There are plenty of reasons to want to buy a Pixel 5, but one you might not have considered was the security side of things. Not every flavor of Android is created equally, and those differences can cause issues behind the scenes.
While it’s made plenty of effort to improve Android security across the board, Google’s latest idea is to point out security flaws in other companies’ software. And that’s where the Android Partner Vulnerability Initiative comes in.
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Pixel devices don’t really have these issues because both the hardware and software are dealt with in-house, meaning Google can push updates whenever it finds anything that needs patching. Third parties don’t have that luxury, since their different varieties of Android don’t have that same universal compatibility.
So we have the new initiative, which is designed to spot problems, warn users, and “drive remediation." Or, in other words, get third-party security patches released faster.
The announcement post didn’t name any names, but the linked bug-tracker mentioned various vulnerabilities in software developed by Huawei, OPPO, ZTE, MediaTek, and more. These vulnerabilities include issues with sideloading, backups, exposed system services, and more.
Thankfully those flaws have been reported to their respective companies, and most of them appear to have been fixed.
With the Pixel 5, you’re getting Android 11 pre-installed, meaning the phone will come with all the latest security updates out-of-the-box. Such things can often be overlooked with other phones touting flashy hardware that steals the limelight from more practical issues.
Take Samsung's phones, for example, they offer very impressive feats of hardware engineering, especially the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. But in our experience, they often have a reasonably long wait to get the latest version of Android.
While such phone makers will update their takes on Android with their own security patches, there’s an argument that not having the latest version of Google’s operating system leaves you vulnerable to exploits that may have slipped under the radar. Even if such fixes are in place with third-party software, waiting for the latest version of Android can leave you without the best features Google has to offer.
As such, this initiative may help other Android phone makers get their software in order. But it also highlights why going for a Pixel 5 might be the best bet if you want to be safe in the knowledge that your phone is at the front of the queue when it comes to getting the latest and safest updates.
All in all, this initiative is a good thing, even for the people who prefer to buy non-Pixel devices from other Android vendors. Not only does this mean Google can help security issues get spotted more easily, the fact it’s there applying pressure on Android phone makers means they have more incentive to get the problems solved as quickly as possible.
Obviously, updates are never going to roll out faster than they do on Pixel, but shaving off some time is beneficial for everyone. That said, if you really are worried about keeping everything as up to date as possible, the Pixel range is worth looking into.
But whatever phone you have, make sure to keep its software up to date. All of this work is in vain if you don’t bother.
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Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.