The hot new TCL 20 Series phones get some pretty weak software update promises

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The hot new TCL 20 Series phones get some pretty weak software update promises
There's obviously no rivaling Apple and Samsung in the US smartphone market nowadays, especially as far as the high-end segment is concerned, but with LG out of the mobile business entirely and Google's Pixel lineup unable to cater to the masses, a host of smaller brands could step in to fight for an important piece of leftover pie.

While Motorola is hands down the biggest name vying for the number three spot in the country's sales chart by manufacturer, OnePlus seems to have gained a lot of ground since the regional debut of the budget-friendly Nord family.

TCL is another interesting company looking to make a splash in the low to mid-end landscape stateside with both own-brand and Alcatel devices. The latest members of the former category can already be purchased from major retailers like Amazon at very reasonable prices ranging from $190 to $500, but although their hardware specifications are not bad, the official TCL 20 Series software support policy... is. 

According to 9To5Google, the ultra-affordable TCL 20 SE is not guaranteed to receive a single major OS update (yes, ever), which means the 6.82-inch handset could well be stuck running Android 11 until the end of time.

Of course, there is a chance the Snapdragon 460-powered phone will eventually make the jump to Android 12, but in lack of a firm commitment from its manufacturers regarding such a plan, we wouldn't hold our breath.

All that TCL can promise right now are security patches set to be delivered to the 20 SE for "at least" two years after its commercial release, which is, well, slightly better than nothing.

The problem is that the 4G LTE-only TCL 20 SE doesn't start at a low enough price to be objectively worth the potential compromise of never getting a single OS promotion.

Unfortunately, the TCL 20S is also unlikely to make our list of the best sub-$400 phones available in 2021 when considering its minimum one-update guarantee. That's minimum, so in theory, the 6.67-inch mid-ranger might end up receiving both Android 12 and 13 at some point in the distant future. But you'll probably understand if we remain skeptical of that.

Finally, the TCL 20 Pro 5G essentially seems like the only device of the three actually worth considering if you care about software support, looking at two guaranteed major OS upgrades and the same two years of security patches as its humbler siblings (at a minimum).

That still can't rival Samsung's amazing new policy for many of its Galaxy A-series mid-rangers, but it does at least beat what OnePlus has promised to deliver to the cheaper Nord N200 5G

What TCL has omitted to confirm is an Android 12 release schedule for the 20S and 20 Pro 5G, and with last year's 10 Pro barely upgraded to Android 11 a couple of months ago, we fear you might need to wait a pretty long time for that eventual OS promotion. And that, our friends, is just one of the many reasons why Samsung is so far ahead of the Android OEM pack both stateside and worldwide.

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Related phones

20 Pro 5G
  • Display 6.7 inches 2400 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 48 MP (Quad camera) 32 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 6GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 4500 mAh
  • OS Android 11
20 SE
  • Display 6.8 inches 1640 x 720 pixels
  • Camera 48 MP (Quad camera) 13 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 5000 mAh
  • OS Android 11 TCL UI
20S
  • Display 6.7 inches 2400 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 64 MP (Quad camera) 16 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 4GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 5000 mAh
  • OS Android 11

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