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How Long Should A Phone Manufacturer Be Held Accountable For Providing Updates To Their Flagship Dev

sshasansshasan Staff MemberUnited StatesPosts: 4,077 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
<body><p>Flagship devices aren't cheap and we can sometimes end up paying a small fortune for them. Yes, there is the option to roll the payment of your device into your plan these days, but who wants to continue paying on a phone that is no longer supported. Should phone manufacturers be held to a standard? Should we just go along with the notion of "buying the phone for what it does now" and not what future holds? How long do you think they should be supported for?</p></body>

How Long Should A Phone Manufacturer Be Held Accountable For Providing Updates To Their Flagship Devices 161 votes

Up To 1 Year After The Release Date
6% 10 votes
Up To 18 Months After The Release Date
6% 10 votes
Up To 2 Years After The Release Date
51% 83 votes
Up To 30 Months After The Release Date
32% 53 votes
I Buy My Phones For What They Do Now And Don't Worry About Updates
3% 5 votes


  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I see it as one of 2 options that I would like to see companies fall into, Either support the devices for as long as the hardware remains non-obsolete, or do a shorter 2 year support cycle, but make sure that the device is easy to root, as well as replace the ROM.

    This doesn't necessarily mean to constantly be updated to the latest version of android, instead, it can be something like how Windows is supported. Windows 7 came out in 2009, it received mainstream support until April 10 2012 (new features and other changes), then the second phase of its support cycle kicked in which are only security updates, which will last until January 14, 2020

    Overall, if someone makes a smartphone, and locks it down in an attempt to prevent people from installing other ROMs, then I expect it to receive updates until the hardware becomes obsolete.

    I just don't apply this to phones, I also apply it to routers and other devices, 3rd party ROMs, significantly extend the useful life of a device. For example, my tablet (HP touchpad) came out over 5 years ago, and ran WebOS 3.0, it is not almost mid 2016, and 3rd party firmware support is still going strong, and the tablet has access to android 6.0.1.

    The Linksys WRT54GL came out in the year 2002, Linksys dropped support very quickly (Linksys makes the ridiculously short smartphone company support cycles, seem like an eternity), but it was the best selling router for many years. Ir stopped receiving updates in mid 2015 (13 year support cycle thanks to the open source community. An old underpowered 802.11g router literally had more up to date security than some 802.11ac routers.

    Since we have all come to expect to be left out in the cold shortly after buying a phone, one of the main things me and a vast number of other people look for, is the ability to root the device, and install a 3rd party ROM,

    Lets suppose there are 2 smartphones

    Smartphone A: Snapdragon 820, 8GB RAM, 256GB NAND, Dual sim, 4K display, dual front facing speakers, NFC, 3 stream  802.11ac + 4.3Gbps 802.11ad, Micro SD card slot, User replaceable battery, BUT no ability to root or install a 3rd party ROM.

    Smartphone B: Snapdragon 810, 4GB RAM, 64GB NAND, single sim, 1080p display, single speaker, NFC, 1 stream 802.11ac, Micro SD, no user replaceable battery (but possible replacement if device is taken apart), but the device is easily rooted, and it is simple to install a 3rd party ROM.

    Now assume both are the same price.

    I would buy Smartphone B, as it is a safer investment; I know it will work safely even if the company stops updating it a year down the line  (Smartphone A would only be purchased if the support cycle was very long (5-10 years).

    Great hardware does not mean much if it is incredibly short lived due to the device being abandoned a few months after release, with no possibility to get updates from the open source community.

    While many people would like to always be able to upgrade to the latest and greatest smartphones when available, it is not a guarantee that we will be able to do it. The future is unpredictable, and the last thing anyone wants is to be in a financial situation where they simply cannot afford to upgrade, and then their current device loses support from the company, and now it is a security risk, thus leaving you with a choice, continue to use the device and risk having your device, data, accounts, and other associated information compromised, or look for a payphone when you are on the go.

    PS there are hundreds of millions of android devices in use which will never receive a patch for the stagefright vulnerability.

  • DoppelgangerDDoppelgangerD Master Of Ceremonies United StatesPosts: 1,847 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm not sure what else to say that didn't already say.
    The most simple part of all of it is that phones NEED to be constantly updated with, at the very least, the most up to date security patches.
    If the OEM isn't willing to do that, then allow the phone to altered so that the user can do it with a different ROM.

