Slow Android updates are one of the worst things about smartphones running the Android operating system. Fragmentation is a notoriously big problem for Android, and Google’s update system for Android is famously broken. Many Android users need to wait months to get the latest version of Android and, even if their phones are only a year or two old, find themselves wondering whether they’ll ever get critical Android updates.
The big problem with this situation is that Android updates do more than just add new features and refine the way the operating system looks and works (though that’s a pretty major benefit to miss out on). Android updates also carry critical fixes for major security vulnerabilities, integrate patches for bugs, and add code that will improve devices’ performance. And since many new apps require a recent version of Android, it’s Android updates that enable users with older phones to run new apps and keep the apps they’ve been using for years stable.
Some phone makers are better at providing timely Android updates than others. So what can you do if you’re a big Android fan searching for a new phone, but don’t want to end up with one that the OEM doesn’t update? You should find out which phone makers are good at offering fast Android updates, and which ones aren’t so great at it. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell which OEMs you should consider based on how phone makers handled the update to Android 6.0. Read on to check out which phone makers have the best record of providing fast Android updates, and which ones you should steer clear of when you purchase your next smartphone.
1. Google Nexus: Fastest Android updates
If fast Android updates are a top priority for you, then purchasing a Google Nexus device is a no-brainer. Nexus devices always receive the latest Android updates on the day that they’re released, and they offer the “purest” form of Android without the bloatware and custom skins that phone makers and carriers introduce. Nexus phones are the first devices to receive Android updates, and aren’t subject to the same lengthy approval processes that stretch on between carriers and OEMs.
As JR Raphael reported for Computerworld in the publication’s “Android Update Report Card” for Marshmallow, “Goole isn’t technically an Android smartphone manufacturer, but as the driving force behind the Nexus line of devices and the sole provider of upgrades for those devices, it serves the same practical role” for users concerned about when they’ll get Android updates. The Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P shipped with Marshmallow already installed, and some owners of the Nexus 6 received the update the same day that the software was officially released.
Nonetheless, Raphael notes that Google’s communication could be better, since the company left those users who didn’t get the update in the first wave of rollouts in the dark as to when they’d be able to upgrade to Marshmallow. Nonetheless, choosing a Nexus device is “still without question the most reliable way to receive ongoing updates in a timely, if not always immediate, manner.”
2. Motorola: Fast Android updates
According to a 2016 report from Apteligent (PDF), summarizing the group comparison of the time it took to upgrade from Android 5.x Lollipop to Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a variety of different smartphones in the United States, Motorola was the first phone maker to issue Marshmallow updates after the operating system’s release in early October.
“Our data shows that the device manufacturers clustered into two groups: those that pushed the update three months after the release and those that wait longer – a little over five months.” Motorola was the first to issue Android updates for Marshmallow, and tried the update first on a small set of devices including the Moto X Pure Edition and Moto X Style for about two months before rolling them out more widely. Apteligent recommends that users who want to “optimize for stability and update speed” should consider a Motorola smartphone as their next purchase.
3. LG: Fast ANdroid Updates
LG is another phone maker that has been quick to release Android updates, and came in second behind Motorola in getting Marshmallow updates out the door. The company took the same approach as Motorola in rolling out updates to Android Marshmallow. It tested the update first on the LG G4 for around a month before releasing the update for other models. Apteligent notes that “LG has a history of getting OS releases out the door quickly,” and the group recommends choosing an LG smartphone if you want to be one of the first users of a new version of Android.
Computerworld notes that while LG “has traditionally been terrible when it comes to Android upgrade reliability,” the company has gradually improved in recent years. Just as it did with the update to Android 5.0, LG managed to release the update to Android 6.0 for some of its phones quite quickly. But Raphael reports that “rushing out Marshmallow in what was effectively a small-scale single-country soak test isn’t the same as actually getting it into the hands of most consumers,” which was especially aggravating for American consumers, who heard about LG rolling out the update in Poland and then had to wait months for it to arrive stateside. LG also failed to provide waiting users with much information during the update process, which didn’t make the wait any easier.
4. HTC: Fast Android updates
HTC released Android updates for Marshmallow right after LG, but much more quickly than many other phone manufacturers. Instead of following the gradual strategy employed by Motorola and LG, HTC took a different approach. Apteligent reports that HTC “basically just pushed the release out to all compatible devices from the beginning.” While HTC’s turnaround time when it comes to Android updates could get a little bit faster, it’s one of the best manufacturers in terms of keeping users in the loop about when they can expect an update for each model and variation.
In Raphael’s assessment, HTC is “doing pretty darn well and continuing to make impressive improvements to its upgrade delivery time.” Nonetheless, the speed with which HTC’s One M9 received the update to Android Marshmallow is a good demonstration of why it’s always better to go with the unlocked version of a phone rather than a carrier-locked model. The unlocked version of LG’s flagship received the update in December, while Android updates for the carrier-locked versions of the phone didn’t begin to roll out until February.
5. OnePlus: Fast Android Updates
Nobody knows how the update experience is going to be for this device. Obviously, if we look at history, things aren't looking too hopeful.
I feel OnePlus is much more on top of their game with this device though. As others have said, the device has only been out around a month and OnePlus has already released a handful of timely updates. One of these updates directly addressed complaints about the phone's RAM management and display calibration. OnePlus had their reasons for the way they configured RAM management and the display, but had no issue with making adjustments to satisfy their customers. I have nothing but respect for them as a company for making that move.
Some are making complaints about the phone having some bugs, but they are few and far between amongst the vast majority of phones (a handful of forum posts don't represent the vast majority). I, personally, only experience the silent notifications bug sporadically...other than that the phone has been perfect. These bugs will surely be addressed in further updates.
Nazrul Hoque - 20 October 2016