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Major updates of Android don't matter as much as they used to. Many components of the operating system are updated through the Play Store, so even if you're on Android 8 or 9, you can still access most of the same apps and features as someone on the latest release of Android 10. However, the security updates that Google releases on a monthly basis are still critical to keeping your phone or tablet safe. Dozens of security flaws are discovered in components of Android each month, which is why Google releases monthly security patches.

However, unlike app and API updates, the security patches can't be delivered directly to devices — phone manufacturers have to integrate the changes into their own flavors of Android, and release them as system updates.

It's common knowledge that some companies are better than others when it comes to patching their phones, but making direct comparisons is somewhat difficult. It's hard to track down information about when exactly updates are released, so news coverage often relies on device owners seeing the update themselves. Carriers and slow rollouts only make matters more complicated.

The good news is that we've done all the hard work for you. This is our ultimate security update tracker, where we're giving each recent flagship phone a simple score from 1-10, based on how long it takes for security updates to get from Google to device owners.

How we score devices

If you're interested how we gather this data and assess it, we explain our methodology more on the second page. Here's the short version:

  • We compiled a list of dates for security patches for each major 2019 Android flagship, starting from January 2019 or when the phone was released in the United States (whichever was earliest).
  • The date for each security update is the first evidence we could find of a public rollout, either from an official announcement from the device maker, news coverage of the update, or confirmed reports from social media (whichever was earliest).
  • Each device's score is calculated using a weighted average of the number of days between a security update's availability and the that device's OTA being released, the resulting "score" being normalized into a number out of 10, and then a standard penalty being assessed for any given monthly update that is missed subtracting from that score.

Google Pixel 3/4: 10.0

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Google's flagships get perfect scores. Ever since the days of Nexus phones, Google has released security updates for its devices at the same time as the official security bulletins, effectively giving Pixel phones day-one updates. Furthermore, Pixel phones are the only devices we've tracked that didn't miss a single month.

There are a few instances where a security bulletin comes out a day or two before the Pixels get their updates, and vice-versa, but on average the delay is still zero days. If reliable and frequent security updates are your main concern when buying a phone, no other Android device comes close to matching the record of Pixel devices. Well, except for the Essential Phone, but those days are over.

Nokia 9 PureView: 8.5

The Nokia 9 PureView is the closest thing HMD Global had to a flagship Android device in 2019 (Nokia's product lines have a lot of overlap), and even though the phone suffered from camera and fingerprint reader bugs when it launched, the PureView's security update record has been great.

According to our data, the PureView has only skipped one month since its release. The May 2019 patch was never rolled out (Nokia combined it with the June patches), but that's the only exception so far.

The Nokia 9 PureView also narrowly beat the Galaxy S10's average update delay, coming in at 13 days. While there were a few instances of Nokia rolling out the update in the first week of the month, most patches were released around two weeks later. For example, the February 2020 update rolled out on February 24th, the December 2019 patches were released on December 31st, and so on.

Samsung Galaxy S10: 7.0

While Samsung has done a well enough job of keeping its flagship smartphones up to date with the latest security patches — the Galaxy S7 is still receiving quarterly fixes — the company improved its schedule slightly with the Galaxy S10. Not only has the S10 received security updates in a timely manner, but it was also among the first phones to receive an update to Android 10.

The Galaxy S10 has only missed one security update since its release in early 2019: the patches for June and July 2019 were included in an August update. However, the S10's average 14-day delay from when Google's security bulletins were published is the main reason it fell behind other devices. That's not a ridiculous timeline, since updates usually still rolled out before the month was over, but it does make the S10 the third-slowest phone we looked at (behind the Pixel 3/4 and the Nokia 9 PureView).

Asus Zenfone 6: 5.5

I certainly didn't expect an Asus phone to be in the top half of this list, but I have to give credit where credit's due. Even though 5.5/10 isn't an incredible score, it does narrowly beat out devices that are often perceived as providing more frequent updates, like the OnePlus 7 Pro.

The Zenfone 6 was something of a turning point for Asus' mobile division when it was released last year. Not only was the ZF6 a great device in its own right, as we highlighted in our review, but Asus also made frequent updates a higher priority.

The ZenFone 6 doesn't quite hit the same level of reliable security patches as the Galaxy S10 or Pixel 4, as the phone has missed five months to date, but the average delay of 5 days from when the security bulletins are published is especially impressive.

OnePlus 7 Pro: 5.0

OnePlus is typically praised for its quick updates, so the 5/10 score for the company's main 2019 flagship might come as a surprise to many of you. However, as the old saying goes, the data doesn't lie.

The OnePlus 7 Pro has missed four months of updates since its release, twice as many as the S10. There was a gap in security fixes almost every other month, though OnePlus sometimes made up for it by pushing the next update quickly. For example, the phone didn't get a July 2019 update, but the August patch was delivered on July 31st ⁠— five days before the Pixel 3/4 got it.

Unfortunately, when OnePlus didn't deliver updates shockingly fast, they came extremely late. The October 2019 security patches didn't arrive on phones until November, and the January fixes were rolled out near the end of February. The average wait for the OP7 Pro to receive security updates is 29 days.

It's only fair to mention that OnePlus does have an Open Beta program where device owners can receive updates (including security patches) before they are ready for prime time, but that can come with bugs and other consequences.

Sony Xperia 1: 4.5

The first device on our list to get a score under 50% is Sony's Xperia 1. Since its US release in early 2019, the phone has skipped seven months of security updates. The average wait for updates is 15 days, which is close to the averages for the Galaxy S10 and Nokia 9 PureView, but the Xperia 1 was more expensive at launch than both of those phones.

Sony used to be one of the top manufacturers around when it came to updates, but it's perhaps not too much of a surprise that the company's 2019 flagship slipped behind on security fixes.

LG G8 ThinQ: 3.5

I know this will come as a total shock to many of you, but LG is not good at updates. The G8 received security patches 34 days late on average, with a total of five skipped months since the phone was released.

However, there is one major caveat to our data on the G8: we're using rollout dates for the AT&T model, because there isn't enough public data about the US unlocked version. The added step of carrier approval could be adding some delay, but the frequency of patches is the G8's primary issue. There were no updates at all from late September until mid-February — and the February update only had the December patches!

Motorola Moto Z4: 3.0

Motorola has a known history of being extremely late with software updates, unless you happen to live in South America (where the company tends to focus its resources). As such, the Moto Z4's position in last place isn't much of a surprise, but the extent of Motorola's software support for its only flagship is a bit staggering.

The Moto Z4 had the longest average delay out of all the phones we evaluated, coming in at 38 days. However, it was more likely for Z4 owners to not get an update at all, as Motorola skipped six months in total. The Z4's first update came in mid-July (containing May patches), then there were no updates at all until mid-November. Oh, and the November update was two months behind in security patches. Come on, guys.

We plan to keep this guide updated as each new month passes. For the moment, we're mostly limiting our results to phones released in late 2018-early 2019, as there aren't enough data points for 2020 flagship devices to make accurate judgments, but we'll start to include devices like the Galaxy S20 soon enough. See the second page for info on how we're dealing with things like regions, staged rollouts, calculating dates, and more methodological info.

Special thanks to The Android Soul, Xperia Blog, and 9to5Google for covering some of the device updates we would have otherwise missed.

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