"To its credit, Google is trying to simplify the process of delivering Android updates FOR VENDORS." [Emphasis added]
That's the problem right there. As the article points out, the vendors aren't interested.
Fairphone is a tiny player in the smartphone space. Unusually, it competes on the basis of its environmental credentials, touting an ethical supply chain and modular components designed to be easily replaced by end users. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Fairphone 2 – first released in 2015 – still receives software …
That's the problem right there. Google launched Android with no thought for updates, originally claiming that it couldn't be done. They've dragged their heels over this for years, allowing billions of flawed devices to be distributed.
Some people will point the finger at the vendors but they didn't create an OS with no update mechanism, they just decided a free OS was too good a deal to miss.
I've been pleasantly surprised with my last 2 phones. My Huawei received updates 30 days behind Google's official release schedule, which, after my Galaxy 3S and htc Sensation (1 - 2 updates over 3 years). I upgraded to a Samsung S20+ this year and, so far, they have had the updates available within 3 days of Google announcing them.
Let's hope they really have turned a corner and will continue to provide them for the promised 3 years at the same rate.
Not as good as Fairphone, but a huge step forward to where they were a few years ago.
My last Samsung got updates usually within about a month of Google updates, with quite a long pause at the version update and then nothing after about 18 months (there was extra delay as it was via the network operator, so Samsung had to roll out the Google update and the operator then had to roll out the Samsung update, which at one point just didn't happen for a long time). My current Sony (an Android enterprise recommended model which was originally supposed to get longer term updates) got frequent updates that stopped at just under two years. Lack of patches was a big part of why I upgraded last time, so I'm not surprised at all that they just stop. This is something countries should be pushing them on, it's inherently bad for the environment and for security.
It's something that Apple are a bit better at, if you can put up with them gradually downgrading performance for much the same reason.
My last two Samsungs (Note 4s) will probably be my last Samsungs. Both were second-hand (I don't buy anything new unless there is a very good reason) and both ate their OS at about the same age (based on manufacturing dates), starting with random reboots and progressing to just not booting at all. One of them seems to have gone so far as to lose the bootloader. I haven't had time or patience to track down a solution for this (assuming there is one), so run a Jolla and an Ulefone Armor X5 these days. I miss using a stylus, but not to the extent of trusting Samsung again, since the experience with the Note 4s suggests a built-in problem. I have a Note 1 that I bought in 2012, which is now for the children to play games on. It is going strong, so Samsung at least used to be able to build things properly.
I'd prefer something that didn't need repairing. I've had iPhones since the 3GS and, whilst I'm currently using an XS, all the others are still in use by family members. The 4S and 5S don't have the latest iOS but they've received security updates. When they needed a fresh battery, both were easily replaced locally for £20 each (I would have done it myself, except that a new battery cost the same - so let a local business get some of my money). My wife's 6S got a fresh battery from Apple at no cost.
So plenty of reasons to avoid Apple kit because it's not repairable? Not for me. A bit like cars - I used to do all my own maintenance, which meant servicing every 6000 miles and, in some cases, a mid-service tune-up (and running repairs). My current car just gets a service at 10,000 miles and almost nothing in between visits. OK, it goes to the dealer for the services but, allowing for inflation, I don't reckon I spend more nowadays than I did 30 years ago (and no skinned knuckles)!
Back in my student days, I earned money do repairs for a TV dealer. Some sets were designed to be easily repaired - others not to need regular repairs. These latter sets, Sony's Trinitron being an example, were pigs to repair - partly because they were harder to strip down but mainly because we didn't get much experience doing it. When filling in on the shop floor, any of us doing repairs would work hard to convince customers to buy Sony because an empty workshop meant easier working days!
While your argument around needing repairs has some merit in general, the repairs that mobile devices need fall into either damage (screen/buttons/charging point and relate to usage as much as manufacturing quality) or battery life.
While battery life approaches your point about quality, too many phones that have otherwise very high manufacturing quality fail prematurely because the battery is underspecced or charged incorrectly by poor quality chargers or in high temperatures
I.e. quality in mobile devices rarely affects the need to repair the device. Particularly once you exceed 2 years of life
Well yes I agree, but a lot of "normal" people do treat it as a status symbol.
My own cases are just cheap gel cases (I used to have cases that had a flap over the screen but they add to much bulk and even the cheapest models are very resistant to scratched)
Likewise with my Microsoft Lumia 950 XL from 2015.
Updated until the end of December 2019. Apps still updating. WhatsApp dropped support at that point but Telegram works fine.
