Who Gets Android Updates?

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

There are two main reasons people will buy a Nexus (now Pixel) phone:

  1. They want stick Android, not a heavy third party skin
  2. They want to get software updates

These are things that are not givens in the world of Android, as the vast majority of people are running a version of Android that is customized by the phone manufacturer. Samsung, HTC, and LG, are some of bigger players1 in the market and they all ship a version of Android that is tweaked both from a functionality and a visual perspective. Because of these, it's a whole production every time a new version of Android comes out; it's not a matter of just shipping the new Android version to customers, you have to devote developer time to rebuild their custom software on top of the new version of Android. This is tough, and rarely happens, so many phones hit the market with one version of Android and never get upgraded to even the next release.

Motorola has long been looked at as one of the exceptions to the rule. They make phones that run an almost stock version of Android, and they talk a big game when it comes to software updates. For people who don't want a Nexus phone, the Moto lines have been a pretty decent alternative.

But yesterday Motorola released a list of phones that will be getting upgraded to Android 7.0. To be clear, Google just showed off Android 7.1 this week, so 7.0 isn't even technically the latest version anymore, but I'll give them credit for at least hitting the current major version number. The list includes 15 phones from the company's line up, but I hope your phone came out in the last few months! The oldest Moto-branded phone on this list is the Moto X which was released in July 2015, just 15 months ago2.

Notably missing is the 2015 Moto G, a phone that sold so well and was so highly regarded at the time, The Verge called it Motorola's true flagship phone. The phone shipped with Android 5.1 and has received a grand total of 1 major Android update. I guess I shouldn't be totally shocked, as even the Nexus 5, which shipped with Android 5.0 has already been dropped by Google and is only upgradable to Android 6.

I wrote about this last year and it still remains just as true today: we're spoiled as Apple users with how long we expect a manufacturer to support our hardware. So while high profile 2015 Android phones are not getting updates even 1 year later, the iPhone 5 just got its 4th major iOS upgrade. To put this in perspective, the iPhone came out with iOS 6, and before Barack Obama won his second term in office, and it still runs the same software as my brand spanking new iPhone 7 Plus.

  1. Although HTC's time on that list may be coming to an end. 
  2. The Motorola manufactured Nexus 6 is also getting the update, but it's hard to classify that as a Motorola phone.