Google says more than 735 million Android devices received at least one security update in 2016. That sounds pretty good… until you realize there are more than 1.4 billion active Android devices in the wild.

In other words, around half of those Android devices did not receive a security update over the course of a year.

That’s despite Google’s relatively recent decision to start pushing out monthly security updates for Android. Unfortunately, while Google can deliver those updates directly to Nexus, Pixel, and Android One devices, the company has to rely on third-parties to bring updates to most phones.

The situation means that when hackers or security researchers uncover security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious hackers, many Android phone or tablet users never receive a patch to fix the flaw.

It’s not a particularly surprising revelation: anyone who watches the Android smartphone market has known for a while that some phone makers are slow to push out software updates, and some never do it at all.

For example, most iPhone users are running the latest version of iOS. But even though Google released Android 7.0 Nougat more than half a year ago, less than 3 percent of Android devices are using the latest version of Google’s operating system.

The majority of Android users are still on Lollipop or Marshmallow, and even Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 4.x Jelly Bean have a larger user base than Android 7.0 Nougat.

The good news is that Google says that 50-percent rate is about twice what it was during the previous year, and the company is hoping to work with partners to push security updates to even more phones in 2017.

But if you’re concerned about smartphone security (and you should be), then your best bet is to either buy a Nexus, Pixel, or Android One device or make sure to buy from one of the handful of phone makers that actually releases monthly security updates shortly after Google makes them available.

Google says some of the Android devices that had update rates between 60 and 95 percent by the end of 2016 included:

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL
  • Google Nexus 5, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, and Nexus 6P
  • Motorola Moto Z Droid
  • Oppo A33W
  • OnePlus 3
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Asus Zenfone 3
  • bq Aquaris M5
  • Vivo V3Max
  • LG V20
  • Sony Xperia X Compact

Or I guess you could buy an iPhone.


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10 replies on “About half of all Android phones got a security update in 2016 (and half didn’t)”

  1. So you’re saying avoid any Android phones from HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Toshiba name brands.

    And that you’d be lucky if your flagship Blackberry, LG, SONY, and ASUS gets an upgrade.
    So avoid those too.

    And that a few very lucky handsets from a few Chinese vendors get an upgrade.
    Too unpredictable, should avoid them too.

    So you’re essentially left with Samsung Galaxy S-flagship for slow upgrades.
    Or the OnePlus devices for availability and support issues.
    Or just a straight Nexus/Pixel phone.
    ……no wonder there are more people converting from Android to iPhone rather than the opposite.

    (I hate captchas)

  2. My main concern is that vendors still sell or try to sell devices with anything ranging from 4.0 to 4.4, 5.0, 6.0 and similar when most are insecure! This should be forbidden!!
    I hate captchas

  3. I have 4 Android devices currently in use. One, an Acer 7″ Icona tablet, is running Android 4.0 or 4.1, NEVER NEVER NEVER have any of the Android devices I currently or previously own gotten an Android update. That decision is left to the manufacturer or cell carrier, and none that I have ever done business with has offered/allowed an Android update.

    1. My samsung s2 which came with 2.3 was updated to 4.1, my s4 which came with 4.0 was updated to 5, my S6 which came with 5 was updated to 6 and my wife’s S7 which came with android 6 was updated to 7 just last night. Granted this is not the same as iOS updates which are maintained by Apple themselves but it is still reasonable. Phones tend to become somewhat outdated after 2-3 years anyway.

  4. This site is jam-packed with malware, probably from the veritable Mos Eisley Spaceport of ads embedded. Shortcut deleted.

  5. This is one of the main reasons I got an iPhone SE a few months ago. Replaced my 2014 Moto X. Even Google’s Nexus phones don’t get updates as long as iPhones so I just switched OS/brands.

    For the most part, a smartphone is a smartphone so not much different in the main experience. Hope to keep the iPhone until it breaks vs. when it stops getting security/bug fixes.

    1. The difference is I can still easily install an up to date OS on my old Galaxy Nexus, whereas getting the same to work on my out of date iDevice is getting harder. My 1st gen iPad Mini has been cut off from updates, and actually the last couple major updates significantly slowed it down. Granted, flashing ROMs is not for every consumer out there, but I think there are significant advantages to getting outside the Apple walled garden for this reason and others.

      1. Ya that is a difference that I don’t want to do. Plus installing ROMs is a hit or miss thing depending on the phone and chipset used in it. Done that and I don’t plan on dealing with driver and other common issues with ROMs.

        Not worth most people’s time really.

    2. Apple’s updates are all well and good but for older handsets the functions are either crippled or make the phone dog slow or introduce new bugs.
      What’s the point of paying a premium if the phone just gets messed up after a couple of years? Might as well spend less and have an otherwise unrestricted phone.

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