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Samsung software update report card: The biggest Android maker gets a B-

Samsung One UI 2
Samsung One UI 2 (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Updates are something no Android handset maker outside of Google has ever been really great at. Overall, the landscape has improved by leaps and bounds, but sometimes when you drill down to individual manufacturers and especially individual phones things still need a lot of work.

Since Samsung is a name that's almost synonymous with Android, I decided to take a long hard look at how the company is doing when it comes to updating the phones it sells. I looked at both platform updates as well as the more important security updates, expensive phones and cheap phones, and even how things look by region. Here's where things stand.

More: The Galaxy S20 is the first phone to have Samsung's own security chip inside

The good

Samsung Galaxy S20

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Samsung is on the ball for its flagship phones. Whether you buy unlocked or from a carrier, you can expect Samsung to update your phone with two platform versions and get mostly prompt security updates, at least for the first year.

Expect to wait for a while for full platform updates, as it takes Samsung time to change Android into its own software. It's much improved from years past, and you can expect to see a full version update about 8-12 months after Google builds one if you own a flagship phone from Samsung. I know some folks want it instantly, but for Samsung to build, test, and fix a major change to the software takes time. I think getting a major platform update every year, even if it's behind Google's schedule, is OK.

Here's when your Samsung phone will get the Android 10 update

Security patches are another, more impressive story. Samsung has three vectors for security updates: Google's Android Security Bulletin, Samsung Knox, and carrier patches. When it comes to security updates direct from Google, the Galaxy S line is there to get them on day one, if not before. These builds often have Knox enhancements built-in, so if you use a separate work profile or just use some of Knox's utilities like private folders know that Samsung cares to keep Knox up to snuff, too.

Carrier patches are mostly a thing of the past, and even then are mostly carrier-based, so Samsung gets a full pass here. Even the world's largest phone maker can't make AT&T or Verizon hurry.

What's not so good

Samsung Galaxy J7 Hero

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Everything above is true only when talking about Samsung's more expensive models, and mostly for just for the first year. That's not always true and we've seen phones like the Galaxy S7 get a security update out of nowhere long after support had ended, but for the most part, Samsung shifts focus to the newer flagships once they are built.

Budget phones need support, too, and Samsung could do better here.

I get it — this makes sense from a financial perspective, but I'm not taking that into account when looking at the big picture. If Samsung needed to add $5 to the cost of every phone to care more about budget models or phones more than a year old, then it should.

For budget phones there's certainly some sort of playbook, but not one that we can easily understand. Some, like the Galaxy A series of phones, will get security patches on a regular basis while new. That means if not once a month when Google releases patches, at least once every three months. Other phones, like the Galaxy J handsets so popular just a year or two ago, seem to have been all but forgotten.

Samsung's flagship phones follow a trend that's easier to see — for the first year they get top-notch service, especially when it comes to security patches. You'll find times when a carrier still manages to get in the way but for the most part, your Galaxy S20 will get its security patch on or before the 5th of each month.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Older models still get security updates as long as they are supported but you probably won't see one every month or quite as early. Still, as long as Samsung is sending out a hefty security patch every 90 days, it's doing well. Certainly better than most Android makers. The good news here is that the Galaxy S10 is now the "old" flagship and still getting fairly prompt updates, so this may be changing.

The region seems to matter a lot here when it really shouldn't. North America and most of Western Europe follow the trends expressed above. Move to India or Asia (outside of Korea) and the whole thing is one gigantic crapshoot.

I hate to think Samsung considers a country more important based on its GDP, but it almost looks that way.

There is no reason for a Galaxy S10 or Note 10 in Romania or Vietnam or India to be several months behind when it comes to security patches. I understand that any user-facing portions need to be localized into a region's language but I can't recall seeing any changes in a security patch that would require this, except the notification. And if you happen to be in North America but have your phone set with Russian or Hindi your security patch will download and install just fine.

I'm not privy to Samsung's internal policies and practices when it comes to updates, and I hate to say Samsung values some folks' money more than others. So I'm not even going to guess why this happens and suggest you ask Samsung if you really want an explanation.

