Google’s latest flagship gets fewer Android updates than the Samsung Galaxy A53
A core strength of Google’s hardware lies in its fast and reliable software support. Pixel devices always receive new Android versions before the competition, and until recently, Pixels would receive these updates longer than other Android devices. The mobile landscape is changing and the software benefits that the Pixels provide are no longer as important as they once were. Some are even suggesting what was once unthinkable: Pixels are no longer the best Android phones to buy for long-term software support.
Looking back, we can see how Google’s phones and tablets have built a reputation for software support. Android 9.0 Pie was made available for Pixels in August 2018. Samsung’s 2018 flagship Galaxy S9 did not receive the update until January 2019. Google also offered more updates than other Android manufacturers. Pixels received three years of software and security updates, while Samsung and many other competitors only offered two OS upgrades.
Samsung started closing the gap in 2019. Monthly security patches became more consistent and current. The gap between Google releasing new versions of Android and Samsung pushing the updates to many of its phones has narrowed. Galaxy S9 owners have waited five months to get Android 9.0. Galaxy S10 owners have been holding onto the Android 10 update for just two and a half months after its release. Android 12 made its way to the Galaxy S21 less than a month after its Pixel debut.
Google doesn’t do much to improve its reputation. It’s normal for new products to suffer from bugs at launch, but the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro were plagued with persistent issues that lasted for months. Some issues were so severe that the Pixel 6 series received monthly security patches weeks later than their older siblings. Most of the bugs were eventually fixed, but some persist today, more than six months after the phones went on sale.
When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 20 in August 2020, it made a bold commitment to long-term software support. Most future Galaxy devices will receive three years of Android upgrades and four years of security patches. The offering has also expanded to a handful of premium 2019 devices. Google lost its leadership role in long-term software support. Samsung fulfilled Google’s promise of OS upgrades, adding an extra year of security patches to boot.
Google temporarily changed the math when it announced the Pixel 6. The first true flagships would receive five years of security upgrades. It would continue with three years of software updates, like older Pixel models. The security update offer has not been extended to older Pixel models. It has a half-hearted win and one that doesn’t last.
When Samsung announced the Galaxy S22 series in February 2022, it surpassed Google again. Most of the upcoming Galaxy A and S series phones are eligible for four years of OS upgrades, along with five years of security patches. Again, Samsung expanded the offering to a select few 2021 devices, and again, it put Google’s software commitment to shame.
Google’s Android devices have always served as an example for other manufacturers, demonstrating how Google believes Android should behave and how long devices should be supported. Today, even the mid-range Galaxy A53 surpasses 5G Pixel phones for updates. About to set the midrange market on fire, the Google Pixel 6a offers the same flagship processor as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro for just $450.
This phone will be more powerful than most midrange devices from Samsung. However, the Pixel 6a gets inferior software support compared to the Samsung Galaxy A53, and that’s an important factor people consider when buying in this price range. The Pixel 6a will launch with Android 12 and will be supported through Android 15, with an additional two years of security updates. The Galaxy A53 gets Android 16. Of the two phones, the Pixel is the one you’ll want to use for years to come, thanks to its more future-proof processor, making the difference in software support even harder to swallow.
Google still has a clear advantage in the development space and other manufacturers have not been able to bridge the gap. The Android 13 beta has started and is available on a handful of Android phones, but the Pixel is the best way to enjoy it. Joining the beta program on a Pixel means jumping through fewer hoops, and the stable release will arrive sooner than on other phones.
With all this in mind, it’s harder than ever to buy a Pixel based on its software experience. The Pixel benefits from exclusive software features like Call Screen, Live Translate and Now Playing, which may be enough to keep some customers. But some would argue that they pale in comparison to the number of features packed into competitor phones, which now receive updates almost as quickly and for longer.
A few years ago, he answered the question, “Which Android phone has the best software?” was easy. Google’s devices were reliable, updated quickly, and received updates for longer than any other Android phone. Today the answer is less clear. Is it worth getting an update a month early to get through the bugs and software quirks that come with being the first? Should you sacrifice that small advantage in exchange for a longer-supported device?
The Pixel is no longer the best phone for long-term software support. Samsung has closed the gap in most areas, beating Google on the most important point: device longevity. That may not be enough to lead Pixel fans away from the brand, but it should be a wake-up call for Google.
As we head towards fall and the release of the Pixel 7, we can only hope that Google will once again expand its software policy and at the very least include the Pixel 6 in that extension. If not, the company could lose fans to other manufacturers.
Android enthusiast from the UK specializing in everything from Samsung and Android. There is a 90% chance that my articles contain Spongebob or Transformers references. Current devices: Galaxy S22 Ultra Galaxy Z Fold3 Galaxy Watch4 Galaxy Buds/Buds+/Buds Pro Pixelbook