  • DoppelgangerDDoppelgangerD Master Of Ceremonies United StatesPosts: 1,847 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I also voted for 30 months even though I feel it should be much longer for security updates.

  • hiker75hiker75 FloridaPosts: 108

    Every 2 years, I upgrade my phone to the latest and greatest, so would love for the support to last the duration of my contract.  In razor512's example above, I'd actually pick Smartphone A.  I'm not one to root my phone or whatnot.. and if there was a financial burden, I would cut down on other expenses, as a cell phone is a necessity these days, so I would always (and have always) found a way to upgrade right around the 2 year mark every time.  I think as long as the duration of my contract were supported, I'd be happy and content.

  • jasonejasone United StatesPosts: 2,118 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    This was a great poll and I chose 30 months which I think is reasonable. I'm sick of all of these 1 or 2 updates if you're lucky. While I think we should be able to easily unlock and install 3rd party roms. To help solve this problem ourselves by installing 3rd party roms, I don't think it should be necessity.

    New software updates beyond just security patches can also bring new life to a device. Features such as Doze for example can extend your battery life on a phone you already own. You shouldn't have to buy a new phone just for this feature. However this brings up another problem. While all the parts in the phones themselves will function for years and years. The one point of failure is the batteries.

    After 3 or 4 years the batteries don't hold a charge like they use to. Making the phone a lot less useful than it was and almost forcing you into an upgrade. This is why I prefer replaceable batteries on mobile devices. Sure you can't do that with a metal body that gets dented or makes it easier to bend the phone. As we've seen in all the bend tests which are all the rage these days. Unless you go with a slot solution like LG came up with. Still I've never been one of those who needs a metal phone. I'd much rather have one that doesn't get dented or as easily bent, and will live on past the lifespan of the battery.

    I understand though the market has gone towards premium metal built phones, and regular consumers update around every two years. That's just the trend and for now replaceable batteries, which can keep your device chugging along and accepting those updates won't be much of a priority.

  • ddrakeddrake Alpharetta, GAPosts: 318 ✭✭✭

    I 100% agree with ​.  This is one thing that Apple does a supreme job of, keeping "older" phones in active support from security / functionality updates. The OEM should be responsible for maintaining updates.  If they do not want the burden, then partner with the community or open up the ability to unlock the bootloader so custom roms could be used. 

    When OEMs do not support updates, the reputation in the public is affected, which makes it a big turn off for future potential buyers.  Support what you sell.  And if you don't want that software support, open it up.

  • charidycharidy Business,IT Tech,Network Manager. United StatesPosts: 51 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I would say one year because this would allow more funding towards quicker update releases. Most of the time phone manufacturing companies release phones that are not even up to the latest Android software.  I would say if the time of funding was cut shorter this would allow for more money to be put in. Then the company could hire more programmers to jump on the task much faster I would imagine. Money talks right!

  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Usually, it is not a funding issue, especially in cases where you have a small number of developers on XDA who are maintaining multiple builds for a wide range of devices, all without access to anywhere close to the amount of source code that the companies that made the devices have, yet they can often release new versions of android more quickly.

    I feel that a 1 year support cycle will not have any improvement, in fact, many smartphones are supported less than a year, with flagship devices often topping out at 18 months, and one android OS version update.

    If you are someone who upgrades every 2 years, then having your device lose support after just 1, is terrible, especially if you cannot install a 3rd party ROM.

    At this very moment, would you feel comfortable with going back to Windows XP?

    If not, then for your current OS, would you be comfortable with rolling back a years worth of critical security updates?

    Smartphones have a lower BOM than laptops, yet cost more than many mid range laptops (if you consider the top of the line smartphones), yer they receive updates for a fraction of the time).

    For example, A galaxy S7 edge cost $725

    For that same price, you can buy an Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-792U

    • Core i7 4720HQ
    • 8GB RAM
    • 1TB HDD
    • Nvidia GTX 960m
    • 15.6 inch 1080p IPS display

    It got an upgrade from windows 8.1, to 10. Windows 10 will receive security updates until October 14. 2025 (9 more years).

    Many chipsets and south bridge controllers (for systems that use it), will often get updates for 5-7 years, and bios updates can often come up to around 5 years after the release of a product.

    Many addon devices (video cards, sound cards, etc.), will receive updated for 6-8 years after release.

