As we approach the launch of the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro on October 4, we’ll spend plenty of time talking about leaked specs and design changes and pricing. But there is one rumored area of the story that we’re paying the most attention to, and it’s one that truly puts Google at a level bigger than anyone is currently imagining. If they announce 4 or 5 years of updates to Pixel phones, they’ll jump up to 2 years beyond what Samsung is currently doing.
Let’s walk through where we’re at now and then get into what 5 years of Google updates could really look like.
At the moment, Google is doing 3 years of OS updates and 5 years of monthly security patches on Pixel phones. They started this schedule with the launch of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and have continued with it up through the recent launch of the Pixel Fold. Before this update schedule, they were doing 3 years of OS updates and just 3 years of security updates. You can see the full Pixel update schedule here.
Samsung, on the other hand, is doing 4 Android version updates and 5 years of security updates. Saying that schedule out loud next to Google’s without understanding how or when Google launches phones, makes it look like Samsung is the king of the number of OS updates it sends out. And look, Samsung is still the king of updates in our minds, but at the end of the life of a Samsung phone, it’ll be at the same version of Android as a top tier Google Pixel phone that launched around the same time.
I know, the math there doesn’t add up. 4 is > 3, right? It is! Good job, friend. Here’s the thing – Samsung launches phones that are an Android version behind, while Google launches their best phones with the newest version that just released. In other words, the first Android version update that Samsung sends out is only catching it up to Google’s phones and then each will get 3 more OS version updates, leaving them at the same end point.
If there is one exception here, it’s with Google’s A-series that does not keep up with the higher-end Pixel releases in terms of final Android version (outside of the 4a 5G model). The A-series phones all typically launch in the mid-cycle of an Android version and then need to see an update to the new version like Samsung phones do. The reason for that is the decision Google made around A-series timing, which tends to happen in late-spring each year. Google really should give the A-series more love.
To show what I’m talking about, here’s the simplest spreadsheet of all time.
And now is where we get back to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro since you’ve seen that extra long line of update versions for Google’s next phones that extend two years outside of Samsung’s newly launched $2,000 foldable.
The most recent rumor surrounding the updates for the Pixel 8 series suggests Google is going to surpass Samsung in terms of support. We don’t yet know the specific details of that idea (which is why October 4 is such a big deal), but besting Samsung would have to mean more updates for a longer period of time. We just detailed that Google sends out 3 Android version updates and 5 years of security patches, while Samsung does 4 version and 5 years of security updates. Should we assume Google is jumping to 5 years for both? Instead of answering that, look again at the spreadsheet above to see how 4 and 5 Android version updates could really push Google to the next level.
When the Pixel 8 Pro launches in October, it’ll have Android 14 out of the box. Should it receive another 4 version updates, that would take it through Android 18 in 2027. If we go for 5 years, well, now we’re into Android 19 and 2028. Because again, Google launches with the newest version of Android. Samsung currently doesn’t sell a single phone that is promised Android 18 or Android 19. The Fold 5 and Galaxy S23 are expected to stop at Android 17, because that would be their 4th version update.
I know there are a lot of shoulds in this piece, but the point is that it won’t take much for Google to take Android updates to a whole new level if they commit to even 4 Android version updates on the Pixel 8. Assuming this single report is correct on Google pushing beyond Samsung, that old “King of Android Updates” title will finally find a new home, probably where it should have always been.