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Android 7 ‘Nougat’ Update Finally Coming to Key Devices but Many Are Left Behind

by Juha Winter | Jan 26, 2017

What’s a key difference between iOS and Android, functionality and UI differences and control issues aside? For me, it’s updates, or rather the capability to roll out those updates to the installed base of devices in use, and to do that in a timely manner, consistently right after a new version of the OS has become available. I’ve written about this before when discussing the Android fragmentation problem that seems to be getting worse despite Google’s efforts to assert more control over the design and customization of Android devices, or when vulnerabilities were discovered that affected mainly devices stuck running older versions of Android OS. iOS, on the other hand, handles updates mostly in an exemplary manner, despite the occasional rush to push out an update before it’s been properly verified (referring to the battery drain issues caused by the early iOS 10 update, for example).

As I’ve noted earlier, the openness and customizability of Android, though a benefit to many device OEMs seeking to differentiate their products, is also harmful to the Android user community in the sense that rolling out updates to these customized devices is often a very slow process, or worse, the updates are completely neglected, causing the affected devices to be stuck with an obsolete version of the OS, potentially with security holes. The Android ecosystem also suffers from the implied fragmentation, and app developers have a harder time because the breadth of OS versions (and API levels, to be accurate) to be supported is increasing.

The reason for this reluctance to provide updates is, of course, money. Often times, it makes little sense for small vendors of Android based devices to invest development resources in creating, adapting, and verifying updates for older device models, as those resources are much better spent on creating new devices and new customized functionality on those devices, as far as return on investment is considered. The impact of device software updates on retention and brand loyalty seems to be a secondary concern for many particularly smaller device vendors, but some of the big ones, too, are surprisingly neglectful in this respect.

Though Google is not directly to blame for the fragmentation and lack of updates problem, it has taken steps in both the low end and high end to combat the issue. Android One, first launched in India and some other South Asian emerging countries in 2014 to provide affordable, stock Google experience Android devices to growth markets, also ensuring that these devices get the latest security and system updates directly from Google with no UI customization allowed. In 2015, the devices were brought to African and Middle Eastern markets as well. Last year saw Android One being introduced in Japan and Turkey. In both countries, mid-range Android One models (from Kyocera and General Mobile, respectively)  have made it to the top-10. The United States is also reportedly a target market for Android One from Q2 2017 onwards.  In the high end, Google has ditched the Nexus franchise and has launched its own Pixel line of smartphones and tablets, showcasing the latest Google services and experiences like the Google Assistant and the Daydream VR, though support for the latter is also coming to other devices.

So, which Android devices are getting the much awaited update to version 7, ‘Nougat’? The Nexus 5X, 6, 6P, and 9 have received the update, and the Pixel devices shipped with Android Nougat out of the box. Samsung has taken a bit more time in rolling out the update – starting mid-January, owners of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have received the update. The lesser models such as the Galaxy A3 (2016), the A5 (2016), the A7 (2016), the  A8, the A9/A9 Pro, the S6, the S6 Active, the S6 Edge/Edge+, the S7 Active, the Note 5, and the Tab S2, along with their upcoming 2017 counterparts, are reportedly among the next wave to be updated.

As for Huawei, the Mate 9 already ships with Android Nougat, but owners of the Mate 8 and the P9 will reportedly have to wait until end of March, whereas the Honor 8 should get the update by end of February.

LG was first to market with its V20 model sporting Android Nougat out of the box, and the G5 flagship model has also got the update. Older models such as the G4, V10, and K10 should follow.

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