While the Android ecosystem as a whole has improved in terms of long-term support and speed of updates, European lawmakers are now pushing for an established standard for Android updates that just happens to reflect this. that Google offers on the Pixel 6.
A draft regulation currently on the table in the EU is seeking to establish “ecodesign requirements for mobile phones, cordless phones and slate tablets”. The inspiration for the regulations comes from the rate at which smartphones and similar devices are being abandoned by buyers, which can often lead to e-waste.
According to the Commission’s conclusions regarding this new regulation, extending the life of these devices from the current 2-3 years to five years would be equivalent to taking up to five million cars off the road.
How does this regulation intend to push towards this objective? First, by establishing a minimum duration for software updates. For an Android phone, that would apparently be three years of major updates (i.e. Android 13, 14, etc.) and five years of security patches, at least for devices sold in the EU. This would certainly be a huge boost for the Android world, as the current lifespan of many devices is well below this timeline.
Google’s Pixel 6 exactly matches the requirements offered by the EU, but it wasn’t always that way. Previously, Google only offered three years of updates in total, including security patches. Samsung is offering four years of major updates and five years of security patches, but it’s not a consistent deal – the company’s most affordable devices often get shorter support lifetimes and less frequent updates. Meanwhile, brands such as OnePlus are known for devices almost abandoned after just one major updateand there is many low-budget devices that don’t have a set schedule for receiving updates.
Beyond just extended software support, the EU is also pushing brands to offer spare parts and service for at least five years after a device goes on sale. As Ars-Technica points out that these “professional” repair services would also have access to the battery, screen, camera, charging port, buttons, microphones, speakers and hinges for the foldable devices.
The battery proposal is perhaps even more interesting. The project offers manufacturers the choice of meeting strict standards for battery longevity or bringing back easily replaceable batteries like many older Android phones on offer.
Batteries that meet EU requirements should retain at least 83% of their rated capacity after 500 charge cycles and 80% after 1000 cycles. Apple complaints iPhone batteries retain around 80% of their rated capacity after 500 charge cycles, but more and more Android makers are making no such claims. OnePlus claims the OnePlus 10T can retain 80% capacity at 1,600 charging cycle.
The EU lobbied for long-term support for smartphones in several ways before this current proposal. Recently, USB-C has been make a demand in all smartphones from 2024, and Germany was even push last year for smartphones to be supported for seven years after launch.
Still, it would take some time before this proposal could actually come to fruition. Feedback will be considered until September 28, with potential adoption as early as Q4 and a year-long wait before anything actually takes effect. If this were to come into effect in the EU, it would likely extend to many devices sold globally.
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