The report card

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

After poring through forums and reading way too much about it all, I'm giving Samsung a B- here.

If you live in the west and have a Galaxy S10 or 20 series, or a Galaxy Note 10 series, you probably have Android 10 and a security patch or April 2020 or later. That's perfect and on its own is totally an A+.

Nobody thought Samsung would improve as much or as fast as it did.

What drags the grade down is how Samsung differentiates between regions and how the value branded phones don't get the same sort of attention. Hopefully, Samsung can improve here.

The best part of it all is how much Samsung has improved its update game in the past few years. No longer will you wait forever to see a platform update for a flagship phone or be six months behind on security patches. Samsung totally gets the A for effort here, and I'm really pleased to see Samsung making moves to better serve its customers. Sure, you won't get Android 11 on day one (nor will you have to deal with Android 11's day one bugs) but you'll get it next Spring, and in the meantime, the important updates are coming out faster than ever before.

Nice work, Samsung!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

68 Comments
  • Samsung sucks on updates. I spend CDN$550 for what is supposed to be their best mid range phone of 2019...the A70 and have not seen but 1 update when it is supposed to be quarterly. Never again.
  • Unfortunately, midrange is midrange. All companies except Google and Apple kinda neglect them.
  • Have fun with your next mid-range slow updater. They're cheaper for a reason.
  • Wrong. HMD Global has been quite good at updates. Not perfect, there have been a few glitches here and there but nothing major. My Nokia device has gotten both it's software updates and security patches on a regular basis. Given my previous experience with another company, this time around, I couldn't have asked for more. Besides, I'm really liking the Android One programme.
  • Same with me. Nokia 7.1 is on the April Security Patch. Android 10 messed up my contact search in message apps, but other than that they have been on the ball. No bloatware either.
  • I think I'd give Samsung a C+grade due to their very poor updating of midrange and budget phones. I presently have the Note 9 and Note 10 Plus. Both have the April security patch. The Note 9 just received it last week unlike the Note 10 Plus that got it in the first week of April. Unlocked Exynos phones. Living in West Africa. Most of North America got the Note 10 Plus update over 10 days ago. The arrival of Google as a phone OEM caused imo other Android OEMs to step up to the "updating" plate more often than in the past. Fortunately the updates seem less wonky and disruptive than say one year ago.
  • I had HTC and LG phones. My husband had Samsung phones. We've now gone to Pixels (me a 4, him a 3), and we'll never go back to other brands as long as Google is making better ones. It is great to get regular updates, even major version updates, not having to wonder if they'll ever be updated.
  • As it says in the article it depends what tier you buy. S10 and S20 phones usually get security patches before pixels. Nice username lol.
  • "As it says in the article it depends what tier you buy. S10 and S20 phones usually get security patches before pixels." That isn't really true z yes Samsung has beaten the Pixels in releasing security updates but not very often and for me it's either Google or Nokia because I value security updates so my 7T will be my first and last OnePlus phone. Samsung is rubbish at updates outside of their flagships, Apple, Google and Nokia are better but Apple and Google are the best overall when it comes to updates.
  • I think that in most cases security updates are way overrated. OnePlus states in their official policy that their phones get the updates by-monthly! They live up to their policy just fine. There are people who are using phones that have not received a security update in over a year and nothing bad has happened to them. There are other reasons to dump OnePlus (I have the 7 Pro) but security updates is not one of them. If you didn't know their policy before purchase that is on you, not them.
  • Samsung aims for beginning of the month for their latest flagships. Google releases their updates on the first Monday of every month.
  • Well yeah they get regular updates for 3 years, and then Google forget about it.
    Samsung will get regular updates for 3 years, but maybe there's some delays depending on country and model.
    After that, Samsung will still give another updates for 4 years but every 3 month.
  • The way you wrote your comment is weird, here's a better way to describe it. Samsung gives you monthly security updates and major Android version updates for 2 years; then 2 years of security updates every 90 days, with no major Android updates. Google currently gives you monthly security updates and major Android updates for 3 years.
