Two big buts about Samsung’s Android security update announcement

    Didja see? Samsung’s pledging a full 4 years of help for safety updates on its Galaxy-branded Android telephones. Well, shiver me timbers: That positive is somethin’!Samsung slapped the information down onto these right here internerfs of ours Monday morning, and the glowing headlines predictably adopted — with some tales going so far as to proclaim Samsung as the brand new undisputed “king of Android upgrades” or to declare that the corporate was now “beating Google at its own game.”Yeaaaaaaaah. That, my pals, is what we name an efficient press launch rollout.Don’t get me incorrect: Samsung’s newly acknowledged dedication is good news, indubitably, and it is hopefully a transfer that’ll solely spur extra firms within the Android universe to comply with swimsuit (yay!). But there’s additionally extra to it than you see on the floor (aww!) — and the scenario is not almost as black and white as some interpretations would depart you to imagine (ohh…). So let’s take a minute to discover the nuances of Samsung’s shift and wrap our moist person-brains round what’s really occurring right here, lets?First, for context: For some time now, most Android device-makers have — at the very least in principle — agreed to offer a minimal of two years of working system updates and safety patches for his or her top-tier, flagship-level telephones. Last 12 months, Google bumped that as much as a three-year assure for its personal Pixel telephones (insert suggestive eyebrow increase right here), and Samsung quickly provided the same promise for a few of its Galaxy units (albeit with out the identical assurance of timeliness hooked up).So now, what Samsung is doing is taking {that a} step additional by saying it’s going to present the Android safety patches for a further 12 months past that three-year interval — which, once more, is incredible. While full-fledged working system upgrades completely do play a big position in areas like efficiency, privateness, and safety, the smaller safety patches alone are nonetheless significantly better than nothing (clearly, proper?!). And realizing you may obtain these for 4 years as an alternative of three — or typically even much less — is a useful little bit of assurance for anybody who hangs onto a telephone even as soon as it is reached, erm, aged golden-ager standing.But — effectively, we have these massive buts to debate. Shall we?The first massive however with Samsung’s improve announcementOkay, first: The query of when and the way usually a Samsung Android machine will obtain these safety updates as a part of this newly formalized plan is vexingly ambiguous. Some Samsung telephones, y’see, are set to obtain safety updates month-to-month — on the identical cadence these patches are launched by Google and meant to be delivered. Others are down for under quarterly safety patch rollouts. And others but are one class decrease, beneath a decidedly obscure “regular updates” designation.Samsung would not elaborate on what, precisely, “regular updates” entail — nevertheless it appears secure to say it is one thing much less frequent than quarterly, since it is a separate class that is one notch down within the checklist. A “regular update” that is a step under quarterly may arrive solely twice a 12 months — or perhaps even simply as soon as. It’s as much as interpretation, tellingly, however assuming it is a fee that is meaningfully lower than 4 instances a 12 months looks like an affordable conclusion to make, being that Samsung went out of the way in which to create that further class for it.Now, that is nonetheless higher than nothing — proper? Absotively! That’s very true in that fourth 12 months, when most Android telephones can be getting exactly bupkis. But, effectively, Samsung is not solely placing units which might be of their fourth 12 months into that class.For occasion: According to the corporate’s present machine standing breakdown, the top-of-the-line Galaxy Tab S4 — which launched in August of 2018 and price a cool $649 to begin (or $800, should you received its least expensive obtainable possibility with the instructed keyboard attachment) — is already right down to “regular” safety replace standing, regardless of being lower than three years outdated. The identical is true for a number of midrange telephone fashions from 2018.The enterprise-aimed Galaxy A8, in the meantime, is already within the quarterly replace class in its third 12 months of life. The identical is true for the top-tier Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+, which simply got here out this previous September. Most of Samsung’s midrange telephones are additionally listed for quarterly safety updates at greatest, irrespective of once they have been launched.And if you’re evaluating that to Google’s personal Pixel replace dedication, the comparability is not fairly as black and white as some of us round these interwebs have been making it out to be. Google at the moment sends safety updates to all of its Pixel telephones, together with the $350 “a” fashions, on a month-to-month foundation — because the updates are launched — for 3 years. And it sends full working system updates to all of these units kind of immediately, too, for that very same three-year interval.Samsung, as we simply established, sends safety patches each single month for a few of its telephones however then supplies these updates solely quarterly or “regularly” for others, with no express assure of when a telephone may transfer from one state to the following — so whereas it does now proceed these updates for 4 years as an alternative of three, in some circumstances, you may find yourself with a lot much less frequent updates for a good half or maybe even all of that point. And regardless of the corporate’s relative enhancements over these previous couple years, its reliability with precise working system upgrades continues to be something however optimum and considerably behind Google’s customary. So you win some, you lose some, in different phrases; any benefit provided by the brand new fourth-year addition is offset by these hefty and underemphasized asterisks.And all of that, m’pricey, is however solely our first massive however.The second massive however with Samsung’s improve announcementPrepare your self: This second massive however is a juicy one, and it is largely being forgotten amidst this week’s dialogue. So right here it’s: Two months in the past, Google and Qualcomm introduced that the newest collection of Qualcomm chips would help — look ahead to it — 4 years of safety updates for Android telephones. Yup. So what Samsung is doing is not really breaking new floor however relatively following that earlier announcement with its personal embrace of the identical idea.Now, let’s not decrease the constructive right here: Any enchancment is an enchancment price celebrating, particularly on the subject of the oft-discouraging space of Android upgrades. But Samsung utilizing this information to place itself as an industry-leading innovator is perhaps only a teensy bit disingenuous. As is usually the case right here in these mossy mobile-tech waters of ours, somewhat context goes a great distance in taking us past the press launch headlines and letting us determine what’s really occurring.Zooming out extra broadly, it’s going to be fascinating to see if and the way Google evolves its personal software program help commitments when its subsequent technology of recent Pixel telephones lands later this 12 months. The joint announcement with Qualcomm suggests Google will on the very least honor that four-year interval for safety updates, like Samsung — solely with the probably twist that each one Pixel telephones would obtain the updates each single month, with none quarterly or “regular” downgrades in designation or any murkiness surrounding which tier any given machine will fall into and for the way lengthy.Beyond that, if Google’s first do-it-yourself processors make their method into Pixel telephones this fall, as anticipated, it is solely doable even longer help life may change into extra possible from Google’s perspective — one thing I’ve been hoping to see for some time and that would finally encourage even broader progress all through all the Android ecosystem.The realm of Android upgrades has been overdue for enchancment for a lot too lengthy now, and optimistically, what we’re seeing now could be simply the beginning — even when this week’s information in and of itself may not be fairly as earth-shattering because it appears on the floor.Sign up for my weekly e-newsletter to get extra sensible ideas, private suggestions, and plain-English perspective on the information that issues.

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