Opinion

State of the update: Samsung’s policy is slowly improving

It has become something of a hobby for many in smartphone land: bemoan Samsung’s unreliable update policy. Many of our visitors come to do just that, and we play the game ourselves from time to time. However, as controversial as it may sound, slowly but surely hell is freezing over, at least in some markets. Samsung is getting better with regard to software updates. Though perfection is a long way away, bear with us as we examine recent developments.

It has now been over two years since Samsung announced it would simplify its smartphone portfolio, and by and large, this is exactly what has happened, at least in some markets. For example, in Europe the Galaxy lineup has become fairly simple: the Galaxy J series covers the low end of the market, the Galaxy A series is the mid-range, and the S series are Samsung’s sole high-end offering since the demise of the Note 7.

Now, we know things aren’t as clear-cut elsewhere, especially not since Samsung started to muddle things up in a big way this year with the launch of too many different Prime and Pro variations of the On and J series phones, primarily in Asian markets. But for the purpose of this treatise, we’ll focus first on markets where things have indeed become simpler.

In 2015, Samsung launched the first-generation Galaxy A3, A5, and A7. At that time, they were running Android 4.4 KitKat. Later that year, they were updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop, and this year saw them – and the A8 – receive Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. The second generation of these devices was launched on Lollipop, recently came over to Marshmallow, and will get an update to Android 7.0 Nougat next year, as we recently confirmed. This is Samsung’s mid-range getting two full-blown Android updates, just as the high-end flagships get.

Of course, in between these big updates, there are the security patches. The first generation A series get them a few times a year, while popular devices launched in 2016 receive them pretty much on a monthly basis. But what is more is that security updates now keep coming long after the last significant Android update has finished rolling out.

In 2016, for example, Samsung has provided security patches for the Galaxy S4. This three-and-a-half-year-old device is still being kept up-to-date, security-wise. And before you complain that up-to-date does not include an update to an Android version higher than Lollipop, keep in mind that newer software does not equate to an improved user experience. We have an actual first-generation iPad Mini lying around here, which received iOS updates until recently, rendering it near-useless. Our Galaxy S4 hasn’t suffered as much and is still very usable (despite coming out only a few months after that iPad). But that is, in fact, besides the point.

It seems that, for the core of its device portfolio, Samsung is not only providing two full Android updates but rolling out security updates long past that point – at least for devices in its mid-range portfolio and higher. In 2017 we will learn if the same applies to its Galaxy J lineup (minus all dirt-cheap Galaxy J1 and J2 variants). The first generation Galaxy J5 received its portion of Marshmallow last summer and autumn, while also receiving security patches regularly, even if not monthly. The newer J5 (2016) and J7 (2016) have yet to get a big Android update, as they are currently on Marshmallow, but they too have been getting regular security fixes in recent months.

So, a Galaxy older than three-and-a-half years still getting security patches, mid-range devices getting multiple full Android updates, and even parts of the low-end being kept neatly up-to-date are all signs that Samsung is putting genuine effort into improving its overall update effort. Though this development will surely have been stimulated by legal proceedings targeting exactly this topic, the improvements cannot be denied.

However, as we pointed out earlier, things are not that simple. There are still plenty of spin-off devices on the market that do not keep up properly. For example, while the original Galaxy S5 is still getting security patches on a monthly basis, the Galaxy S5 Neo, which is about half as old, is already lagging in this respect. And while the Galaxy S5 Mini will eventually be getting its dose of Marshmallow, Samsung is doing so in an inexplicably slow fashion.

If only the problem were confined to spin-off models (Mini’s, Neo’s, Value Editions, etc.) that will eventually disappear from the market, all Samsung would have to do is sit out the coming year, and it would be left with a set of neatly up-to-date Galaxy devices, and a policy to keep things secure.

Still, Samsung is Samsung, and the clear-structured portfolio described above has once more gotten muddled in some markets. Despite the company so far refraining from releasing any S6 spin-offs (there’s no S6 Mini, Neo or Value Edition), things have gotten seriously complicated in the low-end portfolio in many Asian countries. Not only is there the additional On series, but the chaotic addition of 2016-generation devices, Pro variants and Prime editions has quickly made a mess of what seemed to be a portfolio on its way of being cleaned up. It is too early to tell, but this does not bode well for the future updates of at least the cheapest of these devices.

Overall, however, there are reasons to be optimistic about Samsung’s improving ability to keep Galaxy devices updated and secure, even if this primarily applies to its portfolio’s mid-range and high-end sections. A solid two-year period of Android updates and an even longer period of regular security patches seem to be where the company is headed.

