Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, and buying one is no longer a simple decision. With the increasing prices of smartphones in recent years, many users are looking for models that offer not only high performance but also durability, either for environmental reasons or to ensure a better return on investment.
As consumers become more environmentally conscious, they are demanding eco friendly devices from manufacturers. Brands like Apple and Fairphone are leading the way in this regard, with their commitment to building sustainable devices. However, while the construction of the device is important, it is equally important to consider the total lifespan of a smartphone. In fact, the longer you keep a phone, the more environmentally friendly it becomes.
If you’re looking for a smartphone that will last a long time, it’s essential to take into account the number of software updates offered by the manufacturers. Software updates not only enhance the performance of a phone but also extend its lifespan. Several smartphone manufacturers offer a longer duration of software support than others. Let’s take a closer look at the brands that offer the best lifespan for their smartphones.
The best smartphone brands in terms of software support period
Apple: 5 years of major updates on iOS
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Apple excels in providing updates for their smartphones and is considered one of the top performers in the global smartphone market. However, unlike other companies, they do not openly communicate about their software updates. Each new version of iOS specifies which iPhone models are eligible for the update. With the latest version being compatible with the iPhone 8, released in 2017.
Aside from updates, Apple also prioritizes environmental considerations in their product design. Recently, they removed chargers from iPhone boxes to reduce emissions, and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has made carbon neutrality a priority for both the company and its suppliers. In 2017, Apple ranked second, behind Fairphone, in Greenpeace’s chart of brands committed to sustainability. The company has also made progress in smartphone recycling.
Despite these efforts, Apple still receives criticism and needs to revise its policies to focus more on repair rather than recycling. The company has launched a Self Service Repair program in the US, but rare earths essential to smartphone construction are becoming scarce. Nevertheless, if you prioritize durability and eco friendliness, the iPhone remains an excellent choice, albeit at a high price point.
Fairphone: 7 years of Android updates
Fairphone is a unique player in the smartphone industry, presenting potential buyers with a dilemma between their ecological convictions and their desire for a modern device. While the available versions of Fairphone smartphones are somewhat outdated, they stand out for their use of recyclable materials and adherence to various ecological standards. In fact, the Fairphone 4 earned a perfect score of 10/10 on the iFixit site. Allowing for easy replacement of all smartphone components.
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Additionally, Fairphone provides regular software updates. Which has kept even the Fairphone 2, released in 2015, relevant due to its recent upgrade to the newest Android version. However, users should be prepared to make significant sacrifices on their phone’s features. And the software is not without flaws, as evidenced by user test feedback.
Samsung: 4 years of major updates for the Galaxy S and some Galaxy A devices
Samsung currently leads the Android smartphone market in software updates, surpassing even Google. Since the S22 generation, Samsung has provided four years of major updates and two years of additional support for its high-end devices and folding phones, including the S23, S22, S21, and their respective models. Although this decision is great, mid range and entry level devices such as the Galaxy J and Galaxy M will have to wait for similar support. Even though these devices are more popular among the general public. Nevertheless, Samsung is confirming its commitment to providing extended support with the Galaxy A54 and the new generation of Galaxy A devices.
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On the product side, Samsung initially ridiculed Apple’s removal of chargers. But has now followed suit by removing charging blocks from its high end devices. The company is considering extending this decision to all its ranges. Though it still needs to improve the repairability of its devices. Overall, opting for a Samsung smartphone is recommended for better support period.
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Oppo and OnePlus: 4 years of Android OS updates
Recently, OnePlus made an announcement stating that its high-end smartphones, such as the OnePlus 11, will receive four years of major updates and five years of security patches, aligning its strategy with Samsung’s and earning high marks for its efforts. Likewise, Oppo, which has benefited from OnePlus’ success, also announced its shift to four years of major updates. With its smartphones currently being upgraded to ColorOS 13 based on Android 13. Oppo’s Find N2 Flip also promised four years of Android support. Although Oppo is promoting its long term environmental goals by partnering with the Eco Rating certification program, the company still has a long way to go in terms of repairability, as it prioritizes refurbishment over repairability. In terms of device packaging, both Oppo and OnePlus still include phone chargers. And the materials used in their products are not yet entirely eco friendly certified.
Google Pixel smartphones: 3 years of Android OS updates
The new devices from Google, including the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel 6, will receive three years of major updates and five years of security patches, which seems inadequate coming from the owner of Android, especially considering that Samsung, Oppo, and OnePlus are doing better in this regard. Google has also partnered with iFixit to sell spare parts for its high end phones. Although the Pixel 6 has a repairability index of 6.4/10, and the Pro version is at 6.3/10. The company has made significant improvements in the Pixel 7. With a repairability score of 7.2/10 for the Pixel 7 and 7.1/10 for the Pixel 7 Pro. Like Apple, Google emphasizes the carbon impact of its products. And aims to use recyclable materials to give each device a second life. Consequently, the new devices also do not include chargers in their boxes.
What about the other smartphone brands?
Vivo is making efforts to provide software updates to its customers. At present, only the high end devices in the X range receive full software support for three years. For the Y and V ranges, customers can expect two major updates and three years of security patches.
Xiaomi has entered the top 3 of the most important brands with Apple and Samsung. However, the brand does not provide software updates that are on par with its competitors. The 11T and 11T Pro benefit from four years of software updates. Including three major updates, and all the top of the range devices of the manufacturer will be getting it.
Realme is a relatively new player in the market and has not yet established a solid reputation for software updates. The company is unclear about its software update policy, and it varies for different devices. The Realme GTs are entitled to two versions of Android and three years of security updates. But the lower ranges may only receive a single version of Android and two years of security updates.
Motorola, a well known name in the smartphone market, provides two major Android updates and two years of security updates for its premium line, the Edge 20. The company has not disclosed the software update policy for its other devices. But it is unlikely that any other device offers more than two years of support.
In conclusion, software updates are an essential part of a smartphone’s life cycle. It is essential for manufacturers to provide timely updates to keep their customers satisfied. While some manufacturers are making efforts to provide extended software support, others still have a long way to go. In any case, customers must do their research before purchasing a device to ensure that they receive timely software updates.