OnePlus is finally taking care of what used to be a weak point of its phones: their update schedules. The company announced on Friday that the OnePlus 8 series (T, R, regular, and Pro) and all newer flagships will get three major Android OS updates and four years of security updates. We’re still waiting for details from OnePlus, but on the surface, this commitment matches Samsung’s update plan, putting OnePlus in a tie for the best Android support timeline. Google, the company that makes Android, is now in third.
OnePlus is in the midst of a big upheaval, and the future of the company is not entirely clear. For years, OnePlus offered flagship-style smartphones at surprisingly low prices, peaking with the $670 OnePlus 7 Pro in 2019. Since then, co-founder Carl Pei left the company in October 2020, which kicked off what seems like a significant shift in strategy. 2021’s OnePlus 9 Pro was $969, basically the same price as a comparable Samsung phone. In January 2021, OnePlus said it was merging “some R&D capabilities” with Chinese parent company Oppo, and in June 2021, the two companies announced that they were merging completely.
OnePlus says the new, longer support time is the result of the company merging the development of OnePlus’ Android skin, Oxygen OS, with Oppo’s Android skin, Color OS. The two skins are generally targeted at different markets, but it doesn’t sound like the UIs will be merged. OnePlus says, “This is a change that you will likely not even notice since it’s happening behind the scenes.”
OnePlus’ announcement does not specify if the four years of security updates will take place monthly or not. Currently, the company delivers security updates every two or three months, which isn’t great compared to Samsung and Google. We’ve asked OnePlus for clarification and will update this post if we receive a response.
OnePlus and Samsung’s longer support times were probably spurred by Qualcomm’s December announcement that it was extending support for its flagship SoCs to three years of major updates and four years of security updates. Android updates go a lot smoother when your SoC vendor provides update support, and now that Qualcomm has bumped up its timeline, we’re seeing OEMs taking advantage of the support and passing it on to consumers.
Google has yet to bump up its support timeline, and at three years of OS and security updates, the company is currently in third place behind Samsung and OnePlus. That’s a pretty sad position for a company that should be the Android ecosystem leader, but when the Pixel 6 comes out with Google’s “Whitechapel” SoC, Google won’t have any limits on how long it can support the phone. The pressure is on for a longer support time. The company might even be able to match Apple, which is hitting six years of updates with iOS 15.