There’s been much made of the ‘fractured’ nature of Android, with many phones not getting updates to the latest version of Google's operating system until months after its release... or not at all.
This is in stark contrast to Apple’s iPhones, which often stay on the newest version of iOS several years after they were first released. So, which brands are the best for keeping their Android devices up to date?
Why don’t all Android phones get the latest version of the OS?
There are several reasons why some Android handsets get updates, while others are left out in the cold. The first thing to consider is how many different models each manufacturer offers. Every year, Apple only adds a maximum of around four iPhones to its lineup, so the overall number of devices iOS needs to support is quite low.
This isn’t the case with Android, where some of the biggest manufacturers release double that number or higher, making the entire marketplace swamped with devices, all of which need dedicated support. Due to this, some brands will often prioritise their flagship devices, with the cheaper models given short shrift.
In other cases, the ‘skins’ or interface overlays used by many brands need to be optimised and bug-checked to ensure they work with the newer OS releases, which is one reason for delays.
Google has addressed this in recent years, using the Google Play Services app as a way to introduce newer features without the need for an entire operating system update, but security patches still need to be applied at the OS level (though these are separate from Android version updates).
There are exceptions though, with the Android One program existing to help devices stay on the latest version of the OS, all while bringing a clean, stock interface that reflects Google’s ideal for Android.
Phones running with Android One usually stay up to date for a guaranteed two years after release, so if you want the latest features, then those are certainly models to look out for.
Which brands are the best for Android updates?
Here’s a selection of the manufacturers which release regular updates and support older models.
It should be no great surprise that Google is at the top of the list, due to the fact that it creates each new version of Android. If you have one of its Pixel range of phones, then you are guaranteed three years of major updates, all of which usually come out on day one or not long afterwards.
Another brand that regularly finds itself top of the Android updates chart is OnePlus.
Its flagships devices, the OnePlus 8T, OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8, already have the new Android 11 update, while the same should be true of the OnePlus Nord, OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7 by the end of 2020. There’s also hope for the older models, with both the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T expected to move onto the latest version in the new year.
While the Finnish company might not be the powerhouse it was back in the heyday of feature phones, it still has a good selection of devices at differing price points, pretty much all of which are on Android One. This means that they’re guaranteed two years of major updates, with the delivery times usually close to release date.
The company has already published its roadmap for Android 11 updates, with its Nokia 8.3 5G, Nokia 2.2, Nokia 5.3 and Nokia 8.1 models all due to receive the new version before the end of 2020, with several models scheduled to get it in the first half of 2021.
Market analysts Counterpoint Research had Nokia at number one for updates when it released its report in 2019, while AOSMark (which tracks security updates) currently has the company in the number four slot, behind the likes of Google and OnePlus.
Best of the rest
Alongside Google, OnePlus and Nokia, there are several brands that are working hard to ensure that the new updates arrive quickly and on a good selection of their devices. Among these are Xiaomi, Redmi, Oppo, Sony, Motorola and RealMe.
Which brands are the worst for Android updates?
While most manufacturers try to keep their devices up to date, this can be a more difficult task for some than others. Possibly the worst culprit, due to the ridiculous number of models it releases and has to support, is Samsung. While new phones are promised two major Android upgrades, these can often take a long time to arrive.
Newer flagship models are now promised three updates, which is good news, and the delivery times on these devices has definitely improved in recent years. But, if you purchased premium older models like the Galaxy S9 or Galaxy Note 9, then you may already find that you’ve dropped off the list of contenders for Android 11.
Another company that has struggled to keep up at times is LG. The company was actually ranked last in the Centrepoint report we mentioned above, and the scattergun approach to the Android 10 release schedule didn’t help things. This is all the more bewildering when you consider that it was only a few years ago that LG was partnering with Google to make its Nexus phones, the precursors to the Pixel range. Hopefully, things will improve going forward, as we’d like to see LG back in the frame.
To see what awaits in the newest iteration, read our guide to Android 11 and be sure to check out our roundup to the best android phones now that you know which ones are most likely to be updated in the years ahead.