How long should we reasonably expect Android updates?

Aurelius

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Only the dumbass fanboys on XDA talk about it like that anymore. The problem is that's the most vocal part of the Android community. For years that mentality was the only mentality. The problem is the IQ of XDA drops on a daily basis so they aren't looking at it like Google and the rest of us look at it now.

Any good Android news site or blog talks security updates all the time and crush some of the OEMs for lack of security updates. Sure major revision updates are nice but having Android 8 with Security patches from November doesn't mean much in the grand scheme.

The real issue is Joe Average doesn't give a fuck about updates. Joe Average doesn't give a shit whether they have Android or iOS. They really could not care less about what version of software they're on. The major OEMs know this so they don't care either.

And that apathy is a problem, because it feels like we're heading toward the mobile equivalent of Windows' Blaster worm -- that is, a malware threat that spreads far and wide because those responsible for OS security have been asleep at the wheel. If Google and vendors don't get better at providing both timely and long-term security updates, we could end up in a situation where most Android users are vulnerable to an attack, but only one percent will ever get a fix without replacing their devices.

It's not helped by Android vendors frequently reducing the quality of support based on the cost and performance of a device. Galaxy S9? Oh, we'll support you for two years, no problem. A budget Galaxy phone? Oh, sorry, just one major update for you (if you're lucky) and a handful of security updates.
 

Trimlock

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At one point I was upgrading devices every 2 years and would have agreed that 2 years worth of updates was enough. But now that I have other priorities in life and am coming up on 4 years with my iPhone 6 I am happy and grateful that it's still getting the latest updates. Part of me is a little jealous that I don't have a 5S so I can boast that my phone from 2013 will still be getting updates into 2019 (likely).

I'll be running my current phone until it fails or stops receiving updates. I have a feeling that this won't will not get iOS 13 come next year. Everyone is praising Apple for not eliminating devices with iOS 12, but I think they'll be pretty aggressive with the next version.
I’m on my 6S+ for another 2 more years, it’s nice knowing they are going to support it beyond that even.
 

SultanGris

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May 14, 2006
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9/10 times when ive updated the os on a phone in the past it slows it down and eventually makes it unusable, now i might take the first one but i block all future updates, sure way to kill your perfectly still working phone is by updating the os on an old phone with hardware that cant handle it. Just say no to updates unless you have a top end phone hardware and know how to reflash the old version when the new version fucks it up, lol!
 
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This wouldn't be a problem if something like Project Treble was in place from the very beginning of Android, instead of thrown in much too late after the fact.

I never have to worry about security and OS updates on a real PC because everyone reverse-engineered the IBM PC BIOS decades ago, the boot procedures are understood, Secure Boot on UEFI can be turned off if present, and even if Microsoft, Apple and everyone else decided to stop caring about a specific hardware platform because the CPU doesn't support the required instruction sets or whatever, there's always going to be a Linux/BSD/whatever build floating around to fill in the gap.

In other words, you don't ever have to wait on the manufacturer to push out an OS update. Driver updates, maybe, but never the OS update, because they don't ever have to recompile the OS against their hardware and distribute it themselves. That's up to the OS provider and the driver developers for all the bits of hardware inside.

Meanwhile, if you think Android smartphones are bad, let me tell you about a little piece of hardware called the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid. It's an Android-based counterpart to the Windows-based first-gen Companion model, with a Tegra 4 SoC and Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean.

It has only seen one very minor firmware update in its entire life and continues to be stuck on an old, obsolete, insecure Android version to this day. I can't tell if the bootloader's locked or unlocked because there is no fastboot mode whatsoever. Kernel sources are not provided, which is a GPL violation. NVIDIA doesn't even provide Tegra 4 driver/software support past Android 6.0 Marshmallow or so. Even Samsung and LG do a better job of updates than that. Oh, and did I mention this is a tablet that retailed at roughly US$1,300 MSRP?

A Windows-based Companion tablet, on the other hand, can run anything that any other x86 PC can, because that bootloader is standardized and understood for decades.

No other platform really has that sort of standardization at the low level, usually due to all sorts of proprietary restrictions; the closest counterpoint I can think of is the Raspberry Pi, which can even run a modern version of the same RISC OS that powered the Acorn Archimedes and RiscPC of old on top of Debian Linux, Windows 10 IoT Core, probably even other various OSes I'm not immediately thinking of that have an ARM build.

New World ROM PowerPC Macs are probably a close second due to sheer proliferation, but even Linux developers are giving up on PowerPC these days. Still, you could update a PowerPC Mac from 2005 and a few years earlier to run special Linux builds well beyond Apple abandoning the entire architecture with OS X Snow Leopard going Intel-only, security updates and all.

In other words, the current sorry state of Android updates is a symptom of a much larger problem - one that threatens to take away open computing and the freedom of running whatever OS you want, manufacturer non-support be damned, before everyone realizes what just happened. We need to demand the same sort of low-level standardization across all these ARM smartphones and tablets that PCs have had for decades.
 

