With iOS 14, Apple once again crushes Android makers on software update support

iOS 14 supported devices
iOS 14 supported devices (Image credit: Apple)

It's time to talk about software updates again. Specifically, just how bad Android phone makers are doing compared to Apple's iPhone. And they are doing really bad in comparison.

Apple's iOS 14 will be available for a bunch of phones, but what's important is that phones from 2015 like the iPhone 6S and even the original "budget" iPhone SE from 2016 will be getting the update the same day that the brand-new iPhone 11 Pro gets it. That is awesome for anyone who uses those phones.

Even Google won't update an Android phone from 2015 and it owns the platform.

Meanwhile, there are just a handful of phones guaranteed to get Android 11 and there is a very good chance that you will have to wait at least six months after it is released before it comes to most of them. There are no phones from companies like Samsung (which drives the Android ecosystem almost single-handedly) built in 2015 or 2016 that will be getting Android 11.

This is terrible. This has to end. And even if you say you don't care, you really should.

Right about now is where I get the itch to talk about security. From that perspective, a platform update is a very important thing but Google has done a lot of work to help keep phones updated against things like malware and web exploits even if they aren't getting a real platform update. I applaud them for that. But that's not the only reason why platform updates are important, or even the main reason.

Without phones running the new software, developers aren't going to take advantage of the new features it brings. And this is what makes it all so bad.

Android 11 Beta Chat Bubble

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Think about one really cool feature from Android 11, like conversations. Google has made it fairly simple to build an app that includes them which is good because a messaging app is already complex and extremely difficult to get right. But why should a company like Facebook or Signal or Telegram spend time to update their apps to use them when only a small percentage of users can benefit? The answer is that they won't because there are other features or improvements that affect more users.

You'll see apps start to use Android 11's features a year after its release when Galaxy phones and LG phones and Motorola phones get an update. You deserve better than that, but you can't really blame the developers for not spending time and money to support a few random Pixel and OnePlus users when the rest of the world can't use the stuff.

Apple is spending money to make sure older phones get updated and Samsung isn't. Nor is Google.

It's easy for Apple because it spends money to overbuild the internals that matter on the iPhone and own the rights to the chipset so it can update the OS anytime it likes. That's why you see phones like the 2020 iPhone SE with a processor powerful enough to run a laptop. It's overkill right now, but five years from now it will meet the minimum specs so Apple can keep customers happy and keep them spending when they eventually upgrade.

In the Android world the best you can find, on a consistent basis, are Google's own Pixel phones. Closely followed by Android One devices, and then the odd tiny-market phones like the Fairphone 2 that launched in 2015 on Android 5.1 and eventually got Android 9. That's not a big group of customers.

I'll say it once more: you deserve better. You deserve updates at the same pace and for the same length of time that Apple offers.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

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.