Removable battery, USB-C, 3.5 inch audio jack, 20 Megapixel camera, Dual SIM, 32GB.
I've had no need to repair my phone in two years - but its waterproofing has saved it on several occasions. Using the last couple of years as indicative of my use-case, I can't sensibly choose a Fairphone. One would have thought that a fair chunk of the folk who place an emphasis on the environment are also outdoors types.
Just because your phone is friendly to the environment doesn't mean the environment is friendly to your phone!
"Just because your phone is friendly to the environment doesn't mean the environment is friendly to your phone!"
I've always found that a small zip-lock bag takes care of that little issue. Works for pretty much any weather. I wouldn't recommend it for full immersion, though.
IP58 is not an (easy) option when you also want your device to be disassemled by the customer. From my experience the FP3 can withstand quite a lot of water, at least in your pocket/backpack. I was seriously drenched in several hours of heavy rain, water everywhere. Phone survived easily. I wouldn t drop it into a bucket and let it rest there, though.
And you can take it apart in order to dry it. The included bumper is very functional as well, I drop it far too often.
Likewise with my Microsoft Lumia 950 XL from 2015.
Updated until the end of December 2019. Apps still updating.
It's a sad situation where **Microsoft** made a phone OS that was more open and better supported than iOS or Android. Engineering-wise it may have stunk, but you presumably could have fixed a lot of it's design flaws with extensions and add-ins (OpenShell for WinPhone maybe?)
The improvements are small increments, nothing revolutionary has really benefited general consumers for years. The vendors have happily set a market expectation for frequent replacement, most apps and games are stifled by in app purchase mechanics. Milked for hardware, and then milked for the software.
Sure, cameras have improved and processors are faster, but if consumer interests were genuinely being served we’d still have flagships with replaceable batteries and headphone jacks, and no forced Bixby buttons! If the most convincing reason for an upgrade is increasingly becoming ‘I’m no longer getting updates’ then something is terribly wrong with the entire market.
Exactly, phones have increasingly plateaued, and if anything new phones have less features than those they're replacing.
My current Android phone is touching 5 years old (LG G4). It has an SD card slot, headphone jack, and removable battery. If I buy a new phone now, I'll almost certainly lose one or more of those features. The removable battery in particular has been key to the longevity of the phone as it meant I could easily swap the original, fading battery for a new one.
Other than that, the camera is surprisingly good for a phone of its age, performance is brisk and I'm struggling to see any features of a new phone that stand out. The only issue with the phone? Lack of updates. I get around this by not using it for Internet banking and being careful with the websites and apps I use on it.
I still have an LG G3 with lots of spare batteries. Still works fine for me. The other thing that you don't get when upgrading is a sensible aspect ratio for your screen. If you only used for watching super-widescreen video fair enough, but who is going to do that?
I had (still have) a G4 too, although its been retired a long time ago. The mainboard had been replaced at somepoint due to the bootloop issue. Was getting fed up with the lack of software updates, but that wasn't what caused me to retire it.
I tried to replace the battery twice, but twice the "genuine" LG batteries turned out to be some knockoff that had less capacity than the years-old original. Gave up and bought a Honor View 10 about 2 years ago (which has recently been updated to Android 10 - I'll probably hold onto it for another year at least I hope).
I recently pulled out the old G4 out the drawer to set up as a webcam for my PC, (using DroidCam) as theres no way I'm paying stupid money for a cheap-knockoff webcam due to current shortages when I have a way better one for "free" already in my old G4!
I'm in exactly the same situation, still happily using my 2nd G4 after the original was very helpfully replaced by Vodafone a week before the warranty expired due to the endemic bootloop hardware problem, complete with a new battery leaving the original as a spare.
As far as I can tell the Fairphone 3 is the only phone sold today which comes close to it, and if / when the G4 finally dies the FF3 or successor is what I'll move to.
And yes, typing this on an IBM Model M + Thinkpad X220 while listening to the radio via my Leak Stereo 20 valve amp - bit of a pattern here... :-)
And yes, typing this on an IBM Model M + Thinkpad X220 while listening to the radio via my Leak Stereo 20 valve amp - bit of a pattern here... :-)
Close enough. Except *my* work machine is a P50 (and yes, Model-M keyboard). My home desktop machine is a used HP Pavillion Elite I picked up for $5 at a flea market, and added in other spare/scavenged parts. Everything else around the house (laptops & family desktops) are scavenged & cobbled together too. (turntable and the Tandberg receiver are on top of the record shelves)
The improvements are small increments, nothing revolutionary has really benefited general consumers for years.
