Although there’s still lots of room for iPhone and Android fans to debate the merits of their favourite platforms, there’s at least one area in which Apple has been consistently leaving Android handset makers in the dust, and that’s the longevity of the iPhone as compared to similar Android devices.
In fact, it’s something that many Android enthusiasts envy, at least when they’re being honest and candid about it. You just can’t buy an Android phone, even from a flagship vendor like Samsung, and expect it to be supported by Android updates for more than a couple of years. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS updates always support at least the previous four years’ worth of iPhone models, and often even go beyond that.
For example, last year’s release of iOS 13 continued to support the 2015 iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, along with the early 2016 iPhone SE, and prior to that, iOS 12, which was released in late 2018, could still be installed on the 2013 iPhone 5s.
Likewise, this year Apple left no iPhone behind, with iOS 14 continuing to support the same list of iPhones as last year’s iOS 13 release.
So while of course you still won’t be able to get iOS 14 on older models, you’ll be able to install iOS 14 even if you’re still using a 2015 era iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, and this should offer even more jubilation for owners of the original iPhone SE, since it means there’s still an ultra-compact iPhone model that can run iOS 14.
Life on the Other Side
By comparison, Android users don’t have it nearly as good, and in fact they can’t even imagine a world where companies like Samsung would continue to support five-year-old smartphones.
For example, the same year that Apple released the iPhone 6s, Samsung released its flagship Galaxy S6. The iPhone 6s came with iOS 9 preinstalled, while the Galaxy S6 included Android 5.0 “Lollipop” — which already placed it a few months behind, as Android 6.0 “Marshmallow” came out later that same year.
However, it wouldn’t be until February 2016, six months after Android 6.0 was released that Samsung’s Galaxy S6 actually began receiving the update, and while the iPhone 6s received iOS 10 the same day it was released in September 2016, the Galaxy S6 didn’t get Android 7.0 “Nougat” until March 2017 — a full eight months after Google released it to the public in August 2016.
However, Nougat would be the last major Android release the Galaxy S6 would ever see. In other words, after only about two years on the market, Samsung’s flagship Android smartphone found itself left behind, as Android 8.0 “Oreo” arrived in August of that same year.
Meanwhile, only a month after the Galaxy S6 was snubbed by Oreo, its contemporary, the iPhone 6s, got an update to iOS 11 — which also still continued to support the iPhone 5s which had come out two years before, and the same year that Samsung released its Galaxy S4 with Android 4.2.2 “Jelly Bean” — a device that would never see an official upgrade beyond the 2014 Android 5.0.1 “Lollipop” release that landed for the G4 in January 2015. Yet, as we noted earlier, when iOS 12 shipped in 2018, it still supported the 2013 iPhone 5s, long after its Samsung counterpart had been abandoned.
As Android Authority points out, the iPhone 6s getting iOS 14 is like the Galaxy S6 getting Android 11, which is pretty much beyond the wildest dreams of most Android users.
Imagine for a second that this year, Samsung announced the Galaxy S6 would be getting Android 11. Think hard about it, because that amount of dedication to software upgrades is what iPhone users expect — and what Apple delivers.C. Scott Brown, Android Authority
Of course, there are certainly a lot of valid technological reasons why Android devices don’t get the same frequency of updates as Apple’s iPhone, not the least of which is the fact that Apple has the luxury of owning all of the pieces, while hardware vendors like Samsung are forced to rely on the operating system coming from Google, which means that they have to test and tailor it to their hardware.
It’s the same reason why the Mac is a far more stable platform than Windows, since Apple makes macOS and doesn’t need to worry about supporting thousands of different hardware configurations.
In fact, every time that Apple touts its record-breaking iOS distribution numbers, Android enthusiasts point out why these are unfair comparisons, and they’re not entirely wrong, but the argument is also a bit specious, since many users don’t care about the technical reasons they’re not getting the latest Android updates — it’s the results (or lack of results) that counts.
However, as much as many Android users still enjoy their devices — and many will be quick to point out that some of the features in iOS 14, like better home screen customizations, are things that Android already had back in 2015 anyway — it doesn’t change the fact that there are still lots of other new features in later versions of Android that they’d like to see also, and it’s especially annoying when the only real reason that Android devices don’t enjoy the same upgrade lifecycle as the iPhone is due to laziness on the part of hardware manufacturers.
We realize that you can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison between iPhones and Android phones in relation to software upgrades. However, that doesn’t make it hurt any less to see that the iPhone 6S will get iOS 14. It’s still aggravating and makes me envious of the Apple ecosystem.C. Scott Brown, Android Authority
In fact, as Android Authority points out, even Google, which should have no excuse at all to stop updating its own phones, since like Apple it owns all of the pieces, is no longer supporting the 2016 Google Pixel as of Android 11 this year. Meanwhile, it’s very likely that Apple’s 2016 iPhone 7 will still be able to install iOS 15 next year.
Even if you buy a $1,000 phone from Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, you’re guaranteed just two years of upgrades, tops.C. Scott Brown, Android Authority
Android Authority has actually published a partial list of three dozen smartphones that should be getting Android 11, based solely on the fact that Apple is still supporting the iPhone 6s with iOS 14, and it runs the whole gamut of Android manufacturers, from Samsung and Google to Motorola, LG, and Sony.
Meanwhile, when Apple ships iOS 14 later this year, those who bought their last iPhone back when Barack Obama was still President and Star Wars: The Force Awakens was hitting theatres will be able to enjoy all of the goodness of Apple’s latest iOS update, which is something that Android users can only dream of.