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My Android phone has been abandoned by the manufacturer and carrier. It's stuck on 2.2, and doesn't seem likely to get any updates in the future, nor can I find updated ROMs for it.

I'd be willing to purchase a new phone, but how can I ensure that it will be supported? Does Google, or any carrier, or any manufacturer, make any guarantees about providing timely updates for their phones?

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No manufacturer makes any promises about future system updates for a device. They would shoot themselves in the foot if they would, because if the device fails to get a good market share the resources needed to keep an device up to date would be lost.

I order to ensure that you get updates for your Android devices you have basically two options:

  1. Go with a Google device, that is the ones sold as Nexus. Those devices usually receive Android updates first and for a long time span (~2-3 years)
  2. Pick a device which has an established active mod community or is likely to get one. For example Samsung's Galaxy S was a massive success, it was one of the most sold Smartphones at a time. This is a massive incentive for modders to work on the device and deliver a good quality mod, like Cyanogenmod.

If you go with 2., you could for example go to the Cyanogenmod site an research which devices they currently support. Also try to get a feeling how good the device is supported, how active the maintainer for the device is.

  • If I try to pick a device with a likely mod community, is it more useful to pick a device with similar internals to the Nexus devices? – Sean McMillan Sep 11 '13 at 15:01
  • Not necessary, but something to consider. For example the Galaxy S has such a good mod support because Google release the sources (including hw drivers) for the Nexus S, which is basically the Galaxy S with minor modifications. – Flow Sep 11 '13 at 15:02
  • Do I understand correctly that the support for the Nexus devices is in the AOSP releases, or are the open source releases device-free, and the device support is added in later? – Sean McMillan Sep 13 '13 at 15:42
  • IIRC AOSP just comes with drivers from the linux kernel. But often the hardware used in mobile devices requires proprietary drivers. – Flow Sep 13 '13 at 20:19
  • Which nexus devices have received 4 years of updates? The nexus S, announced late 2010, is no longer supported and was last updated to 4.1.2. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Sep 13 '13 at 20:36
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The only devices that you can be confident about getting timely updates for are Nexus devices. These tend to get updates for at least 18 months and they receive them as soon as Google releases them (they're essentially Google devices made by other manufacturers).

All other manufacturers take a while to release an update once it is released by Google, typical 3+ months. They also have less incentive to release updates as they want you to buy their latest-and-greatest new phone.

  • 2
    I'd +1000 if I could. Fortunately, Google's push to divorce Google Play Services from the underlying OS is making not having the latest-and-greatest OS version less of an issue. – ale Sep 11 '13 at 14:57
  • I really want a device with a hardware keyboard, and none of the Nexus phones have one. The last Google phone to come with one was the G2. :-( – Sean McMillan Sep 11 '13 at 14:58
  • IMHO hardware keyboards are overrated. I also tough once so, but given the size of the current displays, a on screen keyboard is also very useable when it comes to fast typing. – Flow Sep 11 '13 at 15:03

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