It's time for a new version of Android, and that means I also get to make my yearly predictions about updates. Fun times!
Now, to be sure, unless a manufacturer has already committed to updating an existing phone, these are simply (mostly) educated guesses. We base them on a company's track record, the capabilities of the phone itself, and the number of phones a company makes. It's sort of like a blogger version of reading tea leaves and calling the bookmakers. And it's fun. Even when we get it wrong it's fun.
Since we're here because we are interested in Android, and most of us like to have a little fun, let's jump right in and answer the million dollar question — will my phone get updated to Android 7.x Nougat?
We'll start with the easy ones. Nexus phones aren't actually built by Google, but they are built to Google's specifications and they have absolute control over all of the software. They also aren't afraid to disappoint and tell us which phones are getting updated, and which phones are not.
- The Nexus 6 has been updated to Android Nougat. It will be updated to Android 7.1.1 in early January.
- The Nexus 5X has been updated to Android Nougat.
- The Nexus 6P has been updated to Android Nougat.
- Android One models will be updated to Android Nougat.
- On the non-phone side, the Nexus 9 has been updated to Android Nougat. The same goes for the Nexus Player.
This means the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 7 2013 aren't getting updated. Nobody who is still using either is happy about it, but Google has made it clear that they support phones with new platform updates for a minimum of two years, and provide security and bug fixes for phones as long as they are able. The good news is that both the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 7 2013 are super easy to drop a custom Android 7 ROM on, and we'll see them shortly after Google puts out the source code for the new update. #420ROOTIT.
Android's elephant in the room, Samsung sells about as many Android phones as everyone else combined. A lot of those phones are ones nobody expects to be updated, and a good many of them are models none of us knows a lot about. These phones and the low-end models from other companies are the new flip phone. A lot of people buy them because they are cheap, and they look good compared to a phone with a tiny screen and a number pad. We're not going to go there, and if any of those phones get updated we're happy and surprised.
- The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge will be upgraded to Android Nougat after a beta period.
- The Galaxy Note 5 will be updated to Android Nougat.
- The Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy S6 edge+ will all be updated to Android Nougat.
Every other model is still a big old question mark. I think some of them, based on things like existing stock, the number of units sold and ease (price) of securing parts if they have to make more of them will get an Android 7 update. Others, with very similar hardware and software, won't. This isn't some sort of conspiracy thing where Samsung is trying to force you to buy a new phone. It's a business decision that we don't like. Supporting the phones they sell with bug and security fixes for two years is another story for another article.
The real question is when. The Galaxy S7 and its edge counterpart will get updated starting in January. The Note 5 and the S6 series will get shortly after.
The LG V20 launched in late October with Android 7.0 onboard. Technically it was the first Android phone with Nougat preloaded, but it beat out the Pixels, which launched with Android 7.1, by a single day.
No, really. The LG G4 and LG V10 might get updated, and they could be made better with Android 7.0, but each has a strike against it. The G4 seems like one of those phones LG wishes they could take back. It has a beautiful screen and seems very capable, but the components were plagued with hardware problems and the software just wasn't ready. If you have a G4 that the mainboard hasn't taken a ride in that long black Cadillac (yet) and can put up with the quirks of LG's software and occasional glitches, I hope they can update it to Nougat and fix some of the issues for you. The phone deserves it. But I'm not holding my breath.
The V10's problem is its limited release. The unlocked international versions aside — which don't have complete LTE support in North America — the rest are mostly carrier phones. That means your carrier gets to decide if they want to fuss with updating it. Bloatware be hard, y'all. With an updated V model coming shortly, will LG and the carriers want to spend the time or money to update the V10? I don't think so.
Like Samsung, some of LG's other more inexpensive phones will surprise us with an update. We're not about to guess which ones in which countries.
Motorola / Lenovo
While we can guess about the update situation from Motorola, one thing we know for sure is that they aren't going to make the same mistake as last time and promise updates they aren't 100% sure they will be delivering. A lot of factors went into that decision, but the end result is the same no matter the reason — customers were understandably pissed off, and it looked like Motorola lied to us. It's not the first time a company has made this mistake (and it won't be the last) but it's recent and we still taste the sourness.
