This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
It's 2019 and major Android updates are now largely irrelevant to the majority of users.
There was a time when waiting for the next big Android update meant getting new and exciting features coming to the most popular and widespread mobile OS in the world, but things have cooled off in the past two or three years and Google has been coming up with some pretty forgettable Android updates.
You win, fragmentation, Android updates don't really matter anymore!
Has Android peaked?
In my opinion, it doesn't really matter if your Android device isn't running on the latest major Android version at hand. I feel that Android has already peaked and the rate of software innovation has been declining for a few years now. Google is seemingly scraping the barrel as far as innovative software features are concerned. In fact, most of the "new" features that are coming to Android Q are inspired from iOS and other custom Android skins, while others are quite irrelevant. I'm sorry, but as far as my personal excitement list is concerned, Digital Wellbeing doesn't exactly cut it.
It doesn't really matter if you're running Android Nougat, Oreo, or Pie anymore - you're not really missing any groundbreaking new feature or functionality. Actually, ever since the Android 5.0 Lollipop update, you can probably count the really important features Android has scored on your hands, with the rest being easily forgettable fluff. Let me do this real quick:
- Doze Mode (Android Marshmallow);
- ART runtime (Android Marshmallow);
- Vulkan API (Android Nougat);
- Bundled notifications (Android Nougat);
- Picture-in-Picture (Android Oreo);
- Project Treble (Android Oreo);
- Gestures (Android Pie).
Security updates is where it's at
A much, much more important thing to fluster about are the essential monthly security patches. Now, these are key for a worry-free smartphone experience. I'm pretty far from the thought that once you get the latest security patch you're effectively invulnerable to any security breach - whatever you do, you can never really be 100% certain of your digital safety while using your phone, just like your data is never secure on the Internet. Whatever security features get implemented, there always be some deep exploit that would allow wrongdoers to gain access to people's most sensitive data. It has happened in the past, and it will most certainly happen again. Still, having a phone that's up-to-date in terms of monthly security patches can help achieve a certain peace of mind.
OEM skins have long surpassed stock Android anywayI feel there's another important point to be made here - custom Android skins have surpassed stock Android in terms of features and functionality a long time ago. Samsung, Huawei, and OnePlus have all developed much more useful and feature-packed Android spin-offs. In fact, most of the major new features that you see added to stock Android have debuted and thrived on custom Android versions for longer. Split-screen, gestures, dark mode, and many others were only implemented into stock Android after Samsung, Huawei, LG, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and the others had experimented with these features for some time. Those manufacturer updates are the ones we really should keep our collective breath for - not only do they introduce major new features, but also your manufacturer's major software updates are a much more important thing to hold your breath for. These might have a much bigger impact on your smartphone experience - not only do these deliver full interface overhauls (like with Samsung's OneUI), but they could also bring important improvements to the camera performance, battery optimization, and other beneficial updates. Such updates of such a caliber are more often than not tied to a major Android update, but it's not a requirement set in stone.
Personally, I stopped caring about Android updates a couple of years ago, sometime in the Android Nougat-Oreo interim. The only software update I've legit been hyped about ever since has been Samsung's OneUI update, which is the best Android skin in my humble opinion.