Home iOS Android’s underappreciated upgrade advantage | Computerworld

Android’s underappreciated upgrade advantage | Computerworld


Well, gang, it’s that time of year again — time when a magical and revolutionary new iOS update is making its way into the world and everyone’s talking about how Android’s software upgrade standard is an embarrassment in comparison.

Now, look, you know me: I’m not gonna beat around the bush and tell you that the Android upgrade system is optimal — or even anything close to free from flaws. My annual Android Upgrade Report Card strips the situation of its velvety bathrobe and lays bare the cold, sobering truth, even when certain Android device-makers fight nail and tooth to convince us everything’s peachy.

As is almost always the case, though, the reality is far more nuanced than you’d be led to believe. Yes, the vast majority of Android device-makers are flat-out failing when it comes to keeping their devices consistently up to date with the latest Android version. Yes, that’s especially true when it comes to the oft-overlooked year-old flagship phone models, not to mention the sprawling galaxy of midrange and budget-level devices. And yes, even Google, as the sole Android hardware creator doing an all-around admirable job at providing timely and reliable software updates to its devices, could and should be supporting phones for far longer than it is (a shift that signs suggest could finally shape up soon, incidentally).

But still, the situation isn’t nearly as black and white as it appears. And the Apple-to-Android upgrade comparison, as I’ve put it before, is very much a case of comparing apples to oranges.

The two-part tale of Android upgrades

Let’s start with the Android side of the equation, shall we? Most of the attention related to upgrades understandably revolves around Google’s shiny annual Android operating system updates. And you’d better believe those updates matter — not only for the interface enhancements they deliver but also for the under-the-hood improvements they provide in critically important areas areas like privacy, security, and performance.

But with Android, those operating system updates are only half the story. For well over a decade now, Google’s been pulling what were once core operating system elements out of the operating system proper and treating them as standalone apps instead. That means those elements — all of which are still considered part of the single-bundle operating system in the land of iOS — get updated numerous times a month, all throughout the year. And those updates reach every single Android device within a matter of days, regardless of which company made it or how long ago it was released.

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