There is No Android Update Problem (Premium)

You’ve heard the complaints. Hell, you might even be one of the complainers: Every year, Google releases a new version of Android. And every year, hardware makers and wireless carriers upgrade very few existing handsets to the new version.

This is fiction.

The truth is that every year, Google releases a new version of Android. And that every year, the two biggest smartphone makers, Samsung and Huawei, upgrade one third or more of existing handsets to the latest version. Most important, however, is that almost nobody using Android handsets cares about getting an OS upgrade or even knows that Google released one.

And that’s the thing. Even if you can convince yourself that the relatively slow pace of Android version upgrades is somehow problematic, this is a victimless crime. The unwashed masses, as the tech digirati considers them, couldn’t care less. They just use apps, and those always work, no matter the Android version. Meanwhile, those who do care---tech enthusiasts, power users, whatever---know what to do: They purchase Android phones that they know will be upgraded. Google Pixels, perhaps. OnePlus handsets. Nokias.

I did leave out one thing in my “every year” recitation above, of course: Every year, some pretentious tech blogger has to remind his tech-infatuated (and probably Apple-loving) readers that there’s an Android update problem. I mean, my God. Just look at this chart.

Or this one! I can feel the bile rising in my throat.

Google, for its part, has addressed the concerns over the past few years via Project Treble, which modularized Android so that it could deliver updates without any intervention from hardware makers or carriers. Project Treble has even sped up version upgrades: This very year, Google reported that Android 9 Pie adoption was up 250 percent compared to the previous version thanks to these changes.

Oh, don’t worry. The righteous indignation over the Android upgrade problem can bypass both logic and fact by changing the conversation, a classic debate technique for the losing side. [Waves hands frantically] Look over here!! Users are starting to hold on to their handsets for longer than ever! That means that someone who purchased a phone before Project Treble is still not getting version upgrades! The horrors!

Guys, seriously.

Someone who bought a 2016 Acura isn’t getting the new stereo systems from the 2020 models either. I mean, people are holding on to their cars longer too. Hell, I hear Millennials aren’t even buying cars! How are they going to get the new stereo system? In an Uber? [faints]

This is all a result of how the Android ecosystem works, one complainer noted.

Yep, it is. Here’s how it works: With Android, you have many, many choices. You can choose a phone you know will be upgraded early and frequently if that is important to you. Or, you can simply buy the phone you want the most, and then enjoy several years of daily app updates. Because ...

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