- The Moto Z started seeing its update in November 2016.** The unlocked version still hasn't been updated to Nougat.
- The Moto G4 will be updated to Android Nougat. It's already begun in India.
- The Moto X Play and Moto X Style will be updated to Android Nougat.
Lenovo is going to be looking forward, and models released before they bought Motorola are mostly done for. The good news is that Lenovo should be able to pump out the updates in short order if they want to do so. We could see the update cycle starting before Christmas.
The HTC 10 received Nougat in November 2016. The One M9 will get it in the next couple of months, while the A9 should also get Nougat sometime soon. No word on the One M8, but we're not holding our breath.
HTC's higher end Desire models should see an update, but of course some won't. We know HTC wants to differentiate themselves by being great with updates. Sometimes they are.
Huawei had a pretty decent beta build for the Huawei P9 leak out recently. We know they are working on it already. They've also started to tone down EMUI which should make building the new version even easier. And easier on our eyes
- I'm going to say that the Mate 8
and the P8also get an update to Android 7.0. Don't make me regret it, Huawei. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. Or something.
- The Honor 5X will be updated to Android Nougat.
Huawei has announced which phones will be updated in December 2016. The P9 series, Mate 8 series, and Nova series will be updated. Honor is technically their own brand so they weren't mentioned. These updates start sometime in Q1 (Jan. - March) of 2017
Huawei is thirsty for the number one spot. That's a tough nut to crack, but they could easily grab the number two spot (by devices sold) and keep trying throughout 2017. They also know how to filter the feedback from the Android die-hards (that'd be you and me) to alter what they do and how they do it. Getting updates out quickly for their best models is a part of that. It makes you and me happy and we say nice things online and recommend them to others.
Since it's prediction season here's a free one — Huawei's fierce competition will make Samsung change parts of their business model. Expect faster updates, more refined features and more generic hardware from the Korean giant. We're already seeing it. Nobody adapts like Samsung.
The Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z4 Tablet, Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5 Premium, Xperia XA, Xperia XA Ultra will also be update to Nougat at some point.
With about 13,000 different models of Android phone out in the wild, we can't cover everything. But there are some phones we have to mention by name even if we aren't writing a flowery paragraph or two about them.
- The OnePlus 3 has been updated to Android Nougat, but not nearly as quickly as some would have liked. The OP3's target audience is broader than their previous models, but nerds still buy them. Nerds want Nougat.
- The NVIDIA Shield TV will be upgraded to Android Nougat fairly quickly, but the Shield Tablet will take a backseat to a new thing and take longer.
- The Axon 7 should get the update, but not very soon. ZTE struggles to meet their aspirations in the update department, but at least they have them.
- Xiaomi will focus on new models running Android 7.0 and take six to eight months to update any existing phones.
Finally, one thing is certain when talking about all of this — there will be bugs. No matter how long it takes or how much testing is done, there will be bugs. Some of us will enjoy finding fixes for them (everything is broken on some level to people like us) while others will be unhappy and vocal about the issues. Like every year on every platform, it's going to be a fun ride.
This post was originally published in August 2016. It was recently updated in January 2017 with information about the latest Nougat updates.
These are the best Android phones you can buy right now
There are so many great Android phones to buy, so it can be tough to know which one to buy. These are the best of the best at each price point.
5 ways the Cortex-X program could change Android as we know it
The new Cortex-X program from ARM is a big deal. Here are 5 ways it could impact the Android space going forward.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 'Ultra' might be on its way after all
While a recent rumor had claimed Samsung isn't planning to release a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the upcoming flagship has been certified by the Bluetooth SIG. Similar to the Galaxy S20 series, Samsung may launch three Note 20 series phones this year.
These cases will make sure that your Galaxy S7 Edge continues to survive
Are you still using the Galaxy S7 Edge but are ready for a new case? There are still plenty of options for you to keep your trust ole' device protected from accidents. Some even add extra functionality that you may have been missing out on.