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OnePlus showed us the truth about Google and Samsung’s 7-year update promise for Android

Published Feb 6th, 2024 3:48PM EST
OnePlus 12 color options.
Image: OnePlus

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Google and then Samsung promised seven years of Android updates and seven years of security updates for the Pixel 8 phones and Galaxy S24 series, respectively. These guarantees are unprecedented. The best Android vendors could do before the Pixel 8 was four years of Android updates, and it was Samsung leading the charge, by the way. 

While it’s a great talking point, especially since it beats Apple’s iPhone updates, I explained more than once why the promise of seven years of Android updates is somewhat misleading.

Apple has never guaranteed software updates for any of its iPhone models. But it routinely gives them around five years of updates. It has certainly been better than anything Android vendors were able to muster before last year’s promises. And now, we’re seeing that Google and Samsung’s 7-year guarantee is not something others are keen to copy.

OnePlus is the best example of that. The Chinese vendor will only offer three to four years of Android updates for the newly announced OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 12R. And OnePlus has a great point about the promises that Google and Samsung make, which is in line with my expectations: The hardware isn’t likely to last that long.

I already explained the big hurdles that stand in the way of guaranteeing seven years of Android updates

Suppose you forget the vendors’ obvious interest in selling new hardware rather than supporting old devices and the inevitable software trade-offs that will come down the road as older hardware cannot deal with new features. You’re still left with a few glaring issues. Smartphone batteries, and the smartphones themselves, aren’t likely to survive that long. 

It might be better to buy a new handset after about four years of use than to replace the battery and possibly other components. 

OnePlus COO and president Kinder Liu explained the company’s approach to software updates to Tom’s Guide

The OnePLus 12 is getting four years of Android updates and five years of security updates. Buy the cheaper OnePlus 12R, and you’ll have to settle for three and four years of updates, respectively. Why such a big difference compared to the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24 flagships?

As Lio explained, it all boils down to the device experience by the time you get that far into the future.

OnePlus 12 design.
OnePlus 12 design. Image source: OnePlus

“Simply offering longer software update policies completely misses the point,” Liu said. “It’s not just software update policies that are important to the user, it’s the fluency of your phone’s user experience too.”

“Imagine your phone is a sandwich,” he continued. “Some manufacturers are now saying that the filling in their sandwich — their phone’s software — will still be good to eat in seven years’ time. But what they’re not telling you is that the bread in the sandwich — the user experience — might be moldy after four years. Suddenly a seven-year software update policy doesn’t matter, because the rest of your experience with the phone is terrible.”

Food comparisons aside, Liu also pointed to a more objective way to measure a phone’s life. OnePlus worked with TÜV SUD to stress the new phones and simulate years of use. Taking the results into account, OnePlus says it can guarantee its signature “fast and smooth” performance for the OnePlus 12 and 12R after four years of use.

Liu also addressed battery health, which is also something I pointed out before. Finally, the OnePlus exec cited findings from CounterPoint Research that say Android users tend to upgrade their handsets within four years. 

That said, there is one amazing thing about these 7-year software update guarantees. Companies like OnePlus have to either match Google and Samsung or call them out as misleading to protect their own products. Either way, the consumer will win. While not everyone in the industry will be ready to offer 7-year guarantees, more vendors might have to guarantee up to four years of Android OS upgrades.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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