In the lower realm of the Galaxy, however, things look less rosy. While some devices might get at least one big Android update, it remains to be seen how well each single device variant will be kept safe through security patches. Some of those devices are dirt-cheap, but not all are.

Leaving you with a short conclusion, we can recap saying there’s cause for both concern and optimism, but the fact that any analysis of Samsung’s update policy leaves room for optimism (next to criticism) is an improvement worth noting.

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zizidor
zizidor

Firmware update released for S5 mini (G800FXXS1BQA1).
“Of course” a lollipop version, not the long-long-long waited marshmallow…

zizidor
zizidor

1 full month – 3 regions got the update. Where are the others???

zizidor
zizidor

“And while the Galaxy S5 Mini will eventually be getting its dose of Marshmallow, Samsung is doing so in an inexplicably slow fashion.”

Wow! When experts say it’s inexplicably slow…
That’s why I break up with them. No more Samsung product.

cerioni fabio
cerioni fabio

..buffoncelli…ancora per s6 si aspettano patch di novembre..Samsung non sei leader

Reshock
Reshock

910V, Android 5.0 was slower than 4.4.4. The last version perfect. 6.0.1 also flawless. Many Preceved Bugs, overheating and other odd things are from digital garbage left behind that needs to be cleaned! Sometimes a cache wipe will be enough to solve the problem. But after a major OS upgrade with a lot of app updates, Do a Factory Reset this house keeping will solve most Bugs.

Reshock
Reshock

That is the last version of 5 lollipop that I received worked perfectly

ufo626
ufo626

There is other thing that Samsung needs to work on and that is the region discrimination for example if the android 7.1.1 is going to be released on January it will be available in one or two countries but it will take up to September to cover the entire countries, what I’m trying to say is that if the update is out from beta phase and set to be released why not release it all together or at least less time difference between countries I remember when I had the Note 3 the update came to Russia at January and… Read more »

Martin DAYI
Martin DAYI

I do agree that it is nice to see that they are still supporting devices like S4 mini. BUT instead of security updates, bug fixes and performance improvements are much more important for me everybody. Even Google devices are sometimes can’t be secure, they fix things after the incidents. Latest 168 mb ish update really shited my S7 edge device. Its overheating is clearly here and battery drain is like I was loosing 6 percent per night but now it is about 14 percent on standby, same conditions. INSTEAD OF 3 SECURITY UPDATES Samsung should give 1 proper bug fix… Read more »

Reshock
Reshock

Note 4, Verizon received November security patch this week. The last was September, in October preceded by 6.0.1 with June, in June. At this rate it is an improvement… The December 5th patch is needed by all!

Leonitis
Leonitis

I am happy with the way samsung is giving my S5 monthly security patches, at least my phone is safe with monthly updates, as for new features if I wanted them,I would get a new mobile, I think samsung is going in the right direction with security and software updates

Enverdaz
Enverdaz

I am going to just laugh at this.. I have a S7 G930U. It has not seen a Security Update since late September. This is the S7. Not some spin off ‘neo’ or ‘prime’. It’s the same S7 sold by AT&T, Verizon, TMo and Sprint among others. It simply doesn’t have any of the apps and bloatware associated with the Carrier Branded versions. It has the same Snapdragon SoC and the same everything!! Yet somehow, it has been forgotten or ignored by Samsung unlike other Unlocked International versions like the 930F which has been receiving updates at the beginning of… Read more »

TESCO HSC
TESCO HSC

Lollipop update for note SM N900 has so many bugs like battery issue…WiFi issue..and also frequent hanging of phone….When will Samsung address all these issue..Lear from other Manufacturers who address the issue even for older phones

TESCO HSC
TESCO HSC

U say of updates given by Samsung…Note 3 SM N900 is left in dark by Samsung…it is struck on lollipop 5.0 and has not received any security patches also…is this Samsung way of updates. ..SHAME SHAME. …

ARR22
ARR22

In order for Samsung to give Apple like support. They need to dictate the terms to the carriers. By now Samsung should be in a position to be able to throw their weight around and not have the cell carriers modify the roms/kernel. Not to mention remove key features. Samsung is powerful enough and their devices are popular enough to make this happen. Only then will they be able to give us timely updates by circumventing the carriers.

cerioni fabio
cerioni fabio

cavolate…bugie
s6 è fermo

personanongrataf
personanongrataf

Are u f.cking kidding me??
You did NOT release Android 6.0.1 to E700F and I’m still WAITING this update in Turkey.You are too slow Samsung

MStuart
MStuart

There might have been a slight improvement in policy but there’s so much to be done. I totally understand that low and mid-range devices simply can’t get stellar support because there’s not enough money in it, but when you’re charging iPhone prices for your flagships, you need to at least get close to that level of support.