  • Yes I totally agree having paid 1200 plus pounds for a Samsung galaxy note 10 plus and only guaranteed one more major Android update after 1 year it's pathetic not to say the least. Why should I be looking over my shoulders at Apple and be envious at what they doing with their class act of updates. I had a IPhone 7plus back in 2016 and kept it till 2017 and the wifey has it. Since then I've had 3 more phones and each one including the Note 10 plus has barely a couple of years of software support in them whereas my wife is guaranteed ios 14 and easily 15 and 16 with the way Apple is improving it's update track record.
  • Apple has been very clever with this update, yes it's easy to say adding an app drawer and other stuff that's been on Android for years may be true and it's also true that android and iOS have never been so similar but with apples policy of updating older hardware and it's better resale value more people are likely to start looking at iPhones than iPhone users looking to switch to android. Also the top end androids are now more expensive than top end iPhones and are abandoned much earlier.
  • You hit the nail on the head and that's one of the reasons I'm switching back to iPhone as my daily driver after more than 2 years of using Android.
  • Jerry, I do take a peek at Apple blogs like Cult of Mac and 9"to 5 Mac, where I constantly read consistently buggy updates of Mac computers and iPhones. Furthermore, Android 9 is more interesting than iOS 14. The Google suite of productivity apps is more interesting than what is offered from Apple. Finally, hardware design and specs are very conservative and lag leading Android manuafucters... Something as simple as expandable storage is but one example. The Pixel phones are a lost leader for Google. Google throws rediculous amounts of money at their Pixel phones to enable day one updates to their Pixel phones.... Something no other Android manufacturer can replicate and still make money. Sure, I agree two years of Android updates is a disgrace, but no, it doesn't really matter in the operation of running any apps or making phone calls on Android phones. One might argue that consistently receiving Android updates six months after their release is still the same net 1 year time period for updates. When the updates do arrive, they work, which can not be said for Apple. I don't even consider a mobile hardware upgrade for five years now. Let's see what 2022 brings, because meaningful 1 year or 2 year hardware improvements are not offered by any manufacturer.... Yeah, I'm that Note 8 guy lol. So Jerry, have you finally come to realize that all the AC writing about Android 11 that has been done over the last six months, and the following six months, is of use to only a tiny fraction of Android consumers?
  • IOS doesn't need 12gb of ram to run smoothly for long periods of time. Not to mention The A series chips are unmatched in terms of performance by any chip in the android ecosystem. (the rest of the specs are indeed conservative on the IOS front).
  • No Android phone NEEDS 12 GB of ram to run. My three-year-old S8 works just fine thank you.
    On top of that you have had to wait until iOS 14 to set your own choice of email and use something other than the godawful Safari browser.
    Also, I can make my phone look any way I want to by changing the launcher, using Widgets, loading theme packs, icon packs, etc.
    I'm not stuck using a glorified Fisher-Price Toy screen with fixed icons in fixed rows that has not changed in 10 years. (and yes, I do use an iPhone for work daily.)
    Probably why Android phones outsell Apple phones 3-1 globally. That and the huge price differences.
    Apple has the luxury of vertical integration and captive consumers who can only buy apps from the Apple Store (which gouges developers.)
    Google does not. They have to make it work on literally thousands of hardware configurations, and since it's just an Apache 2.0 license, they cannot force the hardware vendors to comply with their recommendations.
    It's all about choice. If you want someone to decide for you, buy Apple. If you want to decide for yourself, buy Android.
  • I don't think Android needs 12 GB ram to run smoothly but Samsung note 10+ does and still stutters. And it is not that I do any heavy gaming or anything. My phone usage is only 3 apps. Email, Chrome and Whatsapp. My one year old iPhone zips through things. I still love my note 10 and wish few things could be improved but iPhone is still unmatched after 10 years.
    Android collectively may sell 3-1 to iphone but it is just one manufacturer. Also, average cost of selling is much higher than the average cost of those 3 android phones. I think we are back to the same race. Windows vs Mac. It is just that Android has replaced windows on phones and we know how that will turn out. iPhones are jail. Once you get in, it is difficult to get out. I go through it everyday. I spend way more time deciding between iPhone and Note 10+ than I should and still end up changing phones every few days. I hate ecosystems.
