Google's Pixels could soon have best-in-class Android updates again

Google Pixel 7 review with Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will see one fewer update than Samsung flagships released the same year (Image credit: Future / Alex Walker-Todd)

Google is reportedly improving its Pixel update promise to match Apple and Samsung. The company is expected to shift its guaranteed updates timeline to five years starting with the Google Pixel 8. The current lineup of Pixel phones are supported for up to 3 years with software updates, and all Tensor-powered Pixels have a promise of up to 5 years of security updates.

The report from 9to5Google, citing unnamed sources, claims that Google is making this move first with the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. 

According to the report, the "Pixel 8’s update promise should surpass Samsung’s current policy on flagships and meaningfully match the iPhone." Apple's iPhones are supported for up to 6 years, making them some of the longest-lasting smartphones. 

Keeping the Pixel promise 

Google's Pixels once offered best-in-class Android updates, delivering updates on the day they were launched and for longer than other Android phone makers. Little by little, the company's products have fallen behind as manufacturers from Samsung to OnePlus to Xiaomi have either caught up or surpassed Google. Though the company is the one behind Android (and now makes its own chips so Qualcomm can't be blamed), it's no longer offering the best Android phone you can buy if you want the longest meaningful support.

Google, for its part, has a justifiable reason for not putting Pixel updates for longer. Operating system updates on iOS are important because they are tied to new app features. The Music app, for example, sees an overhaul in iOS 17. A new journal app debuts, and so on. In contrast, Google has moved to steadily drip-feed Android features and app updates to users, without needing a full system update. Many of these have been delivered via the Play Store as app and framework updates. 

I've been using Android 14 for a while now, and other than a new lock screen, I couldn't tell you what's new off the top of my head if I had a gun pressed to it. This is a deliberate choice from Google, which has been looking to get new software features into the hands of users faster, rather than holding them all back for a completely new version of Android. 

For example, a Pixel 7 may get 95% of what's new in Android over the last 2 years of its support cycle all without needing a new system update. 

By extending full software update support to 5 years, Google could ensure that Android users get the best of both worlds, from feature drops to complete OS updates even on older Pixel phones, 

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Michael Allison
Staff Writer, Phones

A UK-based tech journalist for TechRadar, helping keep track and make sense of the fast-paced world of tech with a primary focus on mobile phones, tablets, and wearables.

When not writing on TechRadar, I can often be found reading fiction, writing for fun, or working out.