OPINION: Apple has been at the forefront of long-term OS and security updates for its devices for years. But could Android handsets finally catch up?

Imagine successfully saving up and buying a house for yourself (an intoxicating dream indeed for those of us living in London) – but as you cross the threshold you hear the estate agent muttering under your breath that you will never be can’t lock your front door a year or two after purchase.

We all agree that such a concept would be completely ridiculous, unfair and even negligent on behalf of the seller. Still, a similar phenomenon has been happening for years with some of the most expensive Android phones on the market.

Software that keeps your phone safe may 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 because of the concept “off out of sight, out of mind”.

A notable exception to this rule is Apple, which has a record to be truly proud of, even reliably rolling out full operating system updates to the 2015 iPhone 6s. Across 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 let themselves down in comparison again and again.

Even Google, primarily the architect of Android, recently announced that it would not continue to support its own flagship Pixel 3 range, even with security updates, only a paltry three years of support.

There’s more to it than just a security issue. While brands often make many of their environmental credentials at launch events, these vows ring hollow if they were clearly willing (or worse, eager) to replace their devices after just a few years.

However, it seems that finally – finally – things are starting to change at this point.

I was excited when I saw the launch of the Galaxy S22 series that Samsung finally took its responsibilities towards consumers seriously and offered five years of security updates for this new flagship. Then came the Xiaomi 12 series, and again we got 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.

It’s worth noting though that these are both top tier product lines that would set you back by the better of a thousand pounds if you bought a handset. Looking at the overcrowded mid-range market, it seems that phones are even more easily overlooked by manufacturers, and let down in terms of software shortly after launch.

When the new iPhone SE launched, we were confident that it would be the only smartphone of its kind to receive support years after its release; but to my surprise, good news was just around the corner.

While many fans were eagerly comparing the hardware specs of the new Samsung A-series, the announcement that most excited me was buried in the middle of the press release: the Galaxy A53 5G is guaranteed “up to four generations of One UI and Android.” OS upgrades and up to five years of security updates” – that’s right, as are its flagship cousins. It’s not clear in the year whether all phones in the range, such as the Samsung Galaxy A33 5G, will also have the same lifespan, but this is still an exciting sign that real change is on the way in a previously long-neglected atmosphere.

With so much convergence and competition in the Android market, this could be exactly the statement of intent we need for many more Android phone manufacturers to finally step up and give us the software support to match their excellent hardware.

This post Is Android finally catching up with Apple’s long-standing software support?

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