  • Yawn, now you're being silly z iOS 14 is way more interesting than Android 11 or any other version of Android. Because iOS 14 represents real change and yes the features of iOS 14 has been on Android for years, so want? The thing is Apple's implementations will be cleaner and more polished than their Android counterparts. I speak facts not dogma like you Android fanboys. And if you're going by global numbers then of course Android phones sell more than iPhones, only because of developing countries, if you take the UK, US, Canada and Australia then you'll find that Apple is the number 1 smartphone vendor with Samsung and Huawei making up the top 2, you Android fanboys are so sad, you keep repeating the same tired old tropes you've been using since 2010. "Apple is behind I. Hardware and specs" err no they're not, they've been ahead since of Android in processing power for the last 5 years although Android is catching up now but Apple is still ahead.
  • What can they do, short of doing the Microsoft thing and taking over the whole OS?
  • Make updates a part of the Google Mobile Services license.
  • Not surprised that the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, and the iPhone SE (first gen) made the cut. I have an iPhone XR and Moto Z4. You can probably guess which one has my active SIM card in it more often. And with iOS 14 gaining the ability to change the default mail and browser, it makes it even more compelling to use the Google ecosystem on an Apple device. With maybe one or two battery swaps, my iPhone XR will likely last through 2024 (purchased in 2018) if not longer while this Moto Z4 is barely getting quarterly security patch updates.
  • Thank you Jerry!! Please keep writing articles like this. There is absolutely no reason my S9 should not get Android 11, 12 and all the latest One UI goodies. If Samsung doesn't shape up its my last. I won't even get into how frustrating it is to have my excellent '18 Black Edition BlackBerry Key One stuck on Oreo 8.1 with a security patch of 4\19.
  • That's "OS updates". "Software" in general (browser, mail, maps etc...) is updated for much longer on Android because it is not linked to OS updates as it is on iOS.
  • This isn't mentioned enough in articles praising Apple when they push updates and things start getting gimpy when the new update comes because that's how they update the basic iOS apps. Android app updates aren't tied to the named OS updates and they basically only add in stuff that Samsung and others already have on their devices. Android Central should talk about Google Play Services being on almost all Android devices, even old ass ones, damn near immediately.
  • Bingo! it's like everyone completely forgot about Project Treble and how many Android core services are updated through the play store in the background. Now with GPU drivers and other important software also updating without needing to be a part of a major OS number, the divide is getting closer yet people have no idea how well supported many phones are through background updates. Futurama put it best, "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.”
  • iOS 14 is just making it more compelling to move to Apple. Want the latest and greatest iPhone? 11 Pro doesn't really have a weakness. Takes outstanding photos and has amazing battery life. Don't want to spend that much and want a cheap iPhone? The SE is faster than any android device on the market and is $400. Oh and it'll get 4+ years of support too. With Google ******** the bed and seeming having no idea what they're doing with hr Pixel line, it's very tempting to just move permanently to the iPhone. iOS 14 has so many features that were only on Android, there's even less reason to stick with android.
  • Being able to set Gmail and Chrome as the default email client and browser will make using the Google ecosystem on an Android device much easier.
  • You mean making using the Google ecosystem on an Apple device easier, right? And yes, it would. Something people have been wanting for a long time.
  • If they allowed Google Maps as the default navigation, I'd seriously consider switching.
  • lol yes. haha
  • IPhone 11 isn't 5G, no expandable storage, modest RAM, modest battery, not a 120Hz display, huge notch, and buggy iOS updates. As others wrote, app performance and availability is not tied to the Android version you are running, unlike Apple. https://m.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=10040&idPhone2=9846
  • Real 5G is barely rolled out and this year's iPhone will have 5G with iOS 14 anyway.
    RAM doesn't matter for iOS, it outperforms android phones with what, 1/3 the ram?
    Consumers don't care about expandable storage - see iPhone sales for evidence of that.
    Even without a 120hz display it's still looks smoother and faster than android phones. If this year's iPhone has a 90hz or 120hz display, then it'll look even better.
    Android is far, far buggier than iOS - particularly if you buy a non-Pixel device. And good luck getting updates on non-Pixel android phones. The software your phone shipped with is probably going to be the only software you're going to get.
  • Now you know that's not true lol. Android is getting there, but just like Apple, its a work in progress. Look at how long it took Apple to get these features.
  • Northern Arbiter iOS doesn't need 8-12GB RAM just to run properly or a 120hz display or big battery as the iPhone 11 proved which put every big Android flagship from 2019 to shame and 5G is barely a thing at the moment and yes iOS is buggy initially but at least Apple fixes any bugs quickly with updates unlike Android where users are made to wait a month with the next security update if you're lucky.
