The best and worst Android makers for software updates, or why Samsung isn't that bad

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The best and worst Android makers for software updates, or why Samsung isn't that bad
The Verizon, AT&T and Sprint versions of the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 have started receiving their Android 9 Pie update last month, exactly as Samsung promised. The US carrier models are even getting a slice of Pie before the unlocked version from Samsung's website in the US which is pretty cool (or sad, if you own one).


Granted, Google released Android Pie back in August, and it has been 5 months before US carrier models got it but this is actually par for the course when it comes to software updates of the big Android brands on Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile. We made a little table to show you how many months passed between the last two major Android releases, and the updates making it to US carrier phones.



While those delays between the initial Android version release to Google's own phones and the rest of the manufacturing crowd are annoying, Samsung actually did a decent job here. It pushed a radically new One UI overlay and the latest version of Android rolled in one in a similar timeframe as before. That is no small feat considering what a poor Android maker has to do to get its software updates approved on US carriers. 

Here's how it works: 

1.Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, etc., get an Android build from Samsung when Google releases it to them and they are ready with any overlay changes of their own (say, slapping the new One UI and testing how it works under the new operating system version);

2. US carriers test Samsung's Android Pie build with One UI for fair play with their own apps (say, T-Mobile's dialer), for network, carrier aggregation, radio, etc., compatibility, and then file their reports with Samsung;

3. The manufacturer and carriers then work to iron out any bugs or issues with carrier-specific software or network connectivity. When the app and settings' kinks are straightened up, they are sent to Samsung in a ready state to be included in the final firmware tailored to the specific carrier, and be pushed over the air to the Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint subscribers' phones when that procedure is ready.

As you can see, there are a few extra steps involved compared to pushing stock Android to unlocked phones like Google does with the Pixels and some manufactures that went the stock route like Nokia, for instance. Fans love to rant how bad Samsung is with software updates, but it actually sits in the golden middle. In fact, Samsung is the only one of the top three Android makers that is listed in the AOSMark ranking of the best and worst manufacturers when it comes to major software updates.

Bear in mind that the scores below represent an average, i.e. flagships like the Galaxy S9 just got a serving of Pie, and will most likely get a taste of Q, or whatever Google names Android 10, clocking in at least two major updates. 

The Galaxy A9 2018, on the other hand, which is scheduled to get Pie in April, may stay there for its life span, while phones like the Galaxy J7 Crown, for instance, may never get anything higher than what they shipped with, hence Samsung's 1.3 updates average. Let's not forget also the number of handsets Samsung has had to upgrade since it started making Androids, more than a thousand, while manufacturers like the runner-ups OnePlus or Nokia, only have 10-30 to take care of. 

Long story short, if you are happy with your Samsung flagship, software updates probably won't be a deciding factor whether you'll grab its successor(s), too, especially considering that it's now Google that is playing feature catch up with Android makers' overlays, not the other way around.

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62 Comments

1. Elvis358

Posts: 242; Member since: Mar 25, 2018

Yeah Samsung is bad! The best are Pixel and Apple products. The bittersweet truth!

12. Panzer

Posts: 282; Member since: May 13, 2016

Pushing updates to fix what the last update broke only to break more stuff. Considering how bare bones those OS's they should not have as many issues as they do.

14. cmdacos

Posts: 4259; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Exactly this

22. Valdomero

Posts: 697; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

That's why I haven't updated my iPhone to the latest build, I'm stuck on iOS 12 until no antenna bugs or whatever crashes the phone. So, to Elvis358 It's true that Apple supports its older devices, but they also break current devices. So more updates ≠ better

28. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 376; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

I still haven't updated my. Imac to mojave, stuck on a boot loop and had to use time Machine. To scared to update it again

17. sissy246

Posts: 7124; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Yeah, the best at having to release update after update to fix the last update. Thank you Samsung for getting it right before pushing it out.

23. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

@Elvis358 so that's why pixel users keep having different problems with every update. Stock android got a bad name last year courtesy of google itself.

65. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Sounds like Trump truth.

