Germany is pushing phone makers to offer at least 7 years of updates

The European Commission recently proposed an extension to the support cycle of Android and iOS devices. They've requested a minimum period of five years of updates. Germany's Federal Government is now pushing for this period to be extended to seven years instead.

Most Android smartphones receive security and software updates for about two to three years before users are urged to buy new devices. And while Google and Samsung are trying to release these updates more frequently, there are times when these updates can be quite delayed. Apple sometimes provides updates more regularly for a slightly more extended period. However, neither provides support for up to five or even seven years.

This move from the EU to extend the support period to five years is meant to help the environment by keeping your phone for a longer period. Research has shown that extending the smartphone lifespan by even one year can save as much carbon emissions as removing two million cars off the road.

Germany is pushing phone makers to offer at least 7 years of updates

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If we remove the environmental reason for this request for a moment, we can consider the security implications. Setting a longer period for security and software updates can heavily bolster mobile security. According to StatCounter's August 2021 usage share data, slightly more than 40% of Android users run 9.0 Pie or older on their smartphones. This is a substantial number of people who are now vulnerable to attacks because their phones no longer receive the relevant security patches.

However, the EU and now the German Federal Government's proposals are not being met with a lot of enthusiasm. DigitalEurope, which consists of Apple, Samsung, and Google, is actively arguing against both the EU and German proposals. While Apple usually releases about five years' worth of updates, Google Android devices are generally closer to 2.5 years of updates. Even Samsung only agreed to four years' worth of updates at the beginning of 2021.

DigitalEurope is actively pushing for less strict requirements. Among other things, they want to cap software updates at three years and require that only batteries and screens be sold as parts instead of providing camera modules and other spare parts as well.

The EU's proposal to include support, security, and software updates for five years will take effect in 2023. We will have to monitor the situation to see if it will be five or seven years in the end or if DigitalEurope gets some leniency on these proposed extensions.

Closing words

This new requirement for phone makers to provide at least five years worth of security and software updates can mean that you can keep your phone for much longer. This, in turn, can have significant benefits for mobile security and the environment. It remains to be seen for how long the period will be extended, and I look forward to seeing how this matter unfolds.

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Germany is pushing phone makers to offer at least 7 years of updates
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Germany is pushing phone makers to offer at least 7 years of updates
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Germany's Federal Government is pushing for the five-year update cycle to be extended to seven years instead.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. xa said on September 6, 2021 at 2:50 pm
    Reply

    Sick and tired of the greed (or laziness). Maintenance has long been a state of disgrace, so i’m definitely all for this. Hopefully this will be a trend in more European countries.

  2. EU reader said on September 6, 2021 at 2:59 pm
    Reply

    I hope this goes through at least for security updates.

    Phone makers deliberately stop shipping software updates early to convince people to buy a new handset but not everyone can afford to do this, as a result the most vulnerable preponderantly end up with insecure devices, ripe for exploitation.

  3. just an Ed said on September 6, 2021 at 3:10 pm
    Reply

    These tech companies are now the digital equivalent of drug pushers. Many people can’t NOT look at their phones any more, even when walking down the street. They want nothing to be repairable, and the modern consumer lemmings are so caught up in “the latest and greatest” craze they don’t even care. Modern society will be lost the next time we have a Carrington-style event.

  4. Mike said on September 6, 2021 at 4:38 pm
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    This is a good idea and I am all for it, but there should be a different expectation of the support length on a $200 phone vs a $1,000 phone. And I say that as someone who will never pay more than $200 for any phone.

    Maybe a good formula would be, for every $100 you tack onto the price of the phone, you get another year of support? Expecting 10 years of updates on a $1,000 phone is no more unreasonable than the phone costing $1,000 in the first place.

    1. Peterc said on September 6, 2021 at 9:18 pm
      Reply

      @Mike: The great majority of cell phones in use in the world are of the less expensive variety. Leaving aside issues of consumer protection (unnecessary planned obsolescence), “herd security” (e.g., worms), and screwing over the less well-off (“You didn’t buy one of our really expensive phones, so we’re going to make you buy a new one every two or three years”), one of the goals of mandating extended support for cell phones (and an extensive right to repair) is to reduce electronic waste and the need for new supplies of rare-earth metals, the mining of which has led to bloody armed conflicts in central Africa and frequently involves quasi-slave child labor. I’m in favor of making extended support an across-the-board requirement. If it’s not *that much* extra work to adapt flagship-phone updates to stripped-down phones (which I strongly suspect it isn’t), exempting cheaper phones or mandating shorter support periods for them is simply allowing manufacturers to continue running planned-obsolescence scams on the less well-off.

