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.
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.
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.Advertisement