78. htainlintha

Posts: 73; Member since: Mar 20, 2010

The real bitter-truth is that Pixel nowhere near Samsung's sales/capabilities with the fugly smartphone design with very little features! Better luck next time cos Samsung update time has improved a lot lately and their updates got little to no bugs! and Apple? please....their updates are to make your phone broken to force you to buy new so nothing to be excited about at all!

2. apmsequeira

Posts: 3; Member since: Sep 27, 2018

When you sell flagship phones at a flagship prices, software updates must be a priority... Samsung doesn't care about this and is becoming less and less dominant in the Android world... I stopped using Samsung, mainly, because of this... Expect Android 9 to be in Samsung flagship's in January 2019, or later, can't be considered "not bad"... It's awful...

3. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Bad part: Samsung is painfully slow with updates. Good part: They add nice features, and never break things, requiring a fix it update. Finished installing pie this morning, and man was it worth the wait. Totally new phone for the most part...absolutely loving it.

18. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

How's the gcam app on your note 9 dark? One UI is good, I say it is as smooth as xperias. To be fair with samsung, they always have security updates. I don't mind the "slow" software updates as long as they deliver it properly.

31. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Honestly, I decided wait for the pie update before installing it. I wanted everything to be in sync. I'll definitely let you know though, thanx.

36. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Smooth. Enjoy your note 9 one ui and stay safe from that cold, peachboy err polar vortex.

38. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

LMAOOOO! Right on bro.

19. yalokiy

Posts: 1047; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Totally agree. Better late, but stable updates, than fast and buggy, yet featureless.

32. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

yes sirrr

63. ahmadkun

Posts: 611; Member since: May 02, 2016

Good can't be fast Fast can't be good

29. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 376; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

I dont get the hate for samsung software updates. I've had stable OS Updates and timely security updates each month for my s8, a8, even my old a5 gets fast security updates.

37. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

Dark I actually trust your opinion. Can you please reply later about your experience with One UI on the note 9. Considering replacing my 6s with the upcoming S10 and the only thing I am hesitating about is how smooth the UI is compared to iOS. Thanks ahead buddy!

39. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Sure will Tech. As of now, it's super smooth, but I've barely gotten to use it, and will have much more info for later today. I'll reply back here.

48. sissy246

Posts: 7124; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Cant wait to here more darkk

54. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Super dope update sis. 9.9 outta 10 easy.

53. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Samsung One UI is just outta this world dope. Totally renews the phone, and Pie is very very well refined, smooth, and stable. The gesture based UI is very well implemented, I'd even say better than on my Max, which is awesome too. I love that Samsung requires a swipe in a different place for a certain action vs my Max requiring a different movement in the same place. Samsung's way eliminates undesired results when swiping. All the UI elements are improved, also battery life got a very noticeable boost, and 5Ge is faster than regular LTE. So far this is an outstanding update. Now the bad part. When it comes to split screen, I can no longer switch which app is at the bottom and the top. Launching them from app pair eliminates that issue, but it was better when I could just tap the blue divider line, and swap positions. That's actually the only bad thing I've noticed. This update is a homerun to me. More to come, as I'm about to watch a full OneUI/Pie tutorial.

55. sissy246

Posts: 7124; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Sounds great but , i wish they had left split screen alone.

62. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Me too, I loved being able to switch app positions, but this update is plain outstanding sis. I'm loving it. Everything is improved, smoother, faster, and more refined. One major improvement I forgot to mention, is typing with haptic feedback on. 1000% smoother and faster.

59. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

Thanks a lot dark!

61. darkkjedii

Posts: 31286; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

You're welcome bro. Keep you 6S too though bro, having both is great. I like having android and iOS. Both have their strong points.

79. htainlintha

Posts: 73; Member since: Mar 20, 2010

bro, their update time has improved a lot lately with both huge updates and monthly security updates in comparison to their touch wiz times!

4. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

*none post related* my HTC U11 is at June 2018 android security patch while I am still running android O. I heard the HTC U12 hasn’t been update either. Is HTC planing to continue supporting their phones or we should just switch already? First and last HTC phone I ever own.

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