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This Right Here Is an Incredibly Annoying Thing About Android

Illustration for article titled This Right Here Is an Incredibly Annoying Thing About Android
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Everything to love about Android, there is still one deeply annoying problem. One that can be so annoying it could make you swear off the OS altogether. It takes forever for the Google’s OS updates to trickle down to products manufactured by companies like Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei. So while Samsung S9 and OnePlus 5 owners can now rejoice in the fact that they could have Android 9 Pie by the end of the year (depending on where they live), other Android users, including owners of year-old Samsung devices, get to wait until well into next year. And that’s really stupid!

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Android 9 Pie has had slow to rollout thus far. When Google released the latest numbers of Android version adoption back in October Pie was entirely absent despite being out for nearly two months. Which means either Pie was purposely excluded or it has had a miserable adoption rate of 0.1-percent (the minimum required for Google to include a version in the chart).

So it’s not surprising it has taken Samsung this long. As many in America settled down to enjoy a couple of days off work this week, Samsung began rolling out the update from Android 8 Oreo to Android 9 Pie to a select number of Samsung Galaxy S9 handsets. So far, the update is only rolling out in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, and Turkey. Tech Radar notes that the rest of the S9 family should have the update next month, but that’s still five months after Pie first became available in August 2018. Note 9 owners will have to wait until February 2019, while Note 8 and S8 owners will have to wait until March 2019 at the earliest.

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That’s right, the older the handset, the longer the wait. Android 9 Pie, known as Android P before its launch, isn’t exactly the biggest update to come to the operating system, but it does include cool features like a Digital Wellbeing app to help you manage how much you stare at your phone, as well as more refined control over myriad notifications. These are great features that anyone with a Pixel can already enjoy, and have been able to since Google released the update in August.

The giant gap between Android Pie’s release and anticipated global availability for the Samsung S9, which launched back in March, feels excruciatingly obnoxious at this point. But this has also been the curse of Android from the get-go. The vanilla operating system might have been available in August, but Samsung runs a custom skin over it, and it takes time to update and test that customized version of the operating system. There’s no clear and easy way to speed up that timeline—apart from Samsung going vanilla, or hiring more software engineers.

Samsung isn’t the only manufacturer plagued with this problem. Nvidia has suffered its own update woes this year. Its 4K set-top box, the Shield, was finally updated to Android 8 Oreo back in June, months late and nearly a year after Google released Oreo. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T are both getting Pie by the end of this month (the 5 launched June 2017, the 5T launched November 2017). Their successor, the OnePlus 6, got Pie a few months ago.

It’s hard to produce these updates, but one can’t deny that these companies also look like absolute clowns when compared to Google or Apple. Google is going with a vanilla version of Android that can be updated very quickly after a new release because nothing really major needs to be tweaked, while Apple’s closed ecosystem allows it to build its operating system to work perfectly with a handful of devices designed in-house. Thus Google and Apple can roll out updates quickly.

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Sure, companies like Samsung tweak and modify Android to add their own innovative features, but dang, it’s annoying that it comes at the cost of being six months to a year behind Pixel devices on the core OS.

Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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DISCUSSION

tipsyt-rex
TipsyT-Rex

Oh please. Samsung phones have more features and functionality out of the box, hardware and software, than a Pixel ever will and at this point it’s absolutely no secret that the Pixels updates are, at best, public beta tests that can range from reasonably stable to delete-your-data levels of buggy. As far as I’m concerned, once Google started charging flagship pricing for their Beta phones it no longer became competitive to have early updates. It’s stupid to buy a device for it’s future potential.

I have similar thoughts about Microsoft and their insider updates as of late. Slow updates might actually be a good thing!