  • Faster than any Android phone. Here we go again with another clueless person that thinks Benchmark scores mean something. In real world use my S20, Note 10+ and S10e do everything as fast or faster than the 11, Pro & Max. I know, because everyone in my family has new iphones and I have spent considerable time comparing mine to theirs in real timed tests. My family members that aren't phone competitive always comment how my pictures always look better than theirs and sure my superior screens help, but the cameras are damn good too. I also appreciate not getting screwed on base storage and absolutely love the expandable storage. Getting a fast charger with the phone is a plus and USB C is far superior to the Lightning plug that should have died years ago. I've only used reverse charging 3 or 4 times, but it sure came in handy when my watch needed a charge and at the airport when my daughters 11 Pro needed a little juice. On Father's Day at my daughter's new house there was 10 people there, all with iphones and 6 were on T-Mobile including me and none of them could stream a video or text pictures and I was able to do both, but I did get a little video buffering at 1080p. Eventually, Apple will copy every feature we Android users have enjoyed for years, but I will never buy into their walled garden that they shove down your throats and you happily swallow.
  • You're a father and yet here you are saying my Samsung is better than the iPhone. The S10 is NOT faster than the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, especially at gaming where the iPhone has had the better GPU performance since the 6s and so what if Apple bring features that Android had years ago? Apple always improve on Android features with Touch ID, Face ID which are all better than their Android equivalents and Samsung even tried to copy Apple's Me Mojis and falled miserably, with their ugly Mienmoji clone. You don't like Apple and their walled garden and that's your perogative but I do and as a Visaully impaired person I feel Apple suits me better than Android, I'm more familiar with the culture of Apple than I am with Android even though I haven't used iOS for over 2 years and now I'm switching back to iPhone as I finally figured out that Android's continued fragmentation issues and poor update policies along with the far superior app experience on iOS with the improvements iOS has make it an easy decision to switch back to iPhone and stay there. You need to grow up and try and understand why people choose iPhone over Android.
  • So a 5 year old iPhone is finally getting features my phone I stopped using over 2 years ago had when I bought it over 4 years ago and I should be jealous? Apple doesn't even change or overhaul their UI. Even a 5 year old Android has full app support, I don't need my android version and UI changed annually. The one thing I would like improved are the security updates on Android, would be nice if that matched Apple.
  • I feel like a stuck record keep saying this but I'm putting a new battery in my 2nd gen Moto X today coz I still haven't seen or used anything I like better that has any whizz bang features I can't live without. Just sent back a Nokia 5.3 coz it had a few manufacturing issues but decided not to replace it coz having to wake up the phone to see notifications when I can just wave my hand over my trusty Moto is something of a deal breaker now. Android 6 marshmallow is running flawlessly and lag free and every app works just fine. I know it's not up to date regarding security but that's a personal risk I'm willing to live with, I know some people value that much more highly than I do though.
  • That's why I mentioned Android 9 was more interesting than iOS14.
  • I think that one crucial 'feature' of a smartphone that rarely gets talked about or explained in any meaningful way is the 'experience' whilst using a phone. I also realise it's one of the most difficult to pin down as everyone has different preferences but to try and put it simply, without bashing or coming over as a fanboy is that for me personally the 'experience' when using a stock (eg Motorola, Nokia, Google etc) is way more satisfying and intuitive to use than particularly Samsung or some of the more 'altered' skins. It's just less of a headache and means I can get on with enjoying the phone than trying to work out all the settings and sub settings that personally I find gives just too much choice. My first android phone was a Samsung galaxy S3 I think and almost put me off android straight away until I returned it and bought an og Moto g, it was like night and day and I clicked straight away with that phone, so have stuck with 'stock' phones ever since. You can talk all day about what features a phone has but if it's horrible to use the 'experience' could put you off. Specs are great and I'm glad things get better, quicker and more advanced but ask someone who loves to drive a classic car, it won't be the specs but the 'experience' they love. Anyway that's just my opinion feel free to agree or disagree, I'd like to know what others think. Peace ✌