    You can build or buy a PC today,and it will be kept up to date with security patches for the next 9 years, and bug fixes will likely trickle out over the course of 5-8 years for various components.

    Smartphones and routers are pretty much the only products that can be updated, that you will see with such short support cycles.

    Mid range smartphones will be supported for well below 1 year, same as with mid range routers.

    Low end smartphones typically never receive any updates, or if there is a big issue, then 1 update within the first month of release, and then nothing ever again, just like with low end routers.

    Compare the above to that of a low end motherboard ($45 msi 870a-g54, used in my server PC). It received bios updates for nearly 3 years (16 updates total). While the bios was abandoned within 3 years, the driver support spanned from windows 98, to Windows 10 (with some of the driver packages eventually being included in windows update.

  • runtohell121runtohell121 Analyst United StatesPosts: 2,262 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    To me, a manufacture should update their phone as long as the spec meets the minimum requirement for the newest OS. Maybe they can reduce some features like Apple is doing, but bringing new updates usually provide newer security which is important to most smartphone users.

  • cavanaughtimcavanaughtim Wisconsin, USAPosts: 645 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    There is nothing more frustrating than realizing your phone has been abandoned by the OEM and will never get another update. If a company doesn't think it's worthwhile to continue providing updates, the least they can do is unlock the bootloader. It's just common decency.

  • mobilegeezermobilegeezer Chattanooga, Tennessee AreaPosts: 1,204 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    There's a rumor that Google is considering a list of manufacturers that are slow with updates  to try to put some pressure on them. I like the idea

  • I think looking at th release date isn't quite he right metric. Support should also be measured from the end of official sales, with an EOL date openly stated by the manufacturer. Also, I don't think this should be limited to flagships-- we should hold ALL phones from major manufacturers to a decent standard. That said, I voted for 30 months. I think either 25 or 30 months from launch or 12-18 months from a "discontinued" date would be acceptable metrics, but with the rate of software advancement and the bigger target mobile has become security-wise both 1 year and 18 months really aren't enough especially if we count .x releases.

  • micahdubosemicahdubose Rock Hill SCPosts: 133

    I concur. I can also add the fact that, they have just as much heads up about software updates than Google. So just from a software perspective, manufacturers have no real excuse for slow updates. From a hardware perspective, if one is going to deem a flagship, a flagship, then it should improve and progress in terms of camera, RAM, memory handling, sound (internally and externally), and battery mAh. Then on that end, battery life should increase, not decrease, and use charging standards that will actually prove progress with battery technology.

  • eminayeminay United StatesPosts: 29 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Two years should be expected, as that's how long, generally, US carrier contracts have been (though most have phased them out). Someone buying a phone at the end of it's cycle (usually almost a year after release for many flagships) should expect at least a year of additional support, as that's how long the device is still covered by most manufacturer warranties.

    For Android devices, at least how OS updates work currently, not having a manufacturer that provides important system updates, makes it clear they don't care about their customers and their security.

    Personally, Google's Android needs to switch to an centralized update system. Manufacturer customizations need to be done on another separate from the underlying OS.

  • ironbaybeedollironbaybeedoll United StatesPosts: 4,630 mod

    I voted for "I Buy My Phones For What They Do Now And Don't Worry About Updates"  If I like a phone now, I will buy it. History has shown me repeatedly that technology changes quickly. My needs, and likes of a phone change almost as quick. I stay away from certain brands, as I know their phones are crippled from the start, and I have also learned to check out companies that I wouldn't have normally. Right now, I am using a phablet from a company I had, at the time never heard of. I had done 2 betas for the same company, and fell in love with the phone. I now have a ton of respect for the brand, and no problem recommending to my friends, and family. For now it does what I need, and I love it. I am stuck with Android 4.3, but I did know this going in, and because the company isn't  as well known as others, theres almost no chance of doing anything further. I paid $250. and am using it with straight talk.I haven't hit a time with this phone yet, where I "need" an update, and when that time comes, I will be more than excited to go shopping for my next toy. I think for me, I am ok knowing upfront when I pay, that this is what it is, anything else is a bonus that I have learned not to count on.

    My other devices, such as tablets I don't have the same opinion on, unless it is going to be a beater.

  • I would say 12 months, but with the condition that updates to the operating system (ie. marshmallow) be made within 30 days of the release of the first device with the software.

