Didja see? Samsung’s pledging a full 4 years of assist for safety updates on its Galaxy-branded Android telephones. Nicely, shiver me timbers: That certain is somethin’!
Samsung slapped the news down onto these right here internerfs of ours Monday morning, and the glowing headlines predictably adopted — with some tales going so far as to proclaim Samsung as the brand new undisputed “king of Android upgrades” or to declare that the corporate was now “beating Google at its personal sport.”
Yeaaaaaaaah. That, my mates, is what we name an efficient press launch rollout.
Do not get me fallacious: Samsung’s newly said dedication is good news, for sure, and it is hopefully a transfer that’ll solely spur extra corporations within the Android universe to comply with swimsuit (yay!). However there’s additionally extra to it than you see on the floor (aww!) — and the scenario is not almost as black and white as some interpretations would depart you to imagine (ohh…). So let’s take a minute to discover the nuances of Samsung’s shift and wrap our moist person-brains round what’s really occurring right here, lets?
First, for context: For some time now, most Android device-makers have — at the very least in principle — agreed to offer a minimal of two years of working system updates and safety patches for his or her top-tier, flagship-level telephones. Final 12 months, Google bumped that as much as a three-year assure for its personal Pixel telephones (insert suggestive eyebrow increase right here), and Samsung quickly provided the same promise for a few of its Galaxy gadgets (albeit with out the identical assurance of timeliness hooked up).
So now, what Samsung is doing is taking that a step additional by saying it’s going to present the Android safety patches for an further 12 months past that three-year interval — which, once more, is implausible. Whereas full-fledged working system upgrades completely do play a big position in areas like efficiency, privateness, and safety, the smaller safety patches alone are nonetheless a lot better than nothing (clearly, proper?!). And understanding you will obtain these for 4 years as an alternative of three — or typically even much less — is a precious little bit of assurance for anybody who hangs onto a cellphone even as soon as it is reached, erm, aged golden-ager standing.
However — effectively, we have these massive buts to debate. Lets?
The primary massive however with Samsung’s improve announcement
Okay, first: The query of when and how typically a Samsung Android gadget will obtain these safety updates as a part of this newly formalized plan is vexingly ambiguous. Some Samsung telephones, y’see, are set to obtain safety updates month-to-month — on the similar cadence these patches are launched by Google and meant to be delivered. Others are down for under quarterly safety patch rollouts. And others but are one class decrease, underneath a decidedly imprecise “common updates” designation.
Samsung would not elaborate on what, precisely, “common updates” entail — nevertheless it appears protected to say it is one thing much less frequent than quarterly, since it is a separate class that is one notch down within the checklist. A “common replace” that is a step under quarterly might arrive solely twice a 12 months — or possibly even simply as soon as. It is as much as interpretation, tellingly, however assuming it is a charge that is meaningfully lower than 4 occasions a 12 months looks as if an inexpensive conclusion to make, being that Samsung went out of the best way to create that further class for it.
Now, that is nonetheless higher than nothing — proper? Absotively! That is very true in that fourth 12 months, when most Android telephones can be getting exactly bupkis. However, effectively, Samsung is not solely placing gadgets which can be in their fourth 12 months into that class.
As an example: In line with the corporate’s present device status breakdown, the top-of-the-line Galaxy Tab S4 — which launched in August of 2018 and value a cool $649 to start out (or $800, in the event you acquired its most cost-effective obtainable possibility with the instructed keyboard attachment) — is already all the way down to “common” safety replace standing, regardless of being lower than three years previous. The identical is true for a number of midrange cellphone fashions from 2018.
The enterprise-aimed Galaxy A8, in the meantime, is already within the quarterly replace class in its third 12 months of life. The identical is true for the top-tier Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+, which simply got here out this previous September. Most of Samsung’s midrange telephones are additionally listed for quarterly safety updates at finest, irrespective of after they have been launched.
And whenever you’re evaluating that to Google’s personal Pixel replace dedication, the comparability is not fairly as black and white as some of us round these interwebs have been making it out to be. Google at present sends safety updates to all of its Pixel telephones, together with the $350 “a” fashions, on a month-to-month foundation — because the updates are launched — for 3 years. And it sends full working system updates to all of these gadgets roughly immediately, too, for that very same three-year interval.
Samsung, as we simply established, sends safety patches each single month for some of its telephones however then gives these updates solely quarterly or “often” for others, with no specific assure of when a cellphone would possibly transfer from one state to the subsequent — so whereas it does now proceed these updates for 4 years as an alternative of three, in some instances, you will find yourself with a lot much less frequent updates for a good half or maybe even all of that point. And regardless of the corporate’s relative improvements over these past couple years, its reliability with actual operating system upgrades continues to be anything but optimal and significantly behind Google’s standard. So you win some, you lose some, in other words; any advantage offered by the new fourth-year addition is offset by those hefty and underemphasized asterisks.
And all of that, m’dear, is but only our first big but.
The second big but with Samsung’s upgrade announcement
Prepare yourself: This second big but is a juicy one, and it’s largely being forgotten amidst this week’s discussion. So here it is: Two months ago, Google and Qualcomm announced that the newest collection of Qualcomm chips would assist — look forward to it — 4 years of safety updates for Android telephones. Yup. So what Samsung is doing is not really breaking new floor however fairly following that earlier announcement with its personal embrace of the identical idea.
Now, let’s not decrease the optimistic right here: Any enchancment is an enchancment price celebrating, particularly in the case of the oft-discouraging space of Android upgrades. However Samsung utilizing this information to place itself as an industry-leading innovator is possibly only a teensy bit disingenuous. As is commonly the case right here in these mossy mobile-tech waters of ours, a bit of context goes a good distance in taking us past the press launch headlines and letting us work out what’s really occurring.
Zooming out extra broadly, it’s going to be attention-grabbing to see if and the way Google evolves its personal software program assist commitments when its subsequent technology of recent Pixel telephones lands later this 12 months. The joint announcement with Qualcomm suggests Google will on the very least honor that four-year interval for safety updates, like Samsung — solely with the probably twist that all Pixel telephones would obtain the updates each single month, with none quarterly or “common” downgrades in designation or any murkiness surrounding which tier any given gadget will fall into and for the way lengthy.
Past that, if Google’s first selfmade processors make their manner into Pixel telephones this fall, as anticipated, it is totally doable even longer assist life could become more feasible from Google’s perspective — something I’ve been hoping to see for a while and that could eventually inspire even broader progress throughout the entire Android ecosystem.
The realm of Android upgrades has been overdue for improvement for far too long now, and with any luck, what we’re seeing now is just the start — even if this week’s news in and of itself might not be quite as earth-shattering as it seems on the surface.
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