  • You set your phone up once... And that's it... You then enjoy your apps, receive your texts, and make phone calls. Superior hardware: display, RAM, etc makes tiny differences. Lol, no, I never understood the joy or 'sub menu' experience that gets you, and others, excited. No judgement... Lots of choice out there. I don't think I need to point out market dominance in Android... You are a minority, and the average person doesn't care... They run apps, take pictures, text, and make calls.
  • Market dominance in Android for what? Developing countries where in developed countries, Apple is dominant. Try again @Northern Arbiter.
  • Android 8.0 was the last really interesting version of Android with Android 10 close behind it. But iOS 14 is more interesting than every version of Android put together. You fanboys are making it easier for me to vindicate my decision to go back to iPhone and stay there.
  • As a person in the Android ecosystem, I'll be brief - it would be funny if it wasn't sad 😔. Any "excuses" for Android manufacturers 📲 in the comments are ... meaningless 🙄. Currently, Android 10 is about 10/12% of the devices, I think it's a shame 😡.
  • I totally agree with you because when you think of the profit that Google makes from its entire business (not necessarily it's phone buisness) it could easily afford to employ a bunch of people to work on updating its own OS to be permanently ahead of the game. However it relies on its hardware partners and they need to sell new phones every year so the quicker they considered 'old' or 'out of date' the more phones they sell. It's the ripple effect and it's called 'business'. Unfortunately it's us the customer who suffers while these companies rake in billions in profit! Sad but true and they know that a vocal minority won't stop the 90%(plus that minority) buying new phones year after year.
    And also I'm not sure in the big scheme of things at this point how many people will swap ecosystems whichever one has maybe a thing or two the other doesn't. If you like iPhones fair play, if you like android phones fair play it's not like you can't contact someone on an iPhone from an Android device and vice versa. Just get the phone that suits you and enjoy it. Peace✌
  • Well Jerry I'll just say it like this. Apple Has to do full OS updates to even give feature and bug fixes to just simple components of iOS. The have to do that to update safari, imessage, mail and etc of their core apps because they are hooked into the main OS in a way that they can't even update them through their own app store. I like android's approach of uncoupling these things to be their own apps and simply updated through the play store without suffering through a buggy OS update. Android phones can get feature updates straight to the core apps directly through the play store. Apple can't do that so it requires an OS update each time. OS updates are nice but reading the apple forums of the bugs that seem to happen all the time with OS updates I rather not have them as frequently if not needed, since it can be a double edge sword.
  • That's the thing, Apple doesn't do full updates for big fixes, that's the next version of iOS that's the full update, even if, say iOS 13.5 is a full update, at least Apple gets the updates out quickly compared to Android OEMs including Google who make users wait a full month just for bug fixes which is unacceptable.
  • Yep. If you pay $700 dollars or more for a phone you should always have the latest software. 4 years minimum. About the only good thing about a Pixel phone is timely updates. Samsung has the cash to do it on a timely manner. It is inexcusable.
  • Remember, iPhone 5s (from 2013) just got a security update 2-3 weeks ago. SEVEN YEARS. SEVEN...and counting?
  • I just don't care that much as I don't think the average consumer does either. People that like iOS are going to stay, people that like Android are going to stay.
  • This nuff said ☝️
  • Good on calling out Google. Google flat out sucks and they have gotten away with their cheap garbage because people haven't held their feet to the fire. The", enthusiast" aka fanboy crowd even shifts the blame to others, cough Qualcomm. The problem is and always has been Google.
  • Why can't Google make Android even more like Chrome OS with updates? If Chrome OS can get 6 to 8 years of updates, I can't see why Android can't be make to support 5 years of OS updates like Apple does. I switched to a Pixel phone because LG, Motorola, Samsung, etc. just can't seemed to be bothered with timely security updates, much less OS updates. At least update Pixels for 5 years...that would be awesome.
  • Another excellent article Jerry. Google should be leading the way here. Why doesn't the original Pixel get Android 11? has google explained what hardware limitations are the cause? I have a Pixel 2, I don't see why I can't get Android 12. 3 years seems pretty arbitrary to me, especially for flagship phones high end chips.
  • Couldn't agree more, we should vote with our wallets...
