Android, the open-source mobile operating system developed by Google, is the most widely used mobile OS globally. The open nature of it means the operating system is supported a large number of original equipment manufacturers. However, the open nature and support from a large number of manufacturers means Android is more fragmented than any rival operating system.
Every time Google announces a new version of Android, it first becomes available for its own Pixel and Nexus-branded devices and the search giant makes the code available to its OEM partners via Android Open Source Project. Once the version is released to AOSP, Google’s OEM partners add their own layer of customization before rolling out the update to its devices. The process often takes months to complete and eventually ends up on smaller number of devices than usual.
Android 8.0 Oreo, the newest version of Android released in August, is powering only 0.5 percent of active devices. While Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the operating system released in 2015, is powering nearly 30 percent of active devices. This disparity between the reach of different versions of Android shows how fragmentation has lead to inconsistent user experience for most smartphone buyers.
In the last few years, Google has taken efforts to bring parity between different versions and ensure faster rollout of updates, but its OEM partners have been mostly slow to respond. If you are also tired of waiting for years to get the newest version of Android, here is the easiest way to hop on to latest version by getting a smartphone that runs near stock Android version.
HMD Global, the new home of Nokia, is trying to sell its smartphones, entirely on the promise that it will offer faster updates to newer version of Android. The Finnish startup is mostly living up to its promise. The company has already released stable version of Android 8.0 Oreo for its flagship Nokia 8 smartphone. It has also released Oreo beta for its Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 budget smartphones.
HMD Global sells Nokia 2, Nokia 3, Nokia 5, Nokia 6 and Nokia 8 in India and has managed to put Oreo on three of those five devices. The update cycle in the case of HMD Global has been faster than many other smartphone brands. The company has been able to deliver quick updates because of it offering near stock Android experience on its devices.
With every major Android release, the company primarily needs to test the stability on its devices and add minor tweaks and bug fixes before rolling it out via beta channels. It has also confirmed that its entry-level smartphone Nokia 3 will skip Android 7.1.2 Nougat and get Android 8.0 Oreo update. It has also confirmed that Android P, the next iteration will also be offered as an OTA update.
HMD Global, despite being a newcomer, is promising to offer at least two years of major Android release, which should be reassuring to those concerned about the software update.
Motorola was once considered the go to brand for those hoping to get the fastest software update on their device. With the release of Moto X and Moto G series, the company had established a track record of releasing major software update ahead of other smartphone makers since its devices ran near stock version of Android out of the box. It also made smartphone users familiar with the term Soak Test, a process to test new software with a small set of users ahead of its public release.
Since its acquisition by Lenovo, the company seems to have slowed down when it comes to releasing software update but it is one of those many OEM partners of Google confirmed to offer an update. Among many of its devices launched this year, the company is expected to release Oreo update for Moto G5, Moto G5 Plus, Moto G5S, Moto G5S Plus and Moto Z2 Play. The software update is expected to start rolling out to users sometime early next year.
Motorola also sells Android One version of its Moto X4 in select markets and has released Oreo update for the device. It re-emphasizes the fact that the company will release Oreo update for standard Moto X4 in India among its other devices.
The Chinese company that owns Motorola has also switched to stock Android in the last few quarters. The company says there is no need to develop your own forked version since Google has caught up with its peers by baking most useful features into the stock version of Android.
Lenovo launched its K8 Note, K8 and K8 Plus smartphones with stock Android in September. The smartphones will be first in line to get Android 8.0 Oreo update when the company starts rolling out the new version sometime next year.
Xiaomi is the newest in the block to release a smartphone running stock Android. The company’s Mi A1 ditches Xiaomi’s proprietary MIUI in favor of Android One. The smartphone was launched in September with Android 7.1.2 Nougat and has already started receiving Oreo via beta channel.
The smartphone is currently available for Rs 12,999 should be updated with Android 8.0 Oreo by the end of this month or early next month. Xiaomi has recently started pushing out MIUI based on Android 7.0 Nougat for all its other devices so the Mi A1 getting Oreo so early is a sign of change. If you are on a tight budget and hoping for a device with stock Android then Mi A1 makes a perfect fit. Xiaomi has, however, not confirmed whether the device will continue to receive Android P update as well.
The best of Google comes from Google directly. The latest Pixel smartphones – the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL – were launched with Android 8.0 Oreo, but have already received the Android 8.1 Oreo in the form of an OTA update. With the release of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google has also promised three years of software and security updates.
The confirmation implies that Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will get Android P, Android Q and Android R as regular software updates. The first generation Pixel smartphones have also received Android 8.0 Oreo update and will also get Android P update next year. If having the latest software is your only priority then look no further than Google’s Pixel branded smartphones. Apart from the operating system, Pixel users also get top notch hardware and best-in-class smartphone cameras.