The state of Android Oreo updates today - the champions, the losers, and the mediocres
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
But the search giant and its smartphone-making partners simply have no excuse for the horrible state of Android Oreo updates. Fragmentation has been a problem for many years, so why did it take so long for Project Treble to materialize and for non-Google devices to become involved in an official beta program setting the stage for a new OS version release?
Also unacceptable is the huge gap between iOS 11 and Android Oreo adoption numbers. A whopping 81 percent of the world’s “iDevices” were already running the former operating system on May 31, according to official App Store measurements, whereas just 12.1 percent of devices visiting Google’s Play Store in the 7-day period ending on July 23 came powered by Android 8.0 or 8.1.
Worse yet, the 2015-released Marshmallow is still a close second in this latest distribution chart, behind the slightly newer Nougat dessert, and narrowly ahead of the even older Lollipop flavor. That’s bad, and everyone from Google to Samsung, LG, Huawei, HTC, Sony, Xiaomi, and Nokia should feel bad. Well, maybe not everyone. At the very least, some companies should feel worse than others for crucially contributing to the fragmentation plague.
Let’s name and shame a few of the laziest Android smartphone vendors out there, as well as praise those who’ve done a better than average job in providing Oreo updates for devices running older OS iterations out the box.
This one’s a no-brainer. Of course eligible Nexus and Pixel devices were the world’s first to leave Nougat behind, receiving frequent security updates and bug fixes since August 2018. They were also the first to be promoted to Android 8.1 Oreo, although a number of smaller updates and maintenance releases felt rushed, constantly hurting system stability instead of improving it.
Verdict: champion (duh)
The king of global smartphone shipments regularly lagged behind several dark horses in terms of Oreo updating pace. Unfortunately, the company’s excessive stock Android revisions and extreme skinning also appeared to cause a number of problems for owners of popular phones like the Galaxy S8 and S7.
Ultimately, all kinks were ironed out, and Samsung also brought many other handsets up to date, including the Galaxy A8 and A8+ (2018), A3, A5, and A7 (2017), and of course, the Galaxy Note 8. But rollouts have been sluggish, with certain markets clearly favored over others, and worst of all, many respectable mid-rangers, like the Galaxy J3, J5, and J7 (2017), kept waiting and waiting.
When a little startup called HMD Global announced less than two years ago it would become the new “home of Nokia phones”, many expected the brand to die a painful and silent death by now. Instead, this phoenix appears to have risen from Microsoft’s ashes stronger and bolder than ever before, and it’s all thanks to some stellar software support.
Okay, maybe that’s not the only reason behind Nokia’s resurgence, but it would be naive to think the popularity of modest devices like the Nokia 3, 5, and 6 has nothing to do with their modern software. The Nokia 2 is the lone black spot on an otherwise flawless track record, but even that 1GB RAM-packing lightweight has been treated to an 8.1 Oreo beta.
The world’s second-largest smartphone vendor has a similar problem as Samsung - a far too extensive product portfolio. It’s not easy to support so many different phones (sold under two distinct brands), but that obviously doesn’t excuse the confusion floating over 2016’s P9 flagship. Or how late last year’s P10 and P10 Plus have started their official 8.0 rollouts. And let’s not even go into the whole Honor 8 will it/won’t it saga.
On the bright side, the Honor 7X earned its Oreo stripes relatively early... for a budget-friendly mid-ranger. Still, Huawei will have to do better if it wants to become the mobile world’s number one manufacturer.
LG, HTC, and Motorola
These are three brands that needed to do something special to get their mojo back after years of commercial misfortune, but simply put, that wasn’t the case. LG started updating the G6 just a few months back... in Korea, promising the G5 would follow suit soon, which hasn't happened yet. The V20’s rollout has begun very recently, while the Q6 is the company’s only mid-range model promoted to Oreo so far.
HTC did a slightly better job, with the U11 updated before 2017 ended (at least in some markets), and the U11 Life, HTC 10, and U Ultra also added to the Oreo-powered list fairly quickly. But a lot of 2016 phones have been left behind, and 2017’s U Play was never even bumped up to Nougat.
As for Moto-branded devices, we still can’t believe it took the non-Android One X4 variant until June to adopt those sweet Oreo treats. And yes, the G5 and G5 Plus are still stuck with Nougat.
Sony and Asus
These are also two companies that needed to work miracles to stand out from the pack, which is exactly what they managed to do. Just remember Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, XZ, XZs, and X Performance all boarded the official Oreo ship by the end of November last year. Then came the Xperia X, X Compact, XA1, XA1 Plus, XA1 Ultra, and even the India-exclusive Xperia R1 and R1 Plus.
Meanwhile, Asus pulled off relatively timely updates for a long list of ZenFone 3 variants, including a few not-so-powerful and not-too-expensive devices. Too bad software support is not everything.
Verdict: still underdogs
You had one job, TCL! The unexpectedly popular BlackBerry KEYone, manufactured by a licensee rather than the Canadian company BlackBerry Limited, continues to run Android 7.1 Nougat, with an Oreo beta program barely started about a month ago. That's beyond disappointing.
Verdict: what the actual F?!
One of the reasons you’ve heard so little about Xiaomi’s Android Oreo updates is that the company’s phones are still not very popular or widely available in the Western Hemisphere. The other is, well, the same lethargy characterizing most of the US-active smartphone brands. Sadly, the Android One-powered Xiaomi Mi A1 encountered some issues during the first stage of its update way back in January, while a number of phones sold by the world’s fourth-largest vendor have only received the paramount OS promotion in China.
Verdict: you have much to learn, grasshopper
It’s not that hard to run a tight ship when you’re only releasing two (fairly similar) products a year, but after the OnePlus X and 2’s Nougat debacle, we were naturally prepared for the worst. But the OnePlus 5, 5T, 3, and 3T all scored Android 8.0 pretty fast, with the former two phones even brought up to 8.1 Oreo, while the latter two are set to skip that minor update and instead receive the far more substantial 9.0 Pie makeover. It seems some companies actually learn from their mistakes.
In closing, we'd like to be hopeful things will be different six or twelve months down the line, when talking about the state of Android 9 Pie updates, but old habits die hard, so maybe don't get your hopes up. After all, this time last year, Nougat's market share was slightly higher than Oreo's score today, at 13.5 percent.