It seems Google’s efforts to extend software update cycles on Android phones is working. South Korean smartphone giant, Samsung, has promised users that it will provide five years of Android security patches on some of its flagship devices, both new and old. It’s not exactly a full software update, but having security patches for five years can still extend your phone’s life cycle, especially for those who don’t care about being on the newest version of Android all the time. Update cycles from most smartphone makers extend for two to three years right now, so this could also give Samsung an edge in the market, at least till others catch up.
But it doesn’t really matter to you…
Samsung’s move isn’t without its flaws though. The company said the five-year update cycle for security patches will only come to enterprise versions of the Galaxy S20 series, Galaxy S21 series, Galaxy Note 20 series, Galaxy XCover 5 and the Galaxy Tab Active 3. The Galaxy XCover 5 is a rugged device that Samsung doesn’t sell in India right now, but has launched in some other markets. For all other enterprise versions of its devices, the update cycle will be paused after four years, which is what Samsung follows for all its devices launched after 2019.
This means the new five-year update plan won’t affect regular consumers, who make up the majority of Samsung’s user base worldwide. Enterprise versions of its devices come with special versions of Samsung’s Knox security service, and are sold only to businesses. It’s likely that the company can keep up the security on those because it makes and maintains Knox in-house. For consumer devices, security comes down to Google’s own patches, though Samsung does use a version of Knox on consumer devices too.
You can’t really blame the company for pushing such a feature for businesses, who do require more security. However, it might disappoint many regular consumers who have spent money on Samsung’s devices so far. The difference between enterprise and consumer devices is usually lost on regular users, which means most won’t agree with Samsung’s decision, and correctly so.
It’s about time Android phone makers improved their update game. The industry suffers from fragmentation, since it includes hundreds of thousands of hardware and software makers. But large companies like Samsung ought to do more than the industry standard 18-24 month update cycles. It’s also environmentally sound, since it’ll reduce e-waste and consumers won’t need to buy new phones as often.