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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 securityflaws are discovered in components of Android each month, which is why Google releases monthly security patches.
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.
Samsung's software strategy has improved significantly over the past few years, turning the company from one of the worst OEMs for updates to one of the best. Last year, Samsung announced most of its devices would get three years of Android OS updates, and now it has updated its list of supported devices with a few additions and removals.
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab S2 in July 2015, a time when Android tablets still mattered, and there was much more competition. Sporting a luxurious new design based on the Galaxy S6 and a beautifully bright AMOLED display, it represented the best Android tablets had to offer. But why are we talking about it five years later? Because it just received the October 2020 security patch, and that's incredible.
Samsung is usually one of the better OEMs when it comes to releasing timely security patches for its phones, even beating Google to the punch at times. But even Samsung can only afford to keep older devices updated for so long. The company has recently revised its security update list with some changes, including ending patches for the Galaxy S7 Active, as well as changing some other older devices to a less frequent schedule.
As a long-term Samsung user, I've witnessed first-hand the Hollywood-style comeback Samsung has made in terms of how its phones get updates. Gone are the days of waiting almost a year for significant version changes, or being several months behind on security patches. Not only have Samsung devices been receiving updates faster than ever before, in some cases, Samsung has even beaten Google to the punch. It's now done so again, with Samsung starting its rollout of May's security patch for the S20 series.
Samsung’s once-flagship Galaxy S8 series turned three following the recent launch of the Galaxy S20 line. While the company usually commits to two years of regular OS and security updates for its high-end models, the releases start to get a bit more infrequent after that. That's just what's happening now to the manufacturer's 2017 Galaxy flagship.
May security patches for Google's Pixels are now available, though Samsung beat Google to the punch this month. For some reason, Google has elected not to publish functional patch notes for its Pixels as part of this month's updates, but images are available and the update should be rolling out via traditional channels soon.
The Galaxy S7 hasn't seen a new Android version in a long time, but until now, Samsung at least had been pushing security updates whenever it deemed them necessary. According to the company's security updates timeline, that's changing: The company won't release new patches for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge any longer, though the S7 active is still supported.
Google has posted images for the March Pixel update to the usual spots for manual installation, if you're too impatient to see it roll out via the traditional means. However, although this month's update is supposed to correspond to the latest Pixel Feature Drop, some of the new features don't seem to be live in the March update just yet. As we noted in our prior coverage, some things may require app updates or server-side changes before they work. (Update: Though they're almost all live for me as of around two hours later.)
For some, the snazzy new face unlock system on Google's latest Pixel 4 is a whole lot less convenient than it should be. Reports over the last couple of months indicate that the face unlock process is simply failing for a handful of Pixel 4 and 4 XLs, even after re-enrolling their faces or resetting the phone. Thankfully, the issue doesn't sound too widespread.