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Samsung Galaxy S22's best feature finally answers iPhone’s edge over Android

Samsung Galaxy s22 hands-on review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As an iPhone user, I constantly gaze at what owners of Android devices have to endure when it comes to software updates and just shake my head. Not only can I grab an iOS update whenever it's available, I know that my software's going to remain up-to-date, even as my iPhone ages. Android owners aren't so lucky, with updates available sporadically and phone makers usually turning off the update spigot after just a few years.

That's going to change with the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S22.

Samsung took the occasion of a new flagship phone unveiling to announce that the rumors of expanded software updates for the S22 models were, in fact, true. If you buy a Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus or Galaxy S22 Ultra, you can expect four years of Android software updates, plus an additional year of security updates. Prior to the S22, Samsung guaranteed just three years of software updates — and that made the company one of the more generous Android phone makers.

But now, Samsung is being even more generous with Android updates, meaning that even after Android 13 drops later this year, Galaxy S22 owners can still plan on three more software updates. Come 2025, that phone you've purchased in the here and now will still be running the latest version of Android, which is great news if you're the kind of person that likes to hold on to their handsets for as long as possible. (And with the cheapest S22 model starting at $799, you're going to want to squeeze as much life out of these phones as you can.)

More than just the Galaxy S22

It gets better for fans of Samsung devices. Those four years of software updates don't just extend to the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy Tab S8 products Samsung unveiled this week. The electronics giants also says the policy also covers last year's Galaxy S21 models, including the newly released Galaxy S21 FE. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic will get four years of software updates and a fifth year year of security updates as well. And this applies to Galaxy S, Galaxy Z, Galaxy Tab S and Galaxy Watch products going forward.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Last year's Galaxy S21 models are getting extended software support, too. (Image credit: Samsung)

It's not a perfect solution — there's no word on midrange Galaxy A models in Samsung's announcement. But still, Samsung is setting a new standard for keeping Android phones up to date, surpassing even Google's efforts. While the Pixel 6 series gets five years of security updates, Google has only committed to three years of software updates.

Again, as an iPhone user, this sounds like crazy talk to me. I have an iPhone SE from 2016 lying around my house that still runs iOS 15 — the latest version of Apple's software — even if it doesn't support every feature. (For that, I'd need a phone with at least an A12 Bionic chipset.) iOS 16, likely to arrive this fall, is rumored to be cutting off the original iPhone SE from future updates, a mere six years after I bought the phone. I cannot imagine this ever happening in Android World.

Extended software support from phone makers is an important feature, not just for extending the lifespan of your phone but also for the environment. A regularly updated phone that's still humming along years after its initial release reduces the need to frequently upgrade your hardware, so we're not constantly discarding our phones for the latest and greatest handset. It's every bit as eco-friendly as not including a new charger with every phone.

There's a lot to recommend the Galaxy S22 lineup. The screens are brighter and feature a Vision Booster technology that can automatically adjust brightness without draining the display of its color. No matter what model you get, you're in line for an improved camera, and the higher-end models get faster charging, too. But you could argue that the extended support for Android updates is the most important addition to the Galaxy S22. I certainly hope it's the one more Android phone makers copy.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.