One of the more welcome features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow was the transparency of the new monthly security patches. Starting with the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P and rolling out with updates to other phones, the "About" section in the settings menu tells the date of the most recently received security patch. It's sort of a badge of honor, really — and an important piece of transparency in the fight to keep our smartphones safe and secure.
HTC has been one of the better manufacturers when it comes to keeping its phones updated — especially when it comes to its carrier-free models. Computerworld's JR Raphael ranked HTC No. 2 (behind Google) in his latest "Android update report card," and while it focuses on major platform updates and not monthly security updates, the point stands — HTC has done pretty when when it comes to keeping current software on its phones.
That's why it's troubling, then, that HTC is hiding the monthly security patch level on the HTC 10. Especially when it's so easy to glean. Here's how you can do it.
When your phone shows the date of its most recent security patch in the settings menu, it's pulling that data from the "build.prop." It's a file full of little text strings that tell the phone about itself. Model name, software versions, things like that. And in there is where you'll find the security patch information.
If you know how to pull files off a phone using a command line, it's easy. Just pull build.prop and open it in a text editor. My HTC 10 was just updated, and it's on the May security patch. So the line in the build.prop shows:
If you don't want to do that sort of spelunking, a simple system info app can track it down for you. It does the same thing — reads the build.prop — but puts it into something a little easier on the eyes. There are myriad system info apps out there. We've been using AIDA64 lately, and it clearly shows the security patch from May 1, 2016.
Why did HTC choose to not display the date of the most recent system patch? It doesn't really matter. The data is there — you just need to know where to look. And that almost makes it worse. Transparency is important when it comes to this sort of thing. Google's doing an excellent job of keeping us informed, every month, about what's being fixed. Other manufacturers are doing the right thing and letting us know how recently they patched their phones.
HTC half-heartedly hiding that information is unnecessary and disappointing.
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