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Navigating Longevity: The Debate Over Extended Software Support in Smartphones

As technology evolves, so do our expectations for the longevity of our devices. With the recent announcements from major players in the smartphone market regarding extended software support, a debate has sparked over the true value of these promises.

Google set a new standard with its Pixel 8, boasting a seven-year commitment to OS and security patches. Samsung quickly followed suit with its Galaxy S24 series, also promising seven years of updates. However, OnePlus diverged from this trend with its OnePlus 12, adhering to a five-year update policy, raising questions about the significance of extended software support.

OnePlus President and COO Kinder Liu likened the concept of seven-year updates to adding fresh filling to an old, moldy sandwich. He argued that while the idea may sound appealing, it does not address potential issues with the phone’s overall user experience, which may deteriorate over time.

In contrast, Fairphone, recognized for its sustainable and repairable smartphones, emphasized the importance of a repair-friendly design alongside extended software support. Miquel Ballester, Fairphone’s co-founder, stressed that non-repairable devices are not an excuse for mediocre software support commitments. He advocated for a shift towards more repairable designs, allowing consumers to replace components like batteries when necessary.

Both perspectives hold weight. While a smartphone may receive updates for an extended period, its usability can be compromised by factors such as hardware limitations and battery degradation. The Pixel 8, for instance, may continue to receive updates until 2030, but issues with its chipset and modem could impact its performance over time. On the other hand, smartphones like the Galaxy S24 Ultra, equipped with cutting-edge internals, may better withstand the test of time.

Ultimately, extended software support offers consumers the opportunity to prolong the lifespan of their devices. However, this must be complemented by advancements in smartphone design to ensure a seamless and sustainable user experience.

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