Samsung's unbearable update rate

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Every year around this time, an avalanche of Samsung-related news hits. These are rumors, leaks, reviews that follow this established frequency. But what if you look at how often the company provides users with updates? Here the statistics will be much more disappointing.

Just last week, Samsung announced the end of the beta testing phase for an expanded and relatively exclusive version of Oreo, which means that the threat of an update is already literally hanging over the likes of the Galaxy S8, S8 + and Note 8. Great. But since August last year, you could enjoy all the benefits of Oreo, holding the first Pixel, and later – many other devices, including those on which the latest version was preinstalled.

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Year after year, the world's largest phone maker cannot promise to update software in a timely manner, and this significantly reduces the overall performance of this process. Google can push updates to its Nexus and Pixel devices as quickly as it wants (and it does!), Companies like Sony, HTC, OnePlus and others are also trying their best, but really massively smartphones are updated only after the release of updates from Samsung. Since Oreo is still only available on 1% of devices, this just can't happen quickly.

Not that Samsung is new to this game. Materials like this have been published since at least 2012, over the past time the company has undoubtedly improved the quality of software updates, but now the rates are much higher. Samsung controls the market Android, and its dominance puts the team Android at Google – with the exception of the Pixel hardware developers – in a precarious position. As you can see from the preview Android 8.0 Oreo on the Galaxy S8 in beta, this update does not carry anything particularly significant, either aesthetically or functionally, as it did with last year's move to Nougat. And now, almost a year has passed since Samsung started distributing it. But it won't reach operators in the US until the end of February.

If you ask users what they dislike the most about Android, do you know which answer will be the most common? Lack of updates.

The Galaxy S9 is set for February 25th and is expected to ship three weeks later on March 16th, and it is clear that Samsung is using the availability of the latest version Android as a market advantage. Let's forget about the Galaxy S8 for a moment, as most users will be upgrading to the S9 from the S6 or S7, which, in the case of the S6 series, won't get Oreo at all, and for the S7 line it is promised by the end of the year. Moving to Android 8.0, available out of the box, with all of its performance improvements and additional features, is where Samsung hopes to sell more of its devices.

Samsung's unbearable update rate

However, when we take such an accusatory stance against Samsung and its slow approach to software updates, we risk losing sight of the other side: great strength is great responsibility. Since Samsung has the largest number of phones in the world pending updates, the company needs to ensure that bugs are kept to a minimum and that UI elements and software tweaks are tailored to the needs of local partners. The team that has to deal with quality issues in this situation is not to be envied.

At the same time, Google released the first developer version Android O on March 21 last year. Oreo went public on August 21, and the Sony Xperia XZ1, the first smartphone with Oreo on board, came out of the box a month later.

With its Galaxy S9, in which Oreo is unavoidable out of the box, Samsung may be supporting Treble, a system that could potentially speed up updates in years to come. According to Google, “Treble will make it easier, faster and cheaper for device maker partners when these devices are updated in the future.”

But neither this nor the other incentive tools Google uses will console the millions of users Android who are waiting for the latest version, knowingly or not. It's not just about new features. Each update allows developers to improve applications and IT managers to solve problems. And Samsung may continue to exist within this vicious circle, but, as in previous years, customers will remain in the background for it.

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