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Google's Pixel 6 update promise is not good enough
Three years of Android OS updates, five years of security updates: that’s Google’s update pledge for the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Starting from Android 12, Google’s latest flagships will receive Android 15 in 2024, followed by security patches until 2026.
Technically, this is the best you can find from an Android smartphone at the moment. It beats Samsung’s promise of three OS updates and four years of security updates for its Galaxy S21 and older handsets, but not by very much. Those following the rumors of four or five years of OS updates will no doubt be disappointed.
It’s hard not to feel this is a wasted opportunity for Google to pull Android support up by its socks.
If Google had gone further, with four, let alone five years of OS updates, it would have likely driven other manufacturers to attempt to match its pledge. Or, at the very least, it would have encouraged them to offer slightly longer support than they do now. As it stands, it seems unlikely that Android rivals, particularly those operating in budget markets, will be too worried about customers complaining their update roadmaps are falling too far behind.
Of course, any improvement to a phone’s update schedule is welcome — this is another step in the right direction. But for all the talk of Android 12 making it easier for manufacturers to deliver OS updates, the work done with Project Mainline, and the criticisms leveled at silicon vendors over the past few years, Google’s latest pledge is only fractionally better than what’s come before. Disappointingly so, given that Google is now in the silicon driving seat with its Tensor SoC inside the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, a key bottleneck in the chain of long-term support.
Remember, all of Google’s other relatively recent Pixel smartphones will receive three years of guaranteed Android OS updates. Google has simply extended security updates by two years. Still, that’s far better than the litany of manufacturers offering a pitiful two years of OS updates and three years of security, if you’re lucky. But Android’s best remains woeful compared to the level of support Apple offers its extended iPhone portfolio.
A premium-tier Pixel should at the very least match what Appel can provide with a budget iPhone.
Case in point, 2015’s iPhone 6S has received an update to the latest iOS 15, complete with all the latest features and not just security patches, after starting on iOS 9. That’s a full six years after the phone’s release. Even Apple’s budget iPhone SE (2016), which cost just $349 at launch, has already received iOS 15. A premium-tier Pixel should at the very least match what Apple can provide with its budget iPhone.
So here we are, once again scratching our heads. Despite all the OS talk and initiatives over the past few years, Google has not managed to meaningfully improve on the Android update situation. While limited updates may have been more understandable during Google’s experimentation with affordable Pixels, there’s little excuse for such a marginal improvement with the return to flagship hardware and pricing.
Is the Google Pixel 6's three year OS and five year security update promise long enough?
Ultimately, Google’s Pixel 6 update pledge, while the best you can find in the Android space, is still a long way off the best in the business. It’s really not good enough.