  • You're wrong too. Samsung gives you 2 years of OS updates, you get regular monthly security updates (in most regions) for the first 3 years, and an extra year of quarterly updates.
  • Quarterly updates don't count as far as I'm concerned, only the 1st 3 years count and Samsung is like everyone else, even OnePlus does this policy but the difference is that OnePlus actually offers 3 platform updates instead of the usual 2 years but even then OnePlus security updates are only bimonthly after the 1st 3 months in s row of security updates and bug fixes.
  • Nobody give a **** about what you think, all your comments are biased ********. iPhone bla bla...Pixel bla bla..., you're repetitive as ****. Every OEM has good and bad policies, this somehow doesn't compute for you.
  • "If you live in the west and have a Galaxy S10 or 20 series, or a Galaxy Note 10 series, you probably have Android 10 and a security patch or April 2020 or later. That's perfect and on its own is totally an A+." Well except May is almost over...Samsung's flagships are about to be 2 months behind on security patches. This is unacceptable for such expensive phones from such a big company. Samsung should get a B- for flagships in the west and a D- overall.
  • Well except most of them are actually on the May patch. I installed it on my S10e on the 5th.
  • If true (and they keep pushing them every month for at least 3 years) then they should get an A for flagships in the west but still a D overall. That's unacceptable and consumers should expect more.
  • I also got the May patch on the 5th
  • Well my Note8 which released in 2017 still get monthly security update
  • I also got my May security update on May 4th.
  • They really need to get more security patches out to lower tier devices. Although that isn't really a Samsung issue, almost all manufacturers are awful. And there's also the problem that even if an update is made available, a huge number of users won't install it anyway.
  • Well I can say that I wont be buying another Samsung phone because I wont be buying any more flagships. Too expensive and since Samsung only cares about flagships they lose my business. Holding onto this Note 9 for as long as I can though!
  • Samsung are definitely better in updates than before but compared to Google, they still have a long way to go before they get near to Google's consistency an only Nokia comes close to Google when it comes to updates, and unlike Samsung, Nokia doesn't neglect their mid range phones as my Nokia 8.1 is on the May 2020 security patch so Samsung gets a D- from me.
  • I forget to mention that my Nokia 8.1 is supported better than Samsung mid range phones because of Android One which all Nokia phones are but sadly it's only Nokia that is supporting Android One now.i
  • I bought an S10E a few months ago and I've gotten about 2 updates since I've had it which is roughly 2 months or so. Definitely better than I thought it would be
  • I value regular updates, decent UI and hardware and a nice camera. Samsung checks off most of those boxes. But they won't make my shortlist until I see a real commitment to the security updates. My only real choice right now is Pixel. If Google scraps that line and no other option exists I may consider iPhone which is something I would never ever have said in the past, especially considering I came from using a BlackBerry!
  • Samsung actually giving 4 years security updates (at least for flagship) compared to Google Pixel which only 3 years.
  • So what? Apple updates their phones for 5 years and you're lying, Samsung only gives 2 years OS updates and 3 years security updates like most Android OEMs.
  • The Samsung S7 and S7 Edge received the March '20 security patch. 3 OS versions and 4 years security on flagships.
  • Don't confuse him with facts please.
  • Liar, the Galaxy S7 only got 3 OS versions and 3 security updates with the 3rd year being quarterly
  • The 4th year was quarterly updates not the 3rd.
  • There are some very weird statements here.. 8 to 11 months for a full update? Android 10 was released by Google on September 6. I had Android 10 on my s10 on 6 December.. that's 4 months, half of what is said here. Security updates I have almost all the time before the end of the month of the next month! So the may update I had already in April...
  • And I got Android 10 on my Nokia 8.1 in October because it's running Android One and mg OnePlus 7T came with Android 10 out of the box so for you to crow that you got your S10 Android 10 update in December shows that Samsung has improved with updates but only a little bit and that's one of a few reasons why I wouldn't buy Samsung along with their bloated software being another reason for me to avoid Samsung.
  • I'll take a stable OS update a few months back than a beta full of crap. My daughter has a XR iPhone and the updates to 13 after released and issues were prevalent. Same for the Pixel 4 and Android 10 out of the gate.
  • Don't interject logic here please.
