It seems that one of the biggest questions surrounding the tech community in recent times is when their respective devices will get an update either to the next major version of an operating system or a security patch. After all, we love having new features and better security is always welcome. However, there are some cases where certain devices don’t receive much of an update as frequently as it should, if at all. In this, we tackle some of the most common reasons and see whether they are considered valid or just an excuse.
This is actually based on a similar post I made last year on my personal blog. Not meaning to put in a shameless plug, but you should probably check it out before reading so you can get some pointers.
REASON #1 – Age
Age is probably the biggest and most obvious reason on why some devices don’t receive updates. As devices get older and constantly get replaced by their respective successors, their hierarchy in the update table drops until they stop receiving them altogether. For an Android phone, this is usually 2 years of OS upgrades and 3 years of bugfix and security patches. For iOS, they are usually 4 years of both major and minor upgrades to iOS. These first count from the date the device is first released. There are some exceptions to the security patch rule on Android however.
This is mostly a valid reason as there isn’t much incentive to update a device that’s getting older and older, and one that fewer people are as likely to use especially in the age of yearly upgrades with programs like JUMP! on T-Mobile. However, there were cases of devices being dropped from support rather early in their life-cycle, which we will discuss later on.
REASON #2 – Device class
It’s a typical known rule since smartphones were a thing that flagships tend to get the updates first, while lower-tiered devices usually either get them very late in their timeline or not at all. For example, in the case of Samsung until recently, when a new OS upgrade is released, the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note tend to be the first, followed by some mid-tiered phones some time after and then a couple of budget-tiered devices, although those usually tend to receive patches, but rarely a full-blown OS upgrade.
In the past, we’d consider that annoying but sorta understandable, but now, it’s become pretty much unacceptable to leave even a budget-tiered device out of the update hierarchy. Newer budget-tiered devices now receive security patches and some, like the Nokias from HMD, receive full-blown OS upgrades. Given that security is now becoming a prime concern in the tech world, especially after the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, it’s perhaps refreshing that even budget phones are getting regular updates of some sort.
THE LESS-ACCEPTABLE REASONS
And now we get into the less-acceptable reasons, reasons that we think can’t be justified even with the best forms of PR explanation and ones where companies should rightfully get some flak for. There are 3 that we are going to be discussing, which seem to be the main culprits.
EXHIBIT A – BROKEN PROMISES
In this section, we discuss companies failing to live up to their promises and/or claims in their marketing, which may or may not be clearly outlined. The 2 we’ll discuss is Motorola Mobility with the Moto E (Moto Z pictured) and OnePlus with the OnePlus 2. Both the Moto E and OnePlus 2 did not receive a new system upgrade before their lifespan was over (the OP2 did receive a Marshmallow upgrade though).
Moto E – The Moto E 2015 was a budget device released on February 2015 as the successor to its similarly-named predecessor, packing a new LTE-capable variant with beefier hardware. In marketing material, it was claimed that Moto E owners will be made sure that their device stays up-to-date after purchase. However, there was a fine print which was left out that revealed the Moto E would receive as least one system update to Android 5.1 Lollipop. As such, the marketing buzzword and actual disclaimer were kinda contradictory, which made it unclear over which is which. As such, when Motorola announced that the Moto E wouldn’t be receiving its update to Marshmallow, there was considerable uproar, so much so that later on, Motorola caved in and released the update, albeit only to certain countries. Today, many budget phones receive regular security updates and some even receive OS upgrades, such as the Nokia 3/5/6 and even a number of devices in the Galaxy J line. Probably a good time for others to step up their game.
OnePlus 2 – The OnePlus 2 was a bit of a troubled device for the Chinese company. Billed as the “2016 Flagship Killer”, it proved to be anything but that, followed with a pretty messed-up launch. Despite that, the device did receive a Marshmallow update. A little later than many were expecting but certainly a welcome one since it brought quite a number of improvements.
The next OS version is of course Android Nougat, and in a Q&A session held in 2016, a OnePlus rep seemingly confirmed that the OP2 will in fact be in-line for an OS upgrade to Nougat. After another confirmation shortly after, nothing. It was months later when an XDA member got a reply from OnePlus support saying that the 2 won’t be getting an update as the company has discontinued support for “dated devices”, and was in fact confirmed by the company just recently. I just find this unacceptable as many phones with similar hardware such as the Samsung Galaxy S6/Note5, HTC One M9, Sony XPERIA Z3+/Z5 and especially the Nexus 6P among others have received a Nougat update, so it just seems that OnePlus doesn’t seem to want to pour some extra resources to maintain support for their older device. In some ways, that may be understandable, but a core value of any company is to keep your customers happy. With this, all but the most savvy users will definitely have a sour taste in their buds.
EXHIBIT B – Controversy
In some cases, devices may not see an update if their reputation is so bad or tarnished that the OEM just doesn’t see any value in supporting it any longer. A perfect example would be the LG G4 and LG V10, both of which gained popularity at first for providing a great alternative to those who want a removable battery, and then became the butt end of reliability jokes during their mid-life cycle when it was reported that the phones would fall into an endless reboot-loop randomly without recovery.
LG finally admitted for the G4 that the bootloop bricks were caused by a “loose contact between components” and vows to fix all affected devices under the standard 1-year warranty. However, despite the statement, newer batches of the device made after the statement was released still fell victim to the issue and it was later reported that the V10 along with the Nexus 5X fell victim to the same issue without recovery, with varying reports on how successful the repairs have been. The company was even the target of a class-action lawsuit made not too long ago.
Possibly due to all this bad press, the company initially decided to not push the Nougat update (Korean language) to the 2 (the 5X was already running Nougat at the time this surfaced). However, after some consumer backlash, the company did a 180 and announced that the phones would be updated after all, first running on the V10 in Korea. Perhaps if LG had properly addressed the issue early on, this might not have happened.
EXHIBIT 3 – Niche-within-a-niche devices
Ah, that sort of device. The one device that companies make for the reason of “just because we can”. You know, devices like the Samsung Galaxy View, a massive 18.4″ tablet that is more at home as a HTPC or kitchen tool than an actual tablet. Well, devices like this are usually built just to show off what a manufacturer can do, and as a result, they may not receive updates frequently, if at all.
The aforementioned Galaxy View is currently on Android Lollipop, with no Marshmallow or Nougat update in sight. I know it’s not supposed to be mainstream device, but this is just ridiculous. At least a Marshmallow update would have been alright, especially since this gigantic thing is $600 at launch, which is way far from cheap. I mean, come on Samsung. You can update a bunch of Galaxy J-series phones. Why not spend a little more time and money on updating this one tablet?
In essence, while there are some valid reasons to why a manufacturer may stop delivering updates to a device, others are just plain ridiculous and reek of either laziness or just planned obsolescence to get people to fork out cash in order to get the latest and greatest just to get the latest and greatest piece of software that their current phones are already more than capable of running.
In the age of regular security patches, increased dependence on mobile technology and a post-WannaCry era, it’s high time that manufacturers take updates more seriously. We’ve seen some progress as of late, which is encouraging, but we need to see more progress soon, because we’re only getting started.