The software update situation on Android has gotten better in the last year or two, with some manufacturers boasting at least three years of support. While that is definitely better than before, many users and some regulators think companies can do a lot better, almost to Apple levels. There are some efforts in the European Union to actually enforce longer periods of support for smartphones, but it seems that Germany really wants to go all out on that thrust by trying to push seven years as the legally required minimum for software updates and spare parts.
Aside from time and human resources, there are few technical reasons why software support for a phone should stop after two or three years. Smartphone hardware has gotten powerful enough to support foreseeable new features for years to come. But even if software complexity surpasses hardware capabilities, fixes and security patches don’t incur the same performance overhead as major platform upgrades.
The period of support is really just an industry-standard developed by an unspoken agreement among companies. Several countries, however, want to actually put this practice in black and white and legally compel smartphone vendors to abide by it. The European Union, for example, wants smartphones to get five years of software updates while also requiring that spare parts be available during that same period.
Germany, however, wants to take things further and is negotiating with the EU for an even longer period. It wants software updates to be available for seven years and that spare parts should be priced reasonably during that period as well. Naturally, companies behind those smartphones don’t agree with the European Commission’s proposals, let alone Germany’s more aggressive push.
Industry advocate group DigitalEurope, representing the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, wants to standardize only the status quo. That means two years of feature updates and three years of security updates, already the minimum that was surpassed by both Samsung and Google lately. They also want that the spare parts requirement only cover displays and cameras, excluding parts that rarely fail, like cameras, mics, and speakers.