Home Android Two big buts about Samsung’s Android security update announcement

Two big buts about Samsung’s Android security update announcement

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Didja see? Samsung’s pledging a full four years of support for security updates on its Galaxy-branded Android phones. Well, shiver me timbers: That sure is somethin’!

Samsung slapped the news down onto these here internerfs of ours Monday morning, and the glowing headlines predictably followed — with some stories going as far as to proclaim Samsung as the new undisputed “king of Android upgrades” or to declare that the company was now “beating Google at its own game.”

Yeaaaaaaaah. That, my friends, is what we call an effective press release rollout.

Don’t get me wrong: Samsung’s newly stated commitment is excellent news, without a doubt, and it’s hopefully a move that’ll only spur more companies in the Android universe to follow suit (yay!). But there’s also more to it than you see on the surface (aww!) — and the situation isn’t nearly as black and white as some interpretations would leave you to believe (ohh…). So let’s take a minute to explore the nuances of Samsung’s shift and wrap our moist person-brains around what’s actually happening here, shall we?

First, for context: For a while now, most Android device-makers have — at least in theory — agreed to provide a minimum of two years of operating system updates and security patches for their top-tier, flagship-level phones. Last year, Google bumped that up to a three-year guarantee for its own Pixel phones (insert suggestive eyebrow raise here), and Samsung soon offered a similar promise for some of its Galaxy devices (albeit without the same assurance of timeliness attached).

So now, what Samsung is doing is taking that a step further by saying it’ll provide the Android security patches for an additional year beyond that three-year period — which, again, is fantastic. While full-fledged operating system upgrades absolutely do play a significant role in areas like performance, privacy, and security, the smaller security patches alone are still much better than nothing (obviously, right?!). And knowing you’ll receive those for four years instead of three — or sometimes even less — is a valuable bit of assurance for anyone who hangs onto a phone even once it’s reached, erm, elderly golden-ager status.

But — well, we’ve got those big buts to discuss. Shall we?

The first big but with Samsung’s upgrade announcement

Okay, first: The question of when and how often a Samsung Android device will receive those security updates as part of this newly formalized plan is vexingly ambiguous. Some Samsung phones, y’see, are set to receive security updates monthly — at the same cadence those patches are released by Google and intended to be delivered. Others are down for only quarterly security patch rollouts. And others yet are one category lower, under a decidedly vague “regular updates” designation.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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