Europe wants to solve Android update problem

If it is up to Europe, people will spend longer with their smartphones. Manufacturers must, among other things, release updates for their phones for five years.

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Brussels and the Android update problem

This is stated in a proposal from the European Commission (EC). The EC wants phones to be able to count on software updates for up to three years after release. These kinds of upgrades add new features. Android 13, which recently came out for Google’s own Pixel phones, offers more privacy features, for example.

In addition, manufacturers must release at least five years worth of phone security patches. Unlike version updates, these updates don’t add new features, but they do improve security. The proposal states that manufacturers have two months to release a new security update.

Google releases a security patch for Android every month. It is then up to individual brands, such as Nokia and Samsung, to transfer this update to their own phones. It differs per smartphone and notice how quickly and when you get (security) updates.

In practice, especially new and expensive smartphones are regularly updated. Cheaper models fall behind and receive updates for less time or only sporadically. The European initiative law must put an end to this arbitrariness.

Easy to order spare parts

The EC also wants to make it easier to repair telephones. Manufacturers are therefore obliged to keep spare parts in stock for up to five years after the release of a smartphone. Think batteries, screens, charging ports and cameras.

At the moment it is often difficult or (too) expensive to buy spare parts. Consumers therefore often choose to simply buy a new phone, instead of repairing the old model. This is a waste of valuable raw materials in the old device.

Manufacturers face a choice

Speaking of batteries: Europe gives phone makers a choice. Either they must ensure that users can replace the battery of their smartphone themselves, or the durability must be increased.

Smartphone batteries would wear out too quickly. The EC guideline is that the battery capacity must still be at least 83 percent after 500 charges. For comparison: iPhones are designed so that after 500 charges, 80 percent of the capacity is left.

Every time you charge a phone battery, the total capacity decreases slightly. Over time, less power can be stored in the same battery and it has to be recharged sooner.

Fairphone 4

The market reacts

Manufacturers have not yet responded to the private member’s bill. Digital Europe, a European trade organization, does say that the law may lead to overproduction of (spare) parts. As a result, parts might still end up in the trash.

In January 2021, Xiaomi’s Dutch department already provided feedback on Europe’s broader sustainability plans. The manufacturer then announced that it is partly dependent on other companies for software updates and therefore does not have everything in its own hands.

Fairphone as a good example

The Dutch telephone manufacturer Fairphone has been focusing on making sustainable smartphones for some time. For example, all parts are produced fairly and customers can repair their phone themselves by ordering parts.

In addition, the company releases software updates for five years. Samsung also maintains this update policy for more and more smartphones.

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Source: Android Planet by

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