Google reels in Android updates

Android updates are something of a hit and miss endeavor within Google’s mobile platform, considering that Android has multiple OEMs: Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, Motorola, Xiaomi, Acer, Huawei, OnePlus, and other minor players. As a result, consumers can’t always trust that their brand new smartphone will receive Android updates. Tech-savvy consumers often ridicule Samsung for its slow updates, but the truth of the matter is that lots of Android OEMs are slow on updates — many, in fact, are often slower than Samsung.

Google has been locking down Android OEMs to play by Mountain View’s rules (such as Doze Mode in Android Marshmallow) and the search engine giant is now back to ensure that Android consumers start receiving the updates they deserve when investing in Android devices. According to the source, Google is considering shaming Android OEMs publicly by publishing an Android updates list that would rank manufacturers based on how quickly (or not) they update existing devices to the latest Android OS update.

Google is using more forceful tactics. It has drawn up lists that rank top phone makers by how up-to-date their handsets are, based on security patches and operating system versions, according to people familiar with the matter. Google shared this list with Android partners earlier this year. It has discussed making it public to highlight proactive manufacturers and shame tardy vendors through omission from the list, two of the people said. The people didn’t want to be identified to maintain their relationships with Google,

the source below said in its statement.

Google has been trying to beef up the security of its OS, making Android updates available for devices up to 18 months. One way the search engine giant could fix this is by extending the update eligibility from 18 months to as long as 3 years. Apple ensures that devices have support for up to 3 years, and its updates usually come available to everyone without differences in the software experience (unlike Apple, who lets newer devices often have features that Apple omits from older devices).

Google could also withhold updates for brand new phones as a way of shaming Android partners who don’t “get with the program” and update their phones as soon as possible. This could be the difference between whether or not someone gets the next update on schedule in a new device. In other words, if a manufacturer doesn’t get Android N out on schedule, it could be forced to get Android O to its existing devices later than the other manufacturers who do comply. Of course, this would also penalize users, who are innocent in the matter, more so than the manufacturers.

Google could decide to make manufacturers incur a financial penalty if they choose not to update their devices on time. Since Android is free, and OEMs pay nothing to use it, the Android owner could make LG pay a penalty, for example, thereby costing LG money out of pocket from its phone sales if it doesn’t comply. If manufacturers discover that they’ll be forced to pay for Android should they not comply, they’ll either have to pony up the cash or forfeit using Android OS on their devices (and only Samsung could get away with this; the Korean giant now has Tizen, its own homegrown OS, as an alternative to Android).


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