Outlaw79
Outlaw79

The security patch of November to the galaxy S6 in Portugal? Isn’t arrive yet!!!! Way??? In the USA and China they receive…..they are more important than Europe? I don’t think so…..Samsung need to treat the customers in the same standard!!! I hope that Samsung treat everyone as first class customers!!!!! Not USA top priority and the rest fu*****you and wait!!!!! If not I’m sure that Samsung is going to lose lot of customers!!! Just 1 more thing I’m a huge fan of Samsung in my house the major brand of everything is Samsung.

stanley479
stanley479

And what about Galaxy J3 (2016)? It’s still on stock Lollipop 5.1 and nobody is talking about it. Will it even get an update or no? I think it can run Marshmallow because American version has Marshmallow since May. And too, this new J3 (2016) is basically a rebranded J5 (2015) which already has Marshmallow. So what do you think?

maccyb
maccyb

When I upgraded to Note 5, there has been a huge improvement in speed of security updates in my region (Turkey), within 5 to 10 days it arrives OTA and via Smartswitch, even on Note7 before its demise. On my replacement S7 Edge, every update is timely and arrives on my phone up to a week before appearing here in the firmware section. Very happy indeed. Even getting security patches on my old Tab 4 T230 right up to date now. Great job.

friss
friss

improve? I don’t think so. Simplify lineup? look at Asia region especially SEA region, the lineup is still as messy as ever. Monthly security patches roll out, totally a hit or miss. Singapore is the worst in term of software/security patch in the whole South East Asia region, our s7 series is still on 1 August 2016 patch, so don’t talk about other older devices. When SamMobile post any new security patch rollout, nothing applies to Singapore, we are just simple slow! When it comes to major Android update for example 6.0 to 7.0, Samsung is really far behind compare… Read more »

harinsheth
harinsheth

I dont think so Samsung releases low and mid range device with already a year old android and upgrade it 1/2 times Also xiaomi ( cheapest phone maker ) provide its UI update aka MIUI to even 4+ year old cheap device via OTA which do not have new android version but have new features but samsung wont do it even for flagships .. i.e. note 4 didnt get themes option Also galaxy A ( 2016 ) released with lollipop but in 2015 google introduced marshmallow ! Another i.e. note 4 wont get nougat but nexus 6 ( a month… Read more »

Tannet
Tannet

No, read again. The article is NOT wrong, because it clearly states that Samsung is improving its update policy. Nowhere does it state that the policy is perfected or the best all around. So yes, there’s room for improvement still. No, it’s not nearly as bad as it was, thus the article is correct.

If you were with Samsung a few years ago and are still today, you would have noticed that too.

harinsheth
harinsheth

Its like samsung has improved 10-20% while other manufacturers are already improved 50% or more Samsung is improving with slow pace does not mean other smartphone maker will stop ! So comparably, and considering price samsung had shitty updates policy and will have ! I dont know why but samsung has highest emloyee as per wikipedia but they are not giving any software after sales like ” new features ” ! i.e. if you have bought note 4 or s6 or note 5 around 2 years ago give me a single desirable feature it got via OTA while miui got… Read more »

Tannet
Tannet

Nonsense. Previously, software feature updates were mostly limited to high end phones and the same goes for software fixes. Now, not only do many lower mid end phones (A3) get software feature updates for up to 2 years, they get software fixes for up to 3.5 years (S3 received one in november last year that included new features too, S4 still received this year) and on a monthly basis. No other Android OEM is currently as timely with its software fixes as Samsung, fact. Monthly updates were non existent for Samsung a few years ago, fact. And now you have… Read more »

harinsheth
harinsheth

Nonsense

Monthly update came because of google’s new policy and other OEM competition

The same price of chinese phone of galaxy a3 will get faster and more software updates !

dklaiqi
dklaiqi

And here I am.. still with android 5.0.2 on the Galaxy Alpha

Jaseemkhankk
Jaseemkhankk

A5 2015 edition will get grace ux updation ?

ProdByEchelon
ProdByEchelon

They definitely keeping their promises with the security patches.

il buono
il buono

G930U S7 and G935U S7 Edge still lag behind carrier models and that’s unacceptable.