Is that not the definition of a mature product: it does what it is supposed to so no major developments are needed ?
When you get a mature product what should happen is that the manufacturers start to compete by providing good prices and service. Most 'phone vendors do not do this.
Also true for operating systems, office suites, web browsers, email clients...
The odd thing is that in all these other markets there is now a free alternative, but trying to put a free OS on your phone usually involves finding a bug that someone has turned into a rootkit.
I like the idea of an environmentally-friendly, well-supported phone.
Unfortunately, I just checked their website and the latest model is €450. That is way outside the budget I will allocate to a phone.
So I'll just continue with my current Galaxy A3 as long as possible, and hopefully I won't have to replace it until I retire, at which point at get myself a basic feature phone that allows you to phone and has a battery that lasts a month.
It's all I will need anyway.
Or they could just make the buggers last. I just put a new battery* in my 7 year old Nexus 5 and apart from the lid cracking a bit on opening (Gaffer tape yeh!) it still gets updates for apps and I haven't found an app that I would want to run on a phone for a few years.
* 4 days now and still on 40% +
Of course you have to pay more for a product with an ethical supply chain - especially a gadget which uses rare earth metals. I was happy to do that (and lucky enough to be able to afford it) when I bought my Fairphone2 a little over 3 years ago. And I have to say that the software update policy, and the reality of rollouts, is all that I could wish for.
But the problem is that compared to phones whose components are irrevocably welded together, the Fairphone's modular design causes connection problems between the different modules, resulting in unreliability. They've worked really hard to get this as good as it can be, but if (like me) you treat your phone quite roughly (keeping it caseless in your pocketses), reliability can be a real problem - I replaced three modules which failed in the first two years of use, and had to wedge the battery against the case using a bit of cardboard to stop it from disconnecting. It's great that modules are replaceable, and the replacements were cheap - but replacements take about 3 weeks to be delivered (to the UK at least), during which I had no Fairphone. I ended up keeping a spare phone, which made the whole thing rather pointless.
And when the Fairphone developed an intermittent fault with the screen becoming unresponsive, I replaced the screen module (a bit more expensive than the other modules) only to find that the problem persisted because it was a fault with the motherboard / system unit - which isn't available as a module and can't be replaced.
I really want the Fairphone project to work, but after this latest fault I've switched back to an unethical phone. If Fairphone ever produce a welded-together, non-modular phone whose components are ethically sourced and whose software is regularly updated for years, I would buy back in. But I fear that making the phone easy to repair inevitably makes it less reliable, at least in my experience.
You will find if you look at Fairphone's support forum that I'm not alone in this experience. But to be fair, my better half has had her Fairphone2 for nearly as long as I had mine, and it's behaved impeccably. That one lives in a case, in a handbag, and is probably treated much more gently than mine - even though it has way more hours of use on a typical day. Maybe mine was a Friday afternoon unit - or maybe I just treated it badly.
Just this week discovered that my Sony Blue-ray disk player has Windows 7 and no longer wants to talk to Youtube or most anything on the internet.
Just today, after my Denon internet radio returned from repair for a failed firmware update, it refuses to access internet radio because Denon, in their wisdom gave that job to another company that now wants a subscription.
I'd be interested in knowing which model of Sony Blu-Ray player has Windows 7 embedded in it. I've got a Sony Blu-Ray player myself but the "smart" network dependent features, I never use. So far it seems to play DVDs OK (I don't think I actually own any Blu-Ray disks).
I am very happy with Oneplus. Got a 5T then gave that away to family and got a 6T and it's been fine ever since. Still getting monthly android security upgrades, nothing particularly broken or wrong with it, it does everything I need and is zippy. I tried the 7 and 8 but they didn't offer anything I needed. I'm careful to only charge it to about 85% to keep the battery in good shape for as long as possible.. I *wish* android could offer a charge limit as part of the OS that would stop charging when it reached that point rather than having to listen out for AccuBattery to ping me... though if I had a smart bluetooth/wifi plug I suppose I could write a rule that shut it off when the phone hit 85%.
I got a Oneplus 3T shortly after launch back at the end of 2016. It was delivered on Marshmallow, and has had 3 major OS updates and is now on Pie.
Admittedly it's not going any further than that and Oneplus have now ceased updates for it, but not bad for a device getting on for 4 years old.
It developed a fault with the camera about 6 months ago and Oneplus repaired it FOC too. While it was with them, I had them replace the battery (for the princely sum of about £30) and it's as good as new now.
