Look, it's no secret that I'm a fan of Google's Pixel program.

Personally, I've had Pixel phones since the first-gen model appeared in our filthy pockets in 2016. And the Pixels are the only Android devices I've wholeheartedly recommended to most people since then.

There's a reason. And more than anything, it depends on the software and overall experience that Google's Pixel approach delivers.

  • Part of that is the Pixel interface and the absence of unnecessary glitches and complications, including the absence of confusing (and often privacy-compromising) duplicate apps and services downloaded to the phone for the manufacturer's commercial gain and to the detriment of your business. user experience.
  • Part of that is the unparalleled integration of great Google services and proprietary Google intelligence that puts the really useful things you'll really benefit from front and center and makes them an integral part of the Pixel package.
  • And, yes, part of that is the Pixel update promise and the fact that Pixel phones remain the only Android devices where fast and reliable software updates are a built-in feature and guarantee.

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Of course, other Android device manufacturers have gotten better at updates over the years. But they never handled this area with the consistency and real commitment that Google offers, especially when it came to the medal opportunity. That's especially true with the often-overlooked older-generation flagships, where most other companies associated with Android really drop the ball.

So please keep all of that context in mind when I say this: Google needs to do better.

Let me explain you.

The evolution of the Google Pixel update

To get to what is happening today, we must first go back for a moment to that moment six years ago.

At the very beginning of the Pixel line's existence, in the fall of 2016, offering a phone with two years of OS upgrade support was pretty much the stakes.

That number was the de facto standard of the Android ecosystem, at least for a flagship phone, though most other manufacturers didn't always follow it.

So seeing Google stick with this setup for its initial Pixel product was pretty logical. That wasn't exceptional in and of itself, but the fact that Google actually delivered all of these updates to all of its pixels more or less immediately after each update arrived was worth celebrating (and c is an understatement).

However, even then, Google felt there was room for Google to do more. As a certain charming writer thought back in October, shortly after the original Pixel debuted:

If the Pixel is going to represent the best of Google and Android as expected, Google should take things a step further and make the Pixel stand out not just for its commitment to speed, but also for its commitment to longevity. …

Another year of updates would prove that this is a phone that is meant to last, that it truly stands above the rest. This would show that Google cares about long-term consumer satisfaction rather than short-term sales. This would show that in this kind of holistic scenario, updates shouldn't be a source of frustration on any level.

More than anything, it would show that the Pixel really is a special phone, through and through: a phone that…will give you unparalleled value to go along with its unparalleled user experience.

A year later, Google listened.

With the Pixel 2 in 2017, Google increased its software support promise to three years of Android OS updates and monthly security patches. By the time we got to the Pixel 6 in 2021, that promise had been extended to a full five years of security patch support alongside the same three years of OS updates. It is certainly nothing to wave a stick.

But at the same time, the ecosystem around the Pixel has progressed. The standard has changed. And instead of leading the way in longevity, Google's Pixel now lags behind some of its contemporaries.

To wit: Starting this year, Samsung is committing to providing four full years of operating system updates for some of its Galaxy-branded Android products. And just this week, OnePlus announced that it will do the same for its high-end flagship phones starting in 2023.

Now, there are many caveats to consider. These two companies are completely at odds with how long it takes today's software to reach high-paying customers, a notion that's especially true when it comes to older-generation products. If you plan to keep a Samsung or OnePlus phone for more than a year, you better wait a long time for updates that, at all costs, should reach you in a matter of days.

And that's not to mention the timeliness of the equally important security patches, which OnePlus will apparently only deliver every two months instead of sending them every month, as they arrive.

So yeah: Google's Pixel phones still offer a superior full software support setup, something that's especially apparent when you're using a one-, two-, or three-year-old Pixel and still get the latest and greatest (and the most privacy). . (safe and friendly Android software) within hours of release instead of waiting months to see it.

But still: this is only part of the story. When it comes to longevity, Google is now behind on its Pixel promise instead of leading the way, or at least matching the core offering.

Google Pixel point of view

To be clear, none of this takes away from the Pixel's position as the best all-round Android option available in my book. The asterisks around the other top Android options are much more significant, and even on a purely numerical basis, the Pixel still comes out on top in most metrics.

To consider:

  • The Pixel 7 costs €600, while the Galaxy S22 starts at €800.
  • If you divide these prices by the number of years each device receives active OS updates (and are therefore highly recommended to use, from a privacy and security standpoint), the Pixel 7 ends up costing $16.67. 36 per month over its 22-month term, which is exactly the same as the Galaxy S48 costs per month over its XNUMX-month OS support window.
  • And remember, the Pixel 7 will actually get its updates more or less immediately after release throughout its lifespan, while the Galaxy S22 will face increasingly delayed shipping every year. exist.

All of that said, the comparison here isn't quite parallel. Google is not Samsung. Your role within the Android ecosystem is radically different, as is your business model and what you can gain by bringing people into your products.

Google, suffice to say, is not your average Android maker. While most device manufacturers rely primarily on hardware sales for profit, Google makes most of its money by encouraging you to spend as much time as possible using the Internet, and therefore its services (which, of course, Of course, it means that it will provide you with more data that will allow Google to show you more better targeted ads across the web).

In other words, Google's ultimate goal isn't strictly to sell as many phones as possible. It's all about making the Android experience as enjoyable as possible for as many people as possible. More than anything, you want to deliver a great, seamless user experience where your own services shine, as it more effectively supports your core business model.

Google is in a unique position to set its own singular standard.

This puts Google in a unique position to raise the stakes in software support and at least match, but ideally beat, what every other device maker is doing. This puts Google in a position to set its own singular standard, one that is well-suited to positioning the Pixel as the best Android experience available, with the best support available.

And especially when you consider that Google is now using its own bespoke chips to drive current pixels, which removes a common barrier to providing broad software support, as this can often depend on, at least in part, from the manufacturer of a phone's processor. continue to support device components: there's really no good justification for Google not to make a move like this.

Last but not least, consider: Google is now supposed to "double down" its investment in Pixel devices, according to a recent report from The Information website. The company is said to be preparing to more aggressively market and present its products as the most optimal way to experience Android, in a bid to more effectively counter Apple's recent gains in the US market.

All that's missing is the ecosystem-leading longevity promise, and now more than ever, the pieces are in place to fix it.

It's time, Google. If you really want the Pixel to shine and exist in a league of its own, with no obvious "buts," then this is the decision to make. And now is absolutely the time to do it.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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