  • They are beginning with the release of developer previews, not the stable release.
  • That's an absolutely stupid stance. Developer previews are not meant for the general public and Google even recommends NOT installing them if you're not a dev or don't know the risks. Same goes for open betas. Terrible reporting, but not unexpected from the garbage on this site.
  • My low end Sammy receives quarterly updates and it had android 10 in December. Not the best definitely, but not worst either lol
  • You have low standards, for me I want regular security updates and Nokia hasn't let me down with my Nokia 8.1 getting security updates without fail each month thanks to it being on the Android One program, OnePlus are not nearly as good as Nokia in security updates (my OnePlus 7T gets bimonthly updates) but they are better with OS updates but overall OnePlus update policy isn't acceptable to me so my 7T will be my first and last OnePlus phone for that reason and their customer service is bad too.
  • Lol you reply like a 10 year old. I would take stable updates over day one beta tests anyday. Like someone posted above.
  • What sites are you surfing that you need such security? Do tell...
  • I have the a50 on verizon. The may update arrived this morning and I had the april update last month and it got the android 10 update. It basically has better support than Lenovorola at a similar price ($300 at best buy a few months ago).
  • And so what? HMD Global support their phones better than Samsung does, at least for their mid range phone, my Nokia 8.1 got the May security update last week and has been updated ever since I got the phone which got Android 10 in October because of my 8.1 being on the Android One program which is far better than on my OnePlus 7T which got updates for 3 months in a row and then bimonthly from February this year and OnePlus has been slacking and if not for this app called Oxygen Updater, I'd have gotten the updates even later which is unacceptable, especially when reviewers praise OnePlus for updates but I suppose they're better at OS updates so I expect to my 7T to get Android 11 shortly after the Pixels. But overall I'm switching back to iPhone because I'm fed up with the fragmentation with Android and I've realized what I've been missing since I switched from IPhone to Android over 2 years ago and that's fast updates on day 1(which everyone gets as an iPhone user) iMessage, Facetime, the App Store which is superior to the Play Store with a better app selection and quality and 5 years of software support along with the best customer satisfaction guaranteed..
  • Highest rate phone for customer satisfaction just released last week was\is the Note 9 by Samsung. Look it up.
  • I'm talking customer satisfaction and Apple tops all Android OEMs, after Apple is dominant in places like the US and UK.
  • I tried to find an HMD that worked on Verizon that would get more updates than the a50. My options were cuttent Nokia 2 or 3 devices or an older 8 series. Switching carriers isn't an option as my area has poor service coverage. This is also why the Pixel, with their lack of SD cards, is a no-go. I can't miss family pics because my phone is full or retrieving a video takes 5 minutes. As for brand loyalty, my last samsung was 4 devices ago. I picked the A50 because it was at a sweet spot of price, features, and support. IPhones are "made wrong" for me. Their organization model makes me mad every time I touch one. It's like driving a double clutch transmission. I can do it, but I hate it.
  • B-.. Yeah right. You forgot to look at the best selling phones from last year that have had one maybe 2 security updates, with no os updates. Shouldn't security be with the phones that MOST people have!? (and that is not the stupid overpriced jokes of the flagships). When security is only for the rich, because only their voice is heard, it's obvious that Samsungs business ethics and overall morals are completely crap. B-. Ha. He must have a flagship.
  • My Galaxy S8 got monthly security updates for 3 years, usually at about the same time as my Nokia 7.1. Except that my S8 is still owed the April security update, which was supposed o be the last monthly update before going quarterly. My Nokia has the April update; still waiting for May's.
  • I've already gotten my May security update on my Nokia 8.1 but I won't be getting th May security update on my OnePlus 7T due to OnePlus stupid bimonthly updates policy.
  • My old S7 is on April's security update. Whilst my S9 is on Mays
  • Lol...his arguments being blown to heck by posts like this.
  • I love how all you Samsung knights are defending your precious Samsung, who's update policy simply isn't good enough and that's all therebis to it, along with yet another reason why I'll stay away from their phones.
  • Stick to the facts please and not hyperbole. I've had all Sammy phones since the S3 and have NEVER experienced failure in any way...FACT. Stick to legitimate sites, don't open suspicious emails, use apps from the Play Store and you'll be fine. Deviate and you're on your own and will have to bad mouth a manufacturer for you bad decisions.
