promises such long-term support has raised its profile immensely, when it comes to this particular feature.
Until Samsung’s bold new promise alongside the arrival of the S22 range, it made perfect sense for Google to sit proudly at the top of this list; it creates every new version of Android, to be fair. If you own one of its Pixel phones, you’re guaranteed three years of major OS updates, which usually come out on day one or soon after.
If you want the latest version of Android for the next few years, just like Google intended, then buying a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro is currently your safest bet.
LG has been another problematic OEM for a very long time, but given the moment, their stance is about to change as well.
Even though the company has now shut down its mobile business, in the same move it has also pledged to provide at least three years of Android OS (and security) updates to a number of its key devices, dating back to 2019.
While the company’s entire mobile portfolio since 2019 isn’t covered by this promise, it’s a great move that benefits consumers and earns our respect.
So far, OnePlus has been excellent at delivering timely and clearly marked updates to its entire lineup, but things are potentially about to change.
In June 2021, OnePlus confirmed news of further integration with its sister company, Oppo; OnePlus’ OxygenOS and Oppo’s ColorOS codebases would merge; creating a more stable base and an easier upgrade path. In the same breath, OnePlus has developed (in a post on their forums on July 3, 2021) committing to several years of OS and security updates across the entire current lineup (at the time of the publication).
Here are the highlights:
- OnePlus 8-series flagship phones (including all ‘T’ and ‘R’ branded handsets) will receive three major Android updates and four years of security updates.
- The OnePlus Nord and the original Nord CE were promised two major Android updates and three years of security updates.
- The more modest Nord N series – including the N10 5G and N100 would only receive one major Android update and three years of security updates in their lifetime.
- “Flagship devices released before the OnePlus 8 series will follow the previous schedule of two major Android updates and three years of security updates.”
The subsequent launch of the OnePlus 10 Pro in China painted the clearest picture yet of changes to the company’s software strategy, with the phone coming to Oppo’s ColorOS 12.1 (based on Android 12). Internationally, the 10 Pro is still expected to arrive with OxygenOS, although it’s speculated that the experience will be virtually identical to the Chinese version ColorOS in all but name.
Prior to the Chinese debut of the 10 Pro, the company had managed to push Android 11 to all of its 2020 flagships (the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro and 8T – although the 8T actually launched on Android 11) before the end of the year. ‘year ; with entries like the mid-range OnePlus Nord and older top-tier models, like the OnePlus 7 series, all getting boosts to 11 in April 2021.
For the best prices, check out our guides to the best OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro deals and the best OnePlus Nord, N10 5G and N100 deals.
While the Finnish company might not be the powerhouse it was during the heyday of feature phones, it still has a good selection of devices at various price points, almost all of which come with Android One. This means that they are guaranteed for two years of major updates, with delivery times usually close to release.
The company ran into a slight glitch, delaying the first of its Android 11 updates – aimed at the Nokia 8.3 5G – to 2021, but since then we’ve seen a steady stream of new firmware, affecting devices across the range.
Market analysts Counterpoint Research had Nokia ranked first for updates when it released its report in 2019, while AOSMark (which tracks security updates) currently places the company fourth, behind Google and OnePlus.
While the company is still in the early stages of penetrating new markets outside of its native China, Yujian Shi – senior vice president and CTO of Vivo – confirmed in early May 2021 that its flagship X series smartphones that will be launched after July of that year would all come with the guarantee of at least three years of major Android operating system updates and security updates.
“Featuring top-of-the-line hardware, the flagship X-Series phones are built to last – and we want to make sure our customers get software support that lives up to their expectations,” Shi said.
This commitment currently applies to Vivo devices in the European, Australian and Indian markets.
The best of the rest
Besides Samsung and Google, several brands are working hard to get new updates to arrive quickly and on a good selection of their devices. These include Xiaomi (including Redmi), Oppo, Sony, Motorola and Realme.
In a conversation with Android Planet on May 21, Oppo spoke of plans to extend monthly support for Android security updates to its newest flagship phone line – the Oppo Find X3 series – by an additional year (bringing it to a total of three, up from two ). Additionally, Oppo has said that it is considering extending this term to four years on a wider range of devices, although no official press release on this has yet been released.
On September 9, 2021, Xiaomi has committed to three years of Android OS updates and four years of security updates for its Mi 11T series smartphones (namely the Mi 11T and 11T Pro). The company’s press release on the subject also stated that “although other devices are not included at this time, Xiaomi believes this reflects a positive change”, hinting at the potential for broader support. devices in the future, which we will undoubtedly report as and when it comes to light.
For more information on the latest iteration of Android, read our guide to Android 12 and be sure to check out our roundup of the best Android phones, now that you know which ones are most likely to update. in the years to come.