The beginning of this mobile era closely reflected the early years of the personal computer market. A frantic race, where we see exponential jumps in performance. The best phone from last year was totally overshadowed by launches that we see 3 to 6 months later. And its next version, it was much faster, it had a better screen, a better autonomy.
Like the PC market, then, the hardware of mobile phones has reached a picOr, where improvements continue, but not with the dramatic leaps of this first era. At calmer steps, which increase performance, many times, imperceptibly for most. This has caused us to finally have low-end and mid-range quality phones; The quality of the components has been homogenized, and now a $ 200 phone has little to envy the $ 500 or $ 700 phone.
Given these minimum speed increases (in Qualcomm processors, for example, we tend to see slight improvements of 10%, 15%, similar to what we see on PCs, Manufacturers are trying to differentiate themselves from the rest in other ways, to offer the public a reason to update annually, as in design issues that we saw this year, where the bezels (screen edges) were reduced considerably. In this sense, the smartphone market closely resembles that of TVs, where manufacturers also struggle to offer us new models every year with characteristics that are sometimes unnecessary (3D TVs, do you remember them?).
Fragmentation, the problem that Android has failed to solve. And the excuses are over.
Todaythere is no longer a compelling reason to update annually, or even every two years. In fact, the percentage that installs its apps (core apps) and nothing else is large. A 2014 phone could easily run all current applications, without any problem.
Where we are seeing substantial improvements, however, is in software, in the operating system of the phones.
Taking 2014 as a reference: Android, back then, was in KitKat, to be replaced by Lolipop almost at the end of the year (November). By contrast, As hardware, we had phones such as the Galaxy S5, LG G3, Nexus 6, OnePlus One. All these phones had hardware that is comparable or superior to current mid-range phones, from 2017.. However, All these phones from 3 years ago, without exception, have been abandoned by their manufacturers.
The S5 received Lollipop (5.0) and in some markets it even received Marshmallow (6.0). The LG G3 was also updated to Marshmallow (it was released with Android 5.0). The OnePlus One also ran with the same fate, being abandoned on Android 6. The only phone updated to 2014 Nougat? It was the Nexus 6 that Google made with Motorola. But even this has already been abandoned; You will never receive version 7.1.2, let alone Oreo, the latest version of Android.
I hate doing this, but it is necessary: By comparison, Microsoft released the Lumia 930, which has been updated to the latest version of Windows 10 and continues to receive support from Microsoft.
And Apple? Well, Apple released the iPhone 6, which a few days ago, just received iOS 11 worldwide.
What we have as a result is surprising: buying an iPhone ensures you, on average, at least 4 to 5 years of constant updates, followed by Microsoft, which usually gives us 3 years of updates. Google, with its Nexus or Pixel phones, gives us 2.5 years of updates, followed by far by the rest that, at most, gives us a year and a half of updates.
Lack of Updates is a Security risk.
This is honestly unacceptable. In a market where hardware has matured to the point that it is really unnecessary to change your phone very frequently, this inability of Google to fix how updates work in your operating system not only considerably limits what we can do with our phone, but it also offers a huge security risk. Go to Settings / Over the Phone and see what the latest security patch is. Is it updated? Google releases security patches monthly, since Android, being the most popular operating system in the world, is constantly being attacked by millions of people looking for vulnerabilities. To counter it, Google fixes these errors monthly and releases a security patch. But how many of these phones do they receive? My LG G6, for example, is still in the March security patch. MARCH!
Google, in its clumsiness for not being able to offer periodic and universal updates, is putting at risk the security of hundreds of millions of devices worldwide.
Lack of updates is a hindrance to progress.
Now it is the software that is evolving by leaps and bounds. Computational photography is a reality. Augmented reality is with us. And leaving these technologies aside, the improvements in performance, in autonomy, have come more by software than by hardware.
See, nothing more, how Android has evolved from KitKat, until now. We had huge Autonomous improvements since then, with features like Doze, introduced in Android 6.0 and improved in Nougat, where the phone goes into a state of hibernation when the screen is off, waking up periodically just to ask for updates before re-entering this state. Or the limitations imposed by Android Oreo in what apps can do in the background – very similar to what iOS does – to improve the battery.
Or what about the Quick Settings in the Notifications panel, which make life so much easier for us? Improvements in how Android grants apps permissions, so that they cannot violate our privacy? Google Assistant? What about the Split Screen that allows us to run two apps simultaneously?
All this could run smoothly on phones from 2014, 2013. But they don't, because of course the manufacturers have than selling us new phones. And they won't, if our old phones are still being updated.
But before, there are other reasons to upgrade (huge leaps in performance, for example). Now? This obscenely planned obsolescence imposed by manufacturers and by Google's ineptitude must end.
What can Google do?
Somehow, Google is already doing it. His move from Made by Google last year, where he replaced Nexus phones with Pixels, was the first step. They changed the business model, where they co-created the phone with a different manufacturer each year to serve as an example for the rest, to one where Google practically hid the real manufacturer (HTC), to make it feel like a real Google phone, created by them.
And now, Google has bought HTC's division of Smartphones for $ 1.1 billion, a move that closely resembles what Google did with Motorola years ago. But the picture is very different now. Google knows that it cannot control updates to its operating system from other manufacturers, so it has decided to launch its own phone. Having its own hardware division.
Now Google, like Apple, controls the software and hardware.
What should we do?
We cannot continue to ignore the lack of updates from manufacturers. Therefore, we must demonstrate that we care with our pocket.
Buying and recommending a Pixel to everyone is just a pretty innocent idea. Especially when there is better hardware than the Pixel on the market. And especially because despite boasting of being a global company, Google's reach in hardware – and the sale of pixels – is pathetic.
The next option, then, is to search for phones that receive constant updates. Apart from Apple and Microsoft, Samsung is the company that usually offers more updates. And the best thing about Samsung, is that we can skip an important step: that the software update passes through each of the operators / carriers, which is where the updates usually stay stagnant. In a Samsung, using software like Odin we can manually update our phone with software from another region, in a simple and fast process. This, I think, me, is the next best option. We have better hardware than a Google Pixel, and still continuous updates. Another phone that allows this change of region? The HTC Mate 9 / P10. I recently changed my region of Latin America (which was abandoned in terms of updates), to that of Europe, which usually receives patches continuously.
So do your research, also think about which phones tend to get the most updates. Because the phone they buy now doesn't have to be replaced in a year or two. As we saw above paragraphs, many of the flagships, the flag phones launched 3 or 4 years ago, could easily run all current applications, and rival the mid-range / premium mid-range phones now on the market. The only problem? That they are abandoned by their manufacturers, without having received any more updates.
Any future remedy?
Android Oreo has imposed things in the background with what is called Project Treble:
In essence, a way to simplify the Android update process, to give manufacturers more facilities to adapt the Android code to their phones. But this means that we will have to keep waiting for the manufacturer to develop the update on their own. And then for the manufacturer and operator to agree, fill this version of Android with operator software, and finally release it for the region.
It is a step forward, but it is not enough. Our phones are, in many cases, our personal computers, and we should have the right to update them as such.. Can you imagine having a computer that we cannot upgrade to the latest version of Windows because we are in a different region? Or not being able to uninstall apps pre-installed by the manufacturer and operator, which take up precious gigabytes of storage? This situation has to change, and now.
I love android, and alternate followed between my three currently favorite phones: the S8 +, the LG G6 (mainly by the camera) and the Huawei Mate 9. But at I had to modify two of these, running the risk of brickeying them, in order to have periodic updates. This may not be the way that Android, today, in 2017, continues to operate.