  5. GSM said on September 6, 2021 at 4:48 pm
    Reply

    This is a welcome development. You know, 3 years pass really fast and then your NOT OLD phone is all of a sudden obsolete. Annoying. You took good care of it, not a scratch on it and the battery is still good, everything works flawless on your 600 euro phone that you saved up to for quite some time to be able to afford since you are not born with a silver spoon up your arse, but nope. OLD GARBAGE. Don’t you dare show your face in public using that OLD USELESS PIECE OF SHITE. Also, many manufacturers have stopped allowing unlocking of bootloaders so today there are not as many models that you can install a custom ROM on as compared to a few years ago. Maybe we need a rethink here.. WHAT exactly is it that’s dangerous and unsafe? Googles android system, that’s what it is. Ok, what’s the risk? You could lose your accounts because your passwords got stolen, your nude butt pics you keep on your phone were never really safe there anyway so that’s your problem really. In the end, the user is not to blame here but the user gets to pay all the bills. Android is a leaking disaster and if you use a PHONE for all your banking etc etc.. well, then you must buy a new phone every 3 years..and STILL your passwords and nude butt pics aren’t safe =) Let’s face it: people are vain, jealous and stupid to no extent – Buying a new phone to show off is basically like brushing your teeth in the morning these days. Who cares about this months rent or food for the kids and the dogs, the new iPhone’s out! ..we all deserve a big fist to the face.

  6. Iron Heart said on September 6, 2021 at 4:50 pm
    Reply

    I am sorry to sound harsh but this is nothing but a PR move.
    The people that has offered this “7 year update” idea are the same people that has been in charge in Germany for the last 20 years. If they had the intention to actually make this happen, they would have had done it already. Offering this law 20 days before the election smells like nothing but a PR move.

    1. Iron Heart said on September 7, 2021 at 4:51 pm
      Reply

      Stop stealing the nickname of other people.

      Yours sincerely,

      the real Iron Heart

      1. Iron Heart said on September 8, 2021 at 12:09 am
        Reply

        Did you copyright it or?

  7. ChromeFan said on September 6, 2021 at 6:48 pm
    Reply

    Your average person does not care about updates. They hate updates. Apart from a small group (really small) of technology nerds who does this benefit? German government looking for PR points.

  8. Anonymous said on September 6, 2021 at 9:13 pm
    Reply

    Good. There is no reason to buy a new phone every year for minor changes. This is what these tech companies want and stupid people will continue to do.

  9. ahljonia said on September 6, 2021 at 10:28 pm
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    then Angela Merkel paid the cloud software support of everyone smartphone German citizen.

  10. Anonymous said on September 6, 2021 at 10:44 pm
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    Thank you EU but we are going to pay the new increased prices, not you. iPhone prices will go even higher and the cheapest android phone will start at 400 euros eventually with your suggestions. Now people can buy cheap Android at 100 euros and have them for 7 years without caring about updates. But EU and Germany have money, poor countries in EU exist dear EU in case you don’t know it.

  11. ULBoom said on September 7, 2021 at 1:09 am
    Reply

    I just replaced a five year old phone that still worked OK but the display was kinda awful compared to today’s. I can’t see my new phone being as “old” in five years. Lots of things improved over the life of my old phone but not much really new has happened lately.

    My use is fairly simple, mostly different modes of communication, a few simple games. Everything’s faster and looks much better. My old phone had one update, Android 5 to 5.1. The new one’s supposed to have at least three years of updates. Given my needs, five or seven years would be better. Since Mr. Google made it, could be that will happen anyway.

  12. Greg said on September 7, 2021 at 7:09 am
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    totally agree with this, you’ll find a lot more phone users will stay with older phones than go out an buy a new one when there isnt much at all thats new Hardware wise compared to there old phone. i still have heaps of Storage space left in my crappy Galaxy A70 an im not a huge fan of taking photo’s, i dont care for Camera. at the end of the day all i want is a phone that will do 5G, hopefully the Galaxy A52s is released soon.

  13. Anonymous said on September 7, 2021 at 10:09 am
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    “This move from the EU to extend the support period to five years is meant to help the environment by keeping your phone for a longer period.”

    Planned obsolescence is not only bad for the environment. It’s first about capitalists needlessly destroying products just to make us work needlessly at producing replacements to extract more profit from us. It would still be a huge economic problem even if there was no environmental issue involved. But capitalists admitting this would be conceding that our work should be organized for our needs instead of wasted for their profit so this won’t happen.

  14. Clairvaux said on September 7, 2021 at 6:32 pm
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    I bought one smartphone, and I’ll keep it as long as it does not fall apart. The battery is replaceable. I only charge it through slow, low-power, ordinary USB. I keep the charge between 30 % and 80 %. The default state of the phone is off. I only power it when I need it, that is seldom.

    It does not get updates anymore. That’s too bad, but I’m not going to change it just because of that. Just the way I’m not going to change my home-built, Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2003 computer before a long time.

