Operating System upgrades as well as security updates are currently a strong selling point for companies like Samsung, Apple and Google, but do we actually have to care about how many updates devices get? Does it affect their life cycle? Or are we forced to consume devices so quickly that it doesn’t matter anyway? Let’s take a deeper look.
Looking at last week’s poll results, I was surprised. Around half of our readers found the five-year security update commitment by Samsung to be the most attractive feature of the Samsung Galaxy S22 line, while 43% were more excited about the OS updates. Compare that number to the 30% that the camera features got made one thing clear. Yes, consumers do care. They care a lot.
But what is the difference between security updates and operating system upgrades? OS updates are software overhauls that add and optimize features or fix major bugs. Security updates on the other hand, are small, targeted fixes for security holes and usually come without noticeable changes. Security updates happen more often than OS ones.
In theory, when a device stops receiving security updates, it becomes suspect to new vulnerabilities, endangering the security of the user. While if you stay too far back in OS versions, you may find that a lot of apps will stop working.
Are update promises relevant?
Before going further, it is essential to know whether the promises for further upgrades even matter for the life cycle of the devices. Apple is famed to hold the golden rule of upgrades, with iOS receiving updates for around five years after their launch. But do we even keep our smartphones for that long?
Admittedly using an iPhone 7 nowadays is not fun. I know that from experience since I’ve been using one to test apps on older hardware. Even though the device is fine for basic browsing and messaging, many of the innovative features of newer iOS versions (it still got the latest iOS 15.3.1 version) are simply not supported by the hardware like live translations.
So at this stage, we are at a point where software support outlasts the hardware, at least in Apple’s case. But this is not an apples-to-apples comparison that can be done with Android. Apple controls both the hardware and the software that goes into the devices. Google can only do that for the Pixels, and all other manufacturers need to be in an ongoing partnership with Google to cover for the hardware diversity in the ecosystem.
The promise for more updates by Samsung may hint at something more than just new features every year. When companies make their operating systems, they need to consider the minimum requirements that devices need to have in order to support the software. What Samsung is wittingly implying is that the latest Galaxy S22 devices have hardware strong enough, to support the next Android versions until Android 16.
If you consider that the security updates will last even longer, this means that Samsung expects some users to keep their S22 until 2027! But my colleague Benjamin Lucks is not that convinced by Samsung citing current hardware limitations, specifically the battery.
But are users really bothered that much by outdated software?
Let us do a thought experiment. Assume you manage to keep the battery from dying within those five years or simply replace it. Do security updates become more enticing then? Is not having the latest software features, or complete security against the latest threats a reason to replace your device?
Personally, choosing to leave my device for a newer one is usually a complicated set of circumstances. In older days I used to keep a phone around until the hardware could not keep up with my daily lifestyle, either in terms of charging or performance. But nowadays, I have to admit that not having the latest gimmicky charging animation Xiaomi offers in their next upgrade is an added frustration.
I am really curious to see how the results will turn out when Monday comes around. So after you vote, I invite you to come here again to check for our analysis then.
But what about you? If the available answers above did not cover you, what is the main reason behind replacing your device? Let me know in the comments!