In the early days of Android, system updates were very random: they would roll out at different times, and often several times a year. Google has now taken a much simpler approach by launching a major Android update per year and much smaller, security-focused updates once a month. But if you are not running an Android device that is updated by Google who knows when, or even if your phone will come any of these updates? Why does not your Android upgrade?
New Android users are often disappointed to find that their shiny new smartphone will not receive any updates or worse, they are running old software the moment they bought it. You have to understand the process of updating Android and how this technology ecosystem works to take advantage of it.
The ecosystem to update my Android
Unlike the Apple ecosystem, where it launches a single iPhone every generation, Android is a much more open(and confusing) environment. Any manufacturer can make an Android smartphone or tablet and release it. Although we have a limited amount of different iPhones launched from the beginning, thousands of different Android phones have been released in the same time period.
As such, Android phones use a wide variety of different hardware. Some phones are made to be super cheap. Some are high-end phones with more advanced hardware than the iPhone. There are a number of Android phones made to mimic directly(and compete with) the iPhone in terms of release cycle and product support. While any manufacturer can release a custom Android phone, there are models designed with the purest(and cleanest) Android experiences in mind, such as Google’s Nexus and Pixel devices. Updates to the phones on these lines are handled directly by Google, and so are generally the first phones to receive the newest software when it’s released. For the rest of the package, however, it’s a very different story.
How do I update my phone’s Android?
To make Android work on your hardware, device manufacturers(such as Samsung, LG or Motorola) must prepare Android device drivers specifically for their phones. These are often of closed origin, and can only be upgraded by the manufacturer. Google can not just launch a new version of Android that works on all devices. They release the new version, so manufacturers should pick it up and set it for each of their phones.
But it’s not just the drivers that hinder the process. Most Android phone manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG, for example, “protect” their phones to make them stand out in the crowd. They add, remove, and change interface elements and applications to make them proprietary. But all these additions take a lot of time and energy to add. So every time there is an Android update comes up, manufacturers need time adding up all their updates and this causes a long delay to update your celluler..
Some new versions of Android come with increased hardware requirements, preventing them from working on older devices, the same being true for the iPhone(and even desktop computers).
However, as there are so many Android phones, many lose support much sooner. If a manufacturer releases six different models each year, is it worth continuing to support them every year? Android makers are generally not as interested as they should be in updating devices after they are released(especially the cheapest ones). With the large amount of models being launched, there is little incentive to put a lot of work into upgrading an older model that has been replaced with a new one, especially when they prefer to encourage you to buy the newer model anyway. That has improved over time, but we still have a long way to go for manufacturers to give the same hardware support as Google.
Finally, Android smartphone makers are also responsible for cell phone operators, which can delay updates for months on their networks. While Apple has the strength to invade operators and launch new versions of its operating system, Android phone manufacturers do not. Again, this is improving, but it is still not ideal, and knowing if you have how to upgrade your Android phone becomes a matter of your own patience and effort.
How to get Android system update sooner?
If you’re tired of not getting updates, there’s a very clear path to follow: Buy a Google smartphone. These phones are designed, sold and maintained by Google, and they are updated when newer versions of Android are available. Google also guarantees this level of support for at least two years for all major Android updates and a three-year period for monthly security updates. That’s great support.
If you absolutely can not buy a Google phone, however, the story will be different. The good news is that most major manufacturers have greatly improved the support of their major handsets. But while we’re still likely to see the upgrade to new versions of Android in a flagship of major manufacturers, we probably still have to wait a few months for that to happen. It’s all about deciding what’s important to you, honestly.
There is another, much less recommended, way to make sure that your phone has the latest version of Android, provided you’re very knowledgeable in technology: custom ROMs.
Do not forget to always check for updates to your device, however. To do this, access the settings through the notifications menu or application menu. Scroll to the “About this phone/About this device” menu and tap “System update”. The phone will check for updates. If one is available, be sure to free up storage space on your smartphone before you can download the update.
Custom ROMs for updating your Android
Android is open source, so it is possible for Android users to pick up their source code and create their own operating systems, known as custom ROMs. If you have a reasonably popular device, probably other Android users are developing and tuning custom ROMs for them.
However, custom ROMs are not officially supported and require a lot of work to install and manage, far more than the average Android user might want to do or even have the technical know-how, but many use and love custom ROMs.
Custom ROMs allow people to buy hardware they like and install an operating system on Android by removing the manufacturer’s software customizations and upgrading the operating system to the latest version. Popular cell phones are more likely to be supported, although over time manufacturers make it more difficult for developers and ROM hackers to gain the access needed to create ROMs for the devices.
The best thing you can do if custom ROMs are interesting to you is to explore the developers’ forums for as much information as you can about your particular device. Ironically, Google phones will also be some of the friendlier devices for customization because Google allows the boot loader to be unlocked, removing security that prevents the operating system from being tampered with.
What to avoid when buying a new phone in order to keep up to date?
So if you are looking for a new phone and the appropriate updates are a concern, there are not only clear instructions on what you should buy but even clearer guidelines on what not to buy.
Firstly, if you care about the updates, do not buy cheap phones. Remember that manufacturers are not encouraged to upgrade cheap and less popular phones. You will almost certainly experience this firsthand if you buy something very cheap that you buy with less than a minimum wage. And the lower the price, the less likely it is for the phone to receive updates.
The more you go up in price(and popularity), the more likely it is that a phone will receive updates. But there are no guarantees unless you buy a smartphone directly from Google. But at least Android gives you the choice to keep your device up to date.