Tup3x

[H]ard|Gawd
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9/10 times when ive updated the os on a phone in the past it slows it down and eventually makes it unusable, now i might take the first one but i block all future updates, sure way to kill your perfectly still working phone is by updating the os on an old phone with hardware that cant handle it. Just say no to updates unless you have a top end phone hardware and know how to reflash the old version when the new version fucks it up, lol!
That's the case with Samdung but doesn't apply to Huawei nor Nokia. Both get better and faster after every update at least in my experience. Nokia uses stock Android though.

Oddly Huawei has picked up the pace when it comes to updates on old devices. Currently my Honor 8 has this month security updates and Oreo is just around the corner. It should even have treble enabled.
 

Aurelius

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It should be the duration the device is on the market + 3 years.

That'd certainly be the ideal, and that's what Apple basically does with iOS. I can imagine some Android vendors (particularly Samsung) throwing fits, though. "You mean we have to put in more than a token effort to support devices, and can't prematurely abandon OS updates in a bid to prompt more sales? Madness!"
 

Neoshi

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Aug 2, 2018
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Eh, the batteries are usually so degraded already after 2 years and most people don't even try their own replacements, so it's hard for the OEMs to justify longer than 2 years. Even Google doesn't really update their Nexus phones after 2 or 3 years, so I'm expecting the same for the Pixels as well (I'm almost 2 years in on the Gen 1 Pixel and they don't even bother fix the overheating issues with 4k video for example). They do, however, provide security patches in a pretty timely manner. I think after the Gen 1 Pixels get the Pistachio update, that will be it for them (other than security updates).
 

multi-tasking_guy

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i try to look for phones which i can install LineageOS, they receive updates frequently as its open source,
but ya for new phones, updates from new phones are usually good for only 1 year
 

brettjrob

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Aug 3, 2008
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It's going to be a lot harder for OEMs to find excuses for cutting off updates after a year, or delivering them months late, when you consider this:

https://developer.android.com/preview/devices/

Several cheap devices from the Asian market are now getting Android P betas the same day as Pixel. This seems to confirm that Treble is doing what it's intended by abstracting the hardware/drivers specific to a device fully from the core OS. So, if a phone supports Treble (as all new ones should now), the sole reason for software delays would be Samsung-style OEM skins/tweaks/butcherings of the OS. It seems like "we couldn't get that camera driver working on Android Q" or "Qualcomm dropped support for the chipset" no longer apply.
 

Zorachus

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The issue with updated is strange how stock Google phones do it compared to non vanilla phones from everyone else.

On a Nexus or Pixel, a new software update usually means better performance, maybe new features, security, and overall a nice improvement.

But phones like Samsung Galaxy or LG G series can a lot of times get worse with updates. Major lag, slowdowns, glitches, phone just performing worse after a major Android update.
 
Joined
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The issue with updated is strange how stock Google phones do it compared to non vanilla phones from everyone else.

On a Nexus or Pixel, a new software update usually means better performance, maybe new features, security, and overall a nice improvement.

But phones like Samsung Galaxy or LG G series can a lot of times get worse with updates. Major lag, slowdowns, glitches, phone just performing worse after a major Android update.
I still remember the Note 4's jump from KitKat to Lollipop 5.0.1 - one where Gear VR users were explicitly warned NOT to update due to GPU performance regressions. That wasn't fixed until later 5.1.1 updates, which also cut down on the recents menu lag compared to even the KitKat release. Going forward into its final Marshmallow updates, it was about as smooth as can be expected of a TouchWiz ROM.

To go past 6.0.1, though, you pretty much have to go AOSP. It's funny to think that said Note 4 can run Oreo 8.1 while my Note 8 is still stuck on 8.0, but it's also a somewhat janky experience. Random camera hangups, fingerprint scanner not working right when Gapps are installed, stuff like that. I'd have thought that they'd have fixed all that by now, but that must be why the Note 4 doesn't have official LineageOS builds yet.

It is noticeably smoother to run LineageOS 15.1 on that same Note 4, though - perhaps even a smidge moreso than the much newer Note 8 despite eMMC vs. UFS and SD805 vs. SD835. I'd certainly still be using it if not for the lack of band support outside of Sprint on my variant.

By contrast, the LG G3 my older bro had? The stock software on that was atrocious beyond belief. It made TouchWiz look good, surprising as that may sound to a lot of you.

But thanks to the locked bootloaders being ineffectual in practice due to an easy fakesigning bug (this is what they mean by needing the early ZV4 bootloader that can take a BUMP'd recovery/ROM), the G3 had quite a development scene going for it, including official, stable LineageOS builds that could be updated from within the settings (whereas updating custom ROMs is usually a total pain where you're encouraged to factory reset every single time). Seemed like a fine phone, so long as you go in and add a thermal pad/shim that LG omitted from the SoC for some dumb reason and you don't mind the lack of camera2 API support (which wasn't a thing on 2014 flagships).

I wonder if the V20 works as well on LineageOS. Might be worth picking up an unlocked model for use as a cheap PMP later on.
 

Tup3x

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Huawei updated my old Honor 6 from KitKat to Android M and it was noticeably smoother than the KitKat (which makes sense considering the OS improvements). Also it just worked.

Samsung left my Galaxy S in such a broken state that CyanogenMod was the only option to keep it usable.
 
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