iOS 12 was just revealed this week and it ended up being a colorful mix that disappointed some and disappointed others. But one thing about the next major release of Apple's mobile platform, which has apparently surprised everyone, was not a new feature. It was the list of supported devices. This long list includes the iPhone 5s at the lowest end, an iPhone celebrating its fifth anniversary in September. This will undoubtedly be used by iOS users as further evidence of the superiority of the chosen platform and Android users and OEMs should accept the bitter truth: they are absolutely right.
Who is invited
The list is not final, of course, but Apple seldom waives a public promise. Save on Technical Difficulties, Though Apple Does Not Always Shut Up
• iPhone X
• iPhone 8 / iPhone 8 Plus
• iPhone 7 / iPhone 7 Plus
• iPhone 6S / iPhone 6S Plus
• iPhone 6 / iPhone 6 Plus
• iPhone SE
• iPhone 5S
• iPad Pro 1
• iPad (5. IPad Air 2
• iPad Air
• iPad Mini 4
• iPad Mini 3
• iPad Mini 2
Long story short, Apple just promised That iOS 12 would be available for all iPhones and iPads from 2013. For the iPhone 5s, the original iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2, this means that they will still receive the latest update five years after their launch. The next thing Android has on this phenomenon is the Nexus devices, and even these have not received official version updates after three years on the market.
It's not always about features
There's definitely something to be said about the latest and best version of any software. Especially for a device that goes far beyond the life expectancy, as far as mobile devices are concerned. But even as you filter out brilliant new features, new version updates, or even just monthly maintenance entries, have a profound impact on something users do not really need.
Yes, we are talking about security. No software is ever without errors, including security holes. The Stagefright bug in 2015, which has not been reviewed since 2010 (Android 2.2 Froyo), showed how unfortunate the Android world was to get critical security updates. The manufacturers 'unpredictable or nonexistent update release plan was not enough to curb the growing number of such vulnerabilities or cybercriminals' daring. Some have cleaned up their act, but not all. Some have even fallen into old practices.
Sometimes it's about features
Security updates are one thing and they should come monthly. However, major release updates are also a different story. There is really no hard rule for these if they are not determined by the manufacturer. In the case of Google, it often promises two years of version updates or one and a half for Android One. Considering that Android versions (and iOS versions) are released only once a year, this means that they only guarantee two major updates, depending on when the phone actually started.
The iPhone 5s was released with iOS 7 and even without the iOS 12 promise, it has been getting important iOS updates for four years. No other Android phone, not even a Nexus, has had so much, unless you count unofficial third-party ROMs that can extend the life of a smartphone almost indefinitely.
But what makes important version updates important in this context is not just the new features. It's also about the new features that increase the security of a device beyond simple security patches. An example of this is the new app permissions that were introduced in 2015 in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. All phones that are not running this version or later will not receive the same protection from potentially harmful apps (PHAs). Other new security features, such as Google Play Protect, also require a minimum version for Android. As each new Android release gets better and better security features, the older versions remain vulnerable.
Of course there is Treble's favorite project now. The Android Oreo feature promises an improved update experience for everyone involved, from Google to OEMs and users. In short, it creates a fine line between certain layers of the Android platform, which would make it easier to "outsource" those who need updating. In practice everything is fine, and custom ROM makers are already singing praise for that. The problem is that we still have to test it as far as there are important Android updates.
Google has implemented Treble only for new phones that will be running Android Oreo from the start. Not even older phones upgraded to Oreo would implement it, and few OEMs dared risk it. This meant that only phones launched at the end of 2017 had it. And since we still expect the first big update since Oreo, this theory still needs to be thoroughly tested.
No more excuses
And then there's the question of whether hardware partners will do their part. Treble is not a panacea that will magically work just because Google pushed the "release" button. It takes two to do tango, and it takes more than one to make a conga line.
Whenever the problem of updates crops up, Apple's unique advantage is always used as a reason for its ability to post updates as quickly as possible. Apple controls everything and even can handle porters to some degree. But that's no longer an excuse that Android OEMs can use with or without a treble. Companies like Essential, HMD Global and NVIDIA have proven that this is possible. It can take more work, especially if you have layer by layer adjustments. That is no excuse. It is a debt.
Apple often praises how high and how fast the acceptance rate of new iOS versions is. To be honest, it's not exactly because iPhone and iPad owners flock to these updates. This is more because Apple provides them. Delayed or not, users can just tap for a few taps and wait for the update to download and install. And every year, even every month, Android users have to endure the opposite situation in Google's Kingdom with the ridicule and ridicule of their iOS colleagues. It's probably about time to stop sucking it up and let the OEMs know that we'll need the latest Android versions we deserve in two, three, or even four years.