  • This is such non-news since it happens every year. Why? Apples vertical integration makes it much easier to offer updates on older devices. Total control there. Much more difficult with the plethora of android devices with many customizations from the various manufacturers and the range of hardware offerings. $100 android phone? Sure, because of googles business model. $100 iphone? Never. That's just the way it works. Now I'm not letting Google off the hook on this. Surely they should offer more than 3 years on their Pixel flagships. This could be a huge marketing opportunity for Google to differentiate themselves from Samsung, LG, etc. They could also work with manufacturers to better the track record on android updates, especially on higher end devices. A sub $250 device is a commodity purchase and I understand that support will be limited. $800 plus flagships are a different story.
  • Google could and should do more about this sorry situation with updates, but they won't because they don't want to annoy their OEM partners because Google need them more than they need Google, especially Samsung. And that along with a number of other reasons is why I'm moving back to iOS as my daily driver and and after a while I will eventually leave Android for good, I'm only keeping my Android phone because of TV shows I watched that I can't do on iOS.
  • Well said Jerry and that's one of the reasons why I'm going back to iPhone as my daily driver, because I don't have to upgrade my phone every 2 years with an iPhone because Apple invest in their silicon chips which I'm sure costs Apple a lot of money on R&D and while iPhones are expensive, they can justify their high prices (Android flagships cannot due to their poor software support) for the software support alone but it's more than that. This is Apple's big advantage in them making both the software and hardware and the reason why they continue to support their older iPhones for so long compared to their Android counterparts who most of them except Samsung and
    Huawei, have to on Qualcomm for their SoCs, who only supports their chipsets for a limited time with the necessary drivers.
  • Well this just confirmed what I know already. I'll be moving to iOS by the end of the year. Google has dropped the ball with both it's Pixel Line and Android. They should have strong armed the OEM's into providing more than 1 Android Letter Update to their devices (Lenovorola). Its appalling that any phone running anything other than a Snapdragon 400 should not be getting Android 10. The Snapdragon 821 and 835 are all more than capable of running Android 10 and the upcoming Android 11. Same with the 600 and 700 series Chips. Google letting the manufacturers choose what device to support and for how long was a mistake. Further proving that Google cannot do smartphones anymore. They spent a cool billion on HTC's Mobile Division and for what? The Pixel 4? A phone that is a step back compared to it's previous flagship? Even if Apple is late to the party with certain features, it will make the transition to those that are sick and tired of OEM's blessing their phones with 1 or 2 updates per device life to the iPhone much easier. I'm also tired of these 'fanboys' shifting the blame to anyone but Google. At first I would believe that it was Qualcomm but if some tinkerers on XDA can make my phone run Lineage on a Snapdragon 805 and run just as well, then I think its more on Google refusing to do anything about it. Absolutely inexcusable for any device released in 2017-18 to not be running Android 10 and be prepped for Android 11. They could easily make Android an update-able component that OEM's cannot control. Make their UI an overlay over the base foundation of Android. Effectively a glorified launcher. And if OEM's like Samsung want to throw a ***** fit, I'm sure that Tizen, with it's large userbase, will be able to do well. Samsung wouldn't have even needed to make their own KNOX platform if Google had done it first, instead of ignoring the security issues android has.
  • Your spot on, this is why amongst a few reasons of my own, is why I'm moving back to iOS in August.
  • Long ago, there was this unwritten rule that iPhones were more expensive and you were likely to hold on to one for a longer period of time, necessitating a longer duration for software support. Android phones were the cheap 'disposable' phones, you would buy a new one every 1-2 years. With the arrival of super premium Android phones which cost more than $1k and iPhones actually becoming cheaper and more cost effective for the average user, that unwritten rule has been thrown out of the window. Apple does everything in-house, including software development and chip design. Naturally it's much easier for them to deploy software updates. For Android, you would just be praying that your phone brand and/or carrier would speed things up and let you get the Android update (and hopefully nothing breaks). Both ecosystems have different philosophies, but I hope for the upcoming decade, cross-platform migration between both mobile ecosystems should be painless and efficient, especially for those who switch between Android and iOS often. All your contacts, files, browser preferences, high scores, chat histories (including Whatsapp chat history!) should be transferred over without needing third party apps. iCloud and Google Drive should 'map' onto each other for this.
  • After leaving WP and coming to Android this is what I look to most with MS getting in the game with Android. Don't get me wrong I update way too much but now features are few and far between to validate 1k+ investments.