Samsung Galaxy S21 has an annoying Android update problem

Samsung Galaxy S21 review
(Image credit: Future)

Updating your phone is a hassle at the best of times, but it’s even worse if you aren’t able to use it while the update installs. Last year it was speculated that Google may put a stop to this on Android 11, with a new feature promoting “seamless updates” across all devices.

Unfortunately, the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21 seems to suggest this wasn’t actually be the case. Because it’s been discovered that the phone doesn’t support seamless updates.

This speculation came about thanks to a change to the Android 11 Vendor Test Suit, suggesting anything running Android 11 would have to support seamless updates through an A/B partition system. Simply put, this would let your phone carry on working as normal while the update installs in the background.

Seamless updating also has the added bonus of making it easier to revert back to the previous software version, and means it’s less likely that something will go wrong during the update process.

This feature has been around since 2016, and most Android phone makers have got on board by now. But Samsung seems to be one of the few holdouts. 

It doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable thing to include. There are people who are reluctant to update their phones, as important as they may be, so installing updates in the background is a good way to make the process as painless as possible.

Unfortunately, it looks like Samsung still hasn’t worked that out, and according to the January 2021 version of the Android 11 CDD Google hasn’t made it mandatory yet. Despite reports of earlier drafts that did, all it says now is that phone makers “should'' support it. But from the sound of things nothing is currency forcing them Samsung to comply. Why Google appears to have backpedalled is still unclear.

So that’s something you need to be aware of if you’re thinking of picking up one of the Samsung Galaxy S21 range. Samsung is generally quite good at updating its phones with the latest Android updates, but that does come at a cost. The cost is that your phone will be completely useless every single time it updates.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

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.