It's still performant enough for my needs, and I'll just hang on to it until it dies or I kill it.
This+100. This also goes for laptops too. Lenovo do a charge limiting thing but guess what, Windows. I only ever dual boot into the Windows partition to run that, and it must be doing something in the BIOS as it survives rebooting into Kubuntu. Thanks for the AccuBattery tip.
My dell has smbios-* tools that can talk to the bios management stuff to control charging (and thermal profiles, fan settings, keyboard backlight and timeout, etc) in linux. No idea if lenovo have similar, but they seem to be on a big Linux push lately so I'd be very unhappy if they didn't offer a way to control that too, if dell can./
I always buy second hand.
Currently using an ancient P10 lite I bought second hand, kids have 2nd hand iPhones, I have second-hand iPads.
Only this phone is showing its age. Going to replace with a P20pro or P30pro. Second hand if course.
Likes of MusicMagpie and CEX offer quality phones at a fraction of the price of new.
Do I care if it has the latest bloat? Not really.
But still, can the rich and gullible keeping upgrading, we need the used phones.
I just received my new Moto G Power. The reason I did not spend more for a flagship is that I am not spending roughly $700+ USD for a phone that will no longer be upgraded in two years. If you want me to spend a lot of money you are going to have to be sure my investment will last.
I would be more than happy to consider a Linux phone but it has to work with Android Auto. I use it enough that it is an essential safety application.
As the article points out Google could mandate all manufactures follow the Android one model and supply updates for at least 3 years if they want to get certified for Google play services.
The governments could also pass laws to make manufactures list how long they will supply software updates on their advertising for new handsets, so buyers can be better informed before purchase.
And finally consumers can choose not to buy phones from manufactures that don’t provide updates. I replaced my phone with a Nokia last year and one of the reasons was that it came with Android one and I would get 3 years of security patches.
One other issue though is that a lot of users don't even know that their phone should be updating with security patches. People like my elderly parents who only fairly recently got their first smart phones would have no idea that they should be getting regularly download security updates on their phones. So the manufactures can get away with not offering them.
"...consumers have an obligation to vote with their wallet... By purchasing Android One devices, or phones from vendors like Fairphone, they can break this unholy cycle of planned obsolescence."
Such is the refrain of the middle-class professional & graduate idealist.
Except it ain't so.
Granted, consumers are partly responsible for the existing race-to-the-bottom dynamic yet they simply cannot change this on their own, nor be expected to. Indeed the likes of Google have, to say the least, either dragged their heels on this score and/or are guilty of maintaining the status quo by brute force. Then there are the regulatory bodies who have been slow in taking such perverse behaviour to task.
In general, if ethical consumerism was the force it was made out to be then by now at least half the third world would be on a much better footing and businesses like Fairphone would have a much longer lead. Yet after decades of such initiatives, and numerous scandals, the likes of the Co-op (Fairphone's erstwhile partner) are still not able to convince consumers that forking the extra is worth it.
Don't get me wrong: I'd like something like a Fairphone but it's simply out of reach and even if it wasn't, it would remain a somewhat dubious decision to buy one.
...but my iPhone SE released in March 2016 remains compatible with the *latest* version of iOS and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Apple have supposedly committed to supporting all iOS 13 compatible devices in iOS 14 which is due for release in September 2020.
Of course it will, Apple has full control over its ecosytem. Only Apple make iPhones and they know exactly what hardware is contained there in. No brainer as far as support goes. Having had to use an iPhone on a daily basis for work I would add that I would never buy an iPhone for personal use. I dont mind making things easier to use but treating me like a f*cking idiot and then refusing to do basic stuff without consulting a 'genius' is beyond the pale. Happily I quit my job and now live in an Apple free world.
Of course it will, Apple has full control over its ecosytem. Only Apple make iPhones and they know exactly what hardware is contained there in. No brainer as far as support goes.
None of that obligates Apple to provide at least 5 years' worth of updates.
People bash Apple because they are kale-smoking, eco-hipster hypocrites.
Perhaps they have improved their behaviour (?) in recent times by extending the service life of some of their stuff, yet for the most part they have done this kicking and screaming after years of malicious behaviour, including the bullying of the 3rd party repair industry.
Perhaps they have improved their behaviour (?) in recent times by extending the service life of some of their stuff
No, this isn't a recent practice. For example, the iPhone 5s released in Autumn 2013 with iOS 7 retained full support until iOS 12 which received its last security update in May.