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While the Pixel 6 ushered in three years of major Android OS version updates and an additional two for security patches, that’s still nowhere near the longevity of the iPhone. Google hopes to change that on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro with noticeably more OS updates.
Looking at the mobile Android landscape, three years of OS updates – which was also the case on Qualcomm-powered Pixel phones from 2017-2021 – is less than Samsung’s promise of four, which started last year with the Galaxy S21, S22, Flip 3, and Fold 3 and continued through devices released this year, including some of the company’s more affordable releases.
Other Android-powered devices like the Nvidia Shield are up to eight years of updates in large part because Nvidia wholly controls the (aging) Tegra X1 and X1+ chips. Google is moving in that direction with Tensor, though the first three generations of Tensor are heavily based on Samsung Exynos.
Google touts “5 years of Pixel updates” on existing Tensor-powered devices as, after Android 13, 14, and 15 (for example), the Pixel 6 will get two more years (24 monthly security patches) that should let you comfortably keep using your phone albeit without major operating system updates during those last two years. Of course, many new features on Android are delivered via app updates and Google Play services, so your phone will not be left too far behind.
Then there’s Apple, with the iPhone XS released in September 2018 with iOS 12 that will get iOS 17 this fall. The iPhone 6S (and 7) from 2015 is still getting security releases on iOS 15 and currently stands at just shy of 8 years of updates.
Android’s update story paling in comparison to the iPhone has been an easy knock, and Google is working to address that with the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. We’re hearing that Google plans to competitively boost how many years of OS updates the Pixel 8 series and presumably future devices will get.
From what we’re hearing, Pixel 8’s update promise should surpass Samsung’s current policy on flagships and meaningfully match the iPhone. Of course, the devil is in the details, especially in those later years. For example, the Galaxy line has, in the past, adopted a quarterly approach towards the end. Even a bump to just five years of OS updates for Pixel would be enough and let the Google phone be at the top of the ecosystem, with anything beyond that squarely going after the iPhone’s record.
Google says last 2021 that Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro stick with 3 years of major OS updates, 5 years of security
The new Pixel 6 series delivers the company’s in-house Tensor chip which is supposed to upgrade how long these phones last. While it does do that, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will only get 3 years of major Android OS updates.
Confirmed to Ron Amadeo at ArsTechnica, Google says that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will get 3 years of major Android updates, on par with the company’s current Qualcomm-powered Pixels. That’s not to say there won’t be any upgrades past then, as Google will be offering 5 years of security updates.
Official statement from Google PR: pic.twitter.com/Onsldj4wkX
— Ron Amadeo (@RonAmadeo) October 19, 2021
Google’s full statement reads:
We build Pixel phones to get better over time with software and feature updates, so starting with Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro Pixels will now receive security updates for at least 5 years. Users will still get at least 3 years of OS updates, after which we’re committing to ensure that Pixels will stay up-to-date and secure. The frequency and categories of updates will depend on the capabilities and needs of the hardware.
On a support page, Google provides more specific dates.
While this is still a bit disappointing, it’s still in stark contrast to the rest of Google’s competition on Android. Most OEMs are hesitant to provide long-term support. Samsung, for instance, only offers a maximum of 4 years of support for its devices, and that’s a new policy that only applies to a select few devices.
Hopefully, Google will expand this policy in future generations.