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Qualcomm wants OEMs to have easier time updating Android, will announce something later this year

Qualcomm knows that updating older chips is complicated (and expensive) for Android OEMs.

Published onJune 27, 2024

Qualcomm logos at MWC
Kris Carlon / Android Authority
  • A Qualcomm executive told Android Authority that the company is working to make it easier for OEMs to keep devices with older Qualcomm chipsets up to date.
  • The company understands that updating older devices is currently “complicated,” not to mention expensive.
  • There will be some announcements on this topic “later this year,” presumably surrounding the launch of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 4.

Over the past two years, Android OEMs have really stepped up their game related to keeping older devices updated with security patches and Android upgrades. Led by Samsung and Google — which both offer up to seven years of support for certain devices — this is a sharp change from even five years ago, in which two years of support was the disappointing norm.

Although timely and extensive Android updates/upgrades are very complex with bottlenecks from multiple sources, one of the cogs in that machine is the chipset vendor, i.e., Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, etc. As chips get older, the creators of those chipsets tend to move on from them as far as support goes, making it more difficult for OEMs to keep device software current. Historically, this has been a significant factor in devices only receiving one or two Android upgrades — or sometimes none at all.

Fortunately, Qualcomm knows this is an issue and is working on making it easier for OEMs to keep their products up to date. I recently sat down with Chris Patrick, SVP and General Manager of Handsets at Qualcomm, and he told me that this is not only a significant concern for the company but that it would also announce something soon to address it.

“It is very complicated for a customer — an OEM — to get security updates, to get Android version updates, and then get it to every end user,” Patrick told me. “It’s actually very expensive and very complicated.”

Patrick was quick to point out that he doesn’t think Qualcomm is the main bottleneck for this problem, and either way, the company has been working on making it easier for quite a while. “One of the things we’ve been working on for the past several years with Google and with the OEMs is to change the structure of inline code — to kind of change the machinery for how we do those updates.”

Theoretically, these changes should remove at least some of the friction OEMs face when keeping devices up to date. Of course, removing a bottleneck doesn’t mean OEMs will automatically meet Google and Samsung with seven years of updates, but it should at least move the needle a bit.

Although Patrick says this code optimization has been happening for years, the company clearly has more it hasn’t told us yet. “You’ll see that, later on this year, we’ll make some announcements about some of those changes we’ve made to facilitate this and help the whole ecosystem keep Android phones closer to up to date,” he said.

Although “later on this year” isn’t super specific, there are only two other significant events coming up in 2024 at which Qualcomm would make an announcement like this, which is IFA in September and Snapdragon Summit in October. The former is a large tech event featuring brands from all over the world, while the latter is a Qualcomm-specific event that will almost certainly see the debut of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 4. Our money would be on this news landing at Snapdragon Summit, but we’ll need to wait and see.

Either way, hopefully, these statements will result in Android phones staying safe software-wise for much longer than they have been!

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