With Google & Its Partners Entering a New Era of Android, What’s Up with Samsung?

Rafia Shaikh
Android Nougat
Why Samsung isn't letting go of the old strategies

When it comes to Android, there are two things that users and the tech industry itself hate the most: security vulnerabilities and delayed updates. Since most of the security concerns actually arise because of the delayed updates, we can safely say that the update structure is what's keeping Android from getting rid of that "security mess" tag. This time, however, we have seen a tangible shift in how Android Nougat updates were handled by both Google and its OEM partners.

Last year, Google released Android Nougat earlier than it usually does. Following the release of official updates for the Nexus (and now Pixel) lineup, it takes several months for OEMs to start releasing the latest features to their flagship devices. We aren't even talking about the second-tier phones here. Anyway, this year (means 2016) HTC, Sony, Motorola, Huawei, and others started to not only send updates to their phones earlier than before, but they also publicly talked about being the first to send out the latest updates.

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A new? Definitely a new in the Android world, where previously Google had to use passive aggressive techniques to push manufacturers to own up to their responsibility of helping make Android more secure. Following LG being the first to send a Nougat update, Sony even asked us to prepare "rotten tomatoes," if the company fails to be the first to send Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It didn't fail.

Galaxy S7 Nougat release starts today - Samsung still stuck with the old ways?

In all of this activity, Samsung is the only major Android phone maker lagging behind the update cycle. The company has today started to release Android 7.0 Nougat to its flagship Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. For now, the update is limited to beta testers, but is expected to arrive to the rest of us very soon. While our friends at Sammobile are calling it "one of the shortest times" that Samsung has taken to roll out a new version of Android, it definitely wasn't the shortest time, especially when we consider last year's rollout timeline.

Comparing Nougat's release to Marshmallow, Samsung started releasing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to its flagship devices in February last year - Google had released the public version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow in October. In comparison, Google released Nougat at the end of August 2016, while Samsung is releasing it only half a month earlier than it did last time. (On a side note, LG released Android 7.0 to G5 on November 7, two months before Samsung)

Android tries to move away from unpredictability, but Samsung still not ready

After years of unpredictability, Google and its partners are finally moving to a more regular maintenance update process. With more Android competitors than ever before and the introduction of Google's homemade Pixel lineup, it would be interesting to see how Samsung improves its update game - especially after the Note 7 fiasco - to earn some consumer trust.

In December, we had hoped that the company (as was hinted in a message to a Samsung user) might offer a direct upgrade to Android 7.1, but today's update only brings Android 7.0 Nougat. With the Pixel lineup a solid threat to the Android world, Samsung - currently considered the reigning monarch of Android - will have to do more than it had to do in previous years to fight against both the Pixel lineup and the growing new brands.

As of January 9, Nougat accounted for a tiny 0.7 percent of all devices connecting to Google Play. However, with Samsung rolling it out now to its flagships, that figure should rise in the coming weeks. But is it too late? And, more importantly, would it be enough to help the South Korean tech giant keep earning profits despite a strongly growing Asian market and a (hopefully) changing image of Android?

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