  15. Dirgster said on September 7, 2021 at 10:47 pm
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    After six years, I am still using my Galaxy Note 3 that is in perfect condition and works well. Now, my service provider is pushing me to purchase a new phone because of their switching to 5G, and my “outdated” phone won’t be working anymore after the switch. I’m very disappointed to retire my current phone and dislike to have to spend money to purchase a new one. And so it goes…

  16. Farmers said on September 9, 2021 at 10:53 am
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    To be fair, a great many people have no idea about software updates anyway, let alone that their phone has stopped receiving them. They will quite happily continue using their phone till it basically packs up or they drop it down the toilet or something, and certainly won’t go looking for updates. Only the tech community and a few other bright sparks really pay any attention to updates.

    1. burpy said on September 25, 2021 at 10:15 am
      Reply

      @Farmers

      You are wrong. Perhaps this anecdotal view of yours comes from being surrounded by “a great many” of idiots? If so, I suggest you migrate to where people are at least cognizant.

  17. Sammy said on September 17, 2021 at 2:26 pm
    Reply

    Umm “However, neither provides support for up to /five/ or even seven years.”

    iPhone 6S First released: September 25, 2015

    That was five years ago and its still getting the latest, even the upcoming iOS 15.

    So that statement is partly false.

    1. Tiga said on September 17, 2021 at 4:51 pm
      Reply

      Apple recently had a fraud case over having new updates slow down old phones. They whined about “battery saving” but thankfully the judge wasn’t buying it

  18. Tiga said on September 17, 2021 at 4:49 pm
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    Big props!

    I just wish this had been passed 10 years ago when phones still had some semblance of build quality

  19. fake plastic sporks said on September 25, 2021 at 9:46 am
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    What’s even worse, is that many unwitting people buy older Android smartphones that only have a year or less of support on them, that likely can’t be updated.

    Not to single any company out, but for example, in the USA, Mint Mobile sells LG Android 9 phones as “New”, yet “Google plans to officially retire Android 9 in the fall of 2021” which is now. Hmm.

    I still like Mint Mobile, and I’m a customer, but buyer beware when buying a smartphone from any source. I bought a cheap Android 10 phone from them early last year for around $120, and I’m very satisfied.

    That said, instead of a smartphone, I used to use a dumb phone and a mini laptop, which worked great for 10+ years. I just might go back to such a thing, that is if I have to pay $200+ for a smartphone that’s only supported for 3 years max.

  20. Hop said on September 26, 2021 at 6:22 pm
    Reply

    Unfortunately is not just that. We also need better, easier ways to change the battery. After 2 years, the battery doesn’t hold a charge as it should, the difference is really noticeable. Love the years when the battery was removable and it was really easy. Right now, everything is glued, you have to use the right tools, and glue it back which is really annoying.

    1. kinks said on September 30, 2021 at 3:57 am
      Reply

      > Right now, everything is glued

      Not true. I own a new, cheap Android phone with a replaceable battery. The case simply opens without any tools.

      > After 2 years, the battery doesn’t hold a charge as it should, the difference is really noticeable

      All batteries degrade over time. If you buy a phone with a big battery, then that’s as good as it gets. But if you buy a phone with a small battery that you complain about after 2 years, then that’s your mistake.

      Looks to me that you bought the wrong phone, which is a big part of OUR problem.

      If we keep buying trash, they will keep selling us trash.

      That said, I like the idea of the EU pushing this agenda, as there are far too many idiot customers out there who keep supporting such companies with their mindless purchases.

  21. EU fanboy said on September 30, 2021 at 4:09 am
    Reply

    All smartphones should last forever and be free.

    1. Friar Tux said on October 2, 2021 at 2:22 am
      Reply

      I agree that phones should be built to last. If they break they should be REPLACED for free. I don’t agree that the originally purchased phone should be free. To buy it is your choice. How long it lasts is the choice of the manufacturer. Manufacturers should be heavily fined (or even shut down) if their product consistently breaks down within the first ten years – this should include any and all products – not just cell phones. (I’m 69 years old and can remember when products lasted almost forever. We still use a working iron from the 1950s, and a regularly used sewing machine from 1960s. I still have, use tools from the 1970s.)

  22. Friar Tux said on October 2, 2021 at 2:03 am
    Reply

    I totally agree with the 7 years policy. I would even add one more clause to it. That when you eventually HAVE to get a new phone, if you get it from the same brand, you should get 90% of the price of the old phone back or as credit toward the new phone. Spending $300.00 to $1000.00 on a new phone every seven years is robbery on the part of the phone companies. (This is why I refuse to own a cell phone (I still use a land line because of it). But that’s my personal choice.)

  23. Brennan said on October 9, 2021 at 10:09 am
    Reply

    This is great to offer 7 years of updates so people don’t have to buy a new phone every time a new one comes out every year. Tech companies should not be forcing people to buy the latest phone just to stay up to date on the latest Android or iOS. I hope this applies in the USA as well too.

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