Skip to main content

Google is finally fixing the worst thing about Android phones

Google and Qualcomm promise more Android updates
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google has reached an agreement with smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm to provide up to four years of update support for Android devices. 

This will effectively kill the problem of only getting a typical two years of update support for Android devices; a big frustration for people who like to keep a hold of their phones for as long as possible.

The bottom line is that future Android phones will be able to support up to four years of security and software updates. 

"These initiatives are designed to enable faster Android OS upgrades with fewer resources and a predictable software lifecycle for Snapdragon based devices, which together are expected to result in more consumers with Snapdragon based devices running the latest Android OS version," Qualcomm explained.

Effectively doubling the update support you can usually expect from Android devices comes courtesy of "Project Treble." This Google and Qualcomm collaboration is basically an agreement to make the software portion of Android fully backward compatible with older components for up to three generations of Android. 

As a result, you're likely to get much more use from your phone before it can no longer receive Android updates and start running into compatibility issues and security risks. Hopefully, it'll also mean you'll get big Android updates faster too throughout the year.

Doing this could put Android phones on a more even playing field with Apple's iPhones, which typically get software support for up to five years. That's probably why you're more likely to see more people using older iPhones than aged Android handsets.

There are a couple of caveats to Project Treble. First off it will only apply to phones with Qualcomm chipsets; granted a lot of Android phones use Snapdragon chips.

But that leaves the likes of the Exynos-powered Samsung phones the wayside. While flagship Samsung phones like the Galaxy S20 FE now have software support that extends beyond two years, mid-range Galaxy handsets don't. 

The second caveat is that this new update initiative will only start with phones that have the Snapdragon 888 and launch with Android 11, such as the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 and likely the OnePlus 9. That means older phones, even the impressive OnePlus 8T with its Snapdragon 865, will be left on the wayside.

The final problem is that adding the extra support is at the discretion of each manufacturer. We can assume that since Google's involved, you'll be able to use the Pixel 6 for a good long while, but we'll have to see if other Android phone makers get on board or decide they don't want to bother.

With that in mind, 2021 might be a good time to upgrade your Android phone if you plan to have a handset that'll last a handful of years. Make sure to check back our best Android phones list in the new year, as we'll flag the phones that are worth upgrading to. 

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.