  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Imagine this scenario, you buy a phone today for $250, and 2 months later, a new critical vulnerability (e.g., stagefright or other exploits that can be used without user action, and can be done remotely). So the major exploit is discovered, and you find out that the company has no interest in releasing updates for it. How would you feel knowing that the device which you only had for a few months is now a huge security risk, and you can no longer safely use it?

    This happened with state fright. Many lower-mid, to lower end smartphones are released, and never receive updates. When the stagefright exploit was discovered, there were many devices which were released less than 6 months prior to the exploit, and never got updated. This means that users with the devices that never got patched, are at a significant risk, especially since the exploit allows the device to be compromised without without any visual indication to the user of the device. Their prone could be part of a bot network, and they will not know it unless they go through great lengths to examine the networking behavior, and even then, it doesn't allow the user to detect if they simply have the malware dormant in their device until the person running the bot network feels that they have enough compromised devices.

    With all of this in mind, if you have an unpatched device, then you cannot trust it with any personal information, furthermore, you cannot trust it on your home network, and you cannot trust it on  on the cellular network, as there is a risk it will be used to secretly send those paid text messages, or those $10 per minute numbers. (some malware does that when a large number of devices are compromised, as they get a lump sum of money, and then disappear before anyone has a chance to react.

    Unless the company did not doubly screw you (screw 1: little to up support for updates, screw 2:doing all they can to make it as hard as possible to install cyanogenmod), The device will be technically functional, but effectively a brick.


    Dashboards | Android Developers

    There are a lot of devices that simply do not get updated. You do not want to be stuck with one of them.

  • ironbaybeedollironbaybeedoll United StatesPosts: 4,630 mod

    I agree in part, and fully understand your point, however given the poll options, 1year after release being the shortest term. I have yet to hold onto a phone that long. So if my phone is only updated for the first 6 months after my purchase, I have probably already moved onto another phone, or am in the process of finding one I like.  It also goes without saying that people should do their research, a quick google search of the phone your interested in can save time, money, and headaches. I'm not saying these aren't real issues, or concerns for people, because I know they are. I just know what I am comfortable with, and voted accordingly.

  • bigphil75bigphil75 Atlantic City, New JerseyPosts: 4

    I agree there should be some kind of accountability when it come to major OS updates & monthly security patch updates as well. Most if not all the fault should rest with the mobile carriers they're the reason most of us are still on Lollipop & with Android N already releasing beta versions we're really gonna be being the Android OS update ball. I don't know what else to say, all I know is I can't afford a new phone every time a new Android version comes out. Something has to give that's for sure.

  • 2 years would keep me happy. Before my 2014 moto x, I had a nexus 4. I really miss the frequent updates the nexus line receives. Thankfully,  I received two important security patches on my moto, but that's it. Been running the same edition of lolipop since I got it. There is no reason moto couldn't have pushed frequent patches or marshmallow. 

    This is why I'm looking for a new phone, and why I will not be going with Motorola this time.

  • micahdubosemicahdubose Rock Hill SCPosts: 133

    Yea that's true too about the contracts. It costs so much money to buy phones, at least carriers like T-Mobile have options to upgrade easier. I'm just talking in general. Carriers should give the option to unlock your phone from their update system after you pay off your phone. That's fair. Android N seems to be making its way towards that centralized update idea. Manufacturers then only have to worry about updating their personal launchers and stuff.

  • bjwhite211bjwhite211 Wichita, KS, USAPosts: 13

    I think if it's a VERY popular model of device the manufacture should, not even have to but should want to at the very least update it with major security fixes for up to 2-5 years personally. Keep customers happy and prevent the '60% of mobile users use brand x phone model x which is no longer secure to use because it hasn't been updated' stories about a brand from being posted online. But all devices regardless of popularity should be updated with atleast the latest security patches for 2 years within 1-2 weeks of the patches being released or bugs being made public. I don't think it's asking too much from manufactures to keep their devices and customers secure.