  • Samsung's schedule for updating its phones has no rhyme or reason that I've heard of. My Note 9 got the April security patch 4 days ago. My Note 10 Plus has had the April security patch since the 7th of April and May arrived today.
  • You get security updates every month then. How much more "rhyme or reason" do you need? Did your phone get hacked between April and May?
  • I expect security updates monthly and with Android there's always some new exploit and vulnerability hence why there are monthly updates in the first place and I expect my device to be secure with the latest security patch but it is only Google and Nokia that are consistent because the others including the "great" Samsung are not as consistent at least when it's their mid range phones and @Inders99 with your "Stick to the facts please and not hyperbole. I've had all Sammy phones since the S3 and have NEVER experienced failure in any way...FACT. Stick to legitimate sites, don't open suspicious emails, use apps from the Play Store and you'll be fine. Deviate and you're on your own and will have to bad mouth a manufacturer for you bad decisions." Comment you are making me consider dropping Android completely and sticking with only Apple because the Apple community is much more peaceful than the Android community, especially in this site.
  • Just received the May 2020 update on my Note 9 two nights ago. The model phone is approaching two years in October. Verizon and Sammy are both huge players in the cell phone marketplace and still to this day, cannot understand why they cannot extend their OS updates to at least three years and security updates to five. The hardware on these so called flagship phones is now so good... come on VZ and Sammy, we all know you're pushing us to upgrade our phones every year to two years, so you could sell more units... given the price of new ones, give a little and extend the update cycles! Not everyone is a phone jumper, every three, six months to a year! Some folks like their phones and want to just get a new battery and go on with life with their existing phone that they enjoy! Time to loosen the strings and give a little more!
  • I dont really care about updates very much but Samsung is better than LG. I have an LG G8 ThinQ that is still on the Feb 1 security patch but it did get Android 10.
  • This is one of the reasons why I'm fed up with Android and switching back to iPhone, because you nerds don't care about updates and because you people don't care about updates and OEMs will not care either as much as my options for consistent updates is already very limited with only Nokia and Google (especially) providing updates and that is important to me as I want my phone and my data to be kept safe. Like I said, iPhone users value security and privacy, Android users do not.
  • Face it, you want to run because you won't admit that updates aren't as big a deal as you're making them out to be if you're reasonable with what you visit and open. And you know iPhone doesn't have the conveniences that Android does and this is coming from a person that has ALL Apple products with the exception of the phone.
  • Another garbage article by AC, written of course by Jerry. Lol. Expect OS updates, for flagship, 8-12 months after Google releases them? When has this ever happened? This site is absolute garbage. Samsung Note 9 got Android 10 in December/January depending on the region. The S10 and Note 10 got Android 10 in December. Android 10 was release in September/October. In the past it use to be around 5-6 months after the official release of the new Android update "8-12 months". Lol. Absolutely garbage.
  • You know - this could be avoided: Do what PCs do (since basically the days of MS-DOS, so I don't think it's a "phones are underpowered" thing). Implement a proper driver model. I've never had a single PC that needed the entire OS to be rebuilt by the hardware manufacturer. HP doesn't need to build its own custom form of Windows. Neither does Dell or ASUS or Lenovo or anybody else. Heck, I build my own machines - something you can't do with a cell phone. Didn't need to rebuild Windows for that. Why can it simply not work like Windows (or Linux or any other modern PC OS?)
  • This info about samsung being on time with updates , its literally a lie, It's depend on which country you are , for sample i got S10+ 975F , every country near me got may 2020 security update , and in israel doesn't, and they got few I.T/R.D Offices , and still no good update rate only for s20 ultra , it's like all anther devices not exist. So I don't trust this article
  • 8-12 months after it's released for Samsung flagships to get the new Android is way off. S10 got Android 10 before Christmas last year, it came out to Pixels in September, that is less than 4 months. The years before, it was usually January or February, so I would say 4-6 months is more accurate.
  • Every indicator is awesome