    As for OS updates to the newest Android version ect... I think 1 year is reasonable since looking at the Android Wikipedia page it looks like a major version is released yearly. So I think it's not overly out of the realm of reasonable thinking to say hey I bought a phone released less than a year ago and unless the new version of Android raised the system specs ALOT I should be able to run it. And new Android OS updates should be pushed for eligible models within a month of the new Android release. That's one of the main things that scare me from going full Android for my phones and make me rely on iPhones mainly still. I can't tell you how many times I've seen devices not get upgrades either from security patches or Android OS updates even after it's strongly recommended by Google to move off a version. Or users have to wait for months or years for the patches to be released. It makes the brand seem like they don't respect customers enough to support devices that aren't that old and this seems to lead users to rely on either unofficial patches or firmware which puts them at risk or they're forced to use outdated software until they purchase a new device. Manufactures should have a small enough line up that they can manage all current devices and not just push random trash year in and year out. Keep customers happy and feeling appreciated and you're more likely to gain a loyal following.

  • micahdubosemicahdubose Rock Hill SCPosts: 133

    I definitely agree with all of that. Especially when it comes to popular models that are out in everyday use. When it comes to yearly updates, Samsung has just as much power as Apple, to use an example, who can demand no carrier influence when it comes to software. That's what really holds a lot of users back. That's also a top 3 complaint about timely updates. You're right when it comes to notnot asking for too much for manufacturers to be courteous to us hard working users. Android N should fix that though when that finally makes it to devices. Consumers may not update their phones as often either because they'll be able to to receive Google's new updates w/o having to wait on the individual manufacturer. This will be exciting.

  • markstrootmarkstroot Terre HautePosts: 107

    I think software should be covered for at least 3 years. Most iFruit devices i feel are given 4 years. Even though they give you software that the phone can't really run and cripples the device so you need a new phone lol

  • davedave Ingolstadt, GermanyPosts: 84

    I think it's safe to say: the longer the better. But as every manufacturer is a business and has to put resources into making new software updates available and have to sell new devices to make profit, I voted for two years. That's a good amount of time where I think it's fair enough to provide updates, at least major Android versions. Security patches is another thing that might last for three years.

    Furthermore it would be nice if that two year support isn't followed that strictly. For example, if a phone's update cycle ends a month or two before a major Android update drops it would be nice to still get that update anyway.

    But for me the problem of updating a phone or not how old it is. It comes down to how many devices a manufacturer produces.

    If you only have four devices a year (one low end, one mid ranger and two high end devices) you could easily provide more updates, as well, as these resources I talked earlier about could be used way better. Additionally the custom UI used by every manufacturer out there should be as light as possible. If you want to add functionality do it by apps that only work with your devices, not by tinkering around with Android itself.

    Update support is one of the areas where manufacturer could shine bright if they offer proper support but many fail to do so. Having timely updates would please a lot of customers and might boost your brand reputation. So, to summarize all this:

    • two year feature updates (not strictly, as elaborated above), three year security patches
    • don't make too many phones, keep the amout low to provide better support for your devices
    • tone down your custom UI to provide fast updates

    For me this would be the way to go

  • markstrootmarkstroot Terre HautePosts: 107

    I agree Dave. Samsung makes to many different variations of their flagships and mid to low tier devices that tend to not get supported or take forever to get supported. The device manufacturer will blame the carrier and the carrier blames the manufacturer for not getting the phones software updated. I love how ZTE takes the carrier out of the device so they can update their phones in a fast and timely manner.

  • A minimum of two years should be adequate for the "flagship" phone. With technology moving as fast as it is, a new phone is quickly outdated in that amount of time. I could see going three years but personally at the two year mark, I'm ready for that new device.

  • micahdubosemicahdubose Rock Hill SCPosts: 133

    That's that's a very reasonable approach to each if your 3 categories. Making only four to 5 devices a year would allow for the former (software/security uodates) more plausible and maintainable. Axon is doing a great job with toned UI as well as Sony and HTC. Samsung and LG could learn a thing or two from them.

    That's also a good point you brought out, about updating phones right as they're about to be phased out. Sony has also done a good job of updating their devices and most of them at that . the problem how long it takes to actually get the update out.

  • If we're talking flagship (as in OP), I'd say someone who spends up to 7-800 $ for a phone should be entitled to AT LEAST 2 years of updates (same as warranty length in EU, and three would be better) including firmware within short time after the new OS versions are released.

    Bugfixes and security patches, I'd say minimum of 2 years for all devices and 4 years for flagships.

  • micahdubosemicahdubose Rock Hill SCPosts: 133

    Couldn't agree more. I like that idea of 4 Years for flagship devices. We deserve it if we're paying top of the line money.

This discussion has been closed.