Android Intelligence Analysis

Android 12 Upgrade Report Card: What a weird year

When it comes to Android upgrades, all device-makers are definitely not equal. Time to hold the platform's most powerful players accountable.

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Android Upgrade Report Card (2022): Motorola — 3% F JR
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagships: Still waiting (0/60 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagships: Still waiting (0/30 points)
  • Communication: Poor (3/10 points)

Oh, Moto. It's become an all-too-familiar tale with Motorola and Android upgrades these days — and at this point, it's pretty easy to sum up:

The company is awful at 'em. It simply doesn't care. If you buy a Moto phone, you're gonna be waiting a good long while to get current software, if you ever get it — and you're gonna be waiting in the dark, too, with no meaningful communication from the company about what's going on or when you can expect to see something.

As of this moment (and as per usual), Motorola has yet to roll out a single Android 12 upgrade to any flagship phone in the U.S., where this analysis of ours is focused. Curiously enough, the company has sent out updates to a couple of its lower-priced Moto G models internationally, just over the past few weeks. That's something, but it isn't much — and it doesn't have any bearing on this particular analysis. (It probably also tells us a lot about Motorola's main focus these days in terms of customers and whatever level of support it's able to muster up.)

Moto did put out a list of phones it planned to update in late December, just before the holidays and more than two months after Android 12's arrival — albeit with no specific timing info or meaningful promises attached. So that's something, in terms of communication. But just barely.

It's enough to get Motorola a few points, though, leading to that appropriately pitiful-looking 3% F score.

Ah, how far the once-mighty have fallen.

Wait — what about everyone else?

Notice any names missing from this list? For the first time ever, long-time Android regular LG is absent from the roster, as the company bowed out of the phone-making game entirely in April and is no longer relevant. Hey, that's one less reliably failing score to have to track and report, at least! (And for the record, yes: If we were still including it in this analysis, by way of its lingering and still-current flagship models, it would be doing predictably poorly.)

HTC has also been off the grid since last year's Report Card, given the fact that it's barely even putting out new phones anymore — certainly not flagship-level devices. If the company ever comes back around and attempts to get in the game again at any point, I'll eagerly add it back into the list for inclusion.

And then there's Sony — a company a random reader will ask me about on occasion but that just doesn't make sense to include in this list right now. Sony has never had much of a meaningful presence in the U.S. smartphone market (which is a shame, really — but that's another story for another time), and in recent years, its role has dropped from "barely anything" to "virtually nothing."

I can't even begin to make head or tails of Sony's convoluted, confusingly named phone lineup anymore, but the company sent its first Android 12 upgrade out in January — just over three months after the software's release — and then sent updates to a handful of other devices a couple of months after that. It certainly wouldn't be topping the list if it were included in this analysis, but it'd be a nice addition to the middle-of-the-pack, C-range section if it had any meaningful U.S. presence.

And then there's Nokia. That company has a fairly limited presence in the U.S., but it had generally done a solid job of keeping its phones updated with both major and minor OS releases and with monthly security patches up until last year.

Despite the fact that Nokia had been the most prominent partner in the Android One effort — a Google-run program that includes an assurance of reasonably timely (if not Pixel-level) ongoing software updates — the company started dropping the ball entirely in the Android 11 upgrade cycle. Its phones no longer seem to have that Android One branding, and it's not entirely clear if the program is even still active.

Looking forward to next year, we could have a couple of attention-worthy new additions to consider. Both Nothing, a company formed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, and Osom, a company made up of former Essential employees, are promising new entries to the Android ecosystem in the later part of 2022.

Between those additions and the general upward momentum from most of the Android mainstays, it'll be interesting to see where things go from here.

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In detail: How these grades were calculated

This Android Upgrade Report Card follows the same grading system used with previous years' analyses — which features precise and clearly defined standards designed to weigh performance for both current and previous-generation flagship phones along with a company's communication efforts, all in a consistent manner.

Each manufacturer's overall grade is based on the following formula, with final scores being rounded up or down to the nearest full integer:

  • 60% of grade: Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagship phone(s)
  • 30% of grade: Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagship phone(s)
  • 10% of grade: Overall communication with customers throughout the upgrade process

Upgrade timing often varies wildly from one country or carrier to the next, so in order to create a consistent standard for scoring, I've focused this analysis on when Android 12 first reached a flagship model that's readily available in the U.S. — either a carrier-connected model or an unlocked version of the phone, if such a product is sold by the manufacturer and readily available to U.S. customers — in a public, official, and not opt-in-beta-oriented over-the-air rollout.

(To be clear, I'm not counting being able to import an international version of a phone from eBay or from some random seller on Amazon as being "readily available to U.S. customers." For the purposes of creating a reasonable and consistent standard for this analysis, a phone has to be sold in the U.S. in some official capacity in order to be considered a "U.S. model" of a device.)

By looking at the time to Android 12's first appearance (via an over-the-air rollout) on a device in the U.S., we're measuring how quickly a typical U.S. device-owner could realistically get the software in a normal situation. And since we're looking at the first appearance, in any unlocked or carrier-connected phone, we're eliminating any carrier-specific delays from the equation and focusing purely on the soonest possible window you could receive an update from any given manufacturer in this country. We're also eliminating the PR-focused silliness of a manufacturer rushing to roll out a small-scale upgrade in somewhere like Lithuania just so they can put out a press release touting that they were "FIRST," when the practical implication of such a rollout is basically just a rounding error. I chose to focus on the U.S. specifically because that's where this publication (and this person writing this right now — hi!) is based, but this same analysis could be done using any country as its basis, of course, and the results would vary accordingly.

All measurements start from the day Android 12 was released into the Android Open Source Project: October 4, 2021, which is when the final raw OS code finished uploading and became available to manufacturers.

The following scale determined each manufacturer's subscores for upgrade timeliness:

  • 1-14 days to first U.S. rollout = A+ (100)
  • 15-30 days to first U.S. rollout = A (96)
  • 31-45 days to first U.S. rollout = A- (92)
  • 46-60 days to first U.S. rollout = B+ (89)
  • 61-75 days to first U.S. rollout = B (86)
  • 76-90 days to first U.S. rollout = B- (82)
  • 91-105 days to first U.S. rollout = C+ (79)
  • 106-120 days to first U.S. rollout = C (76)
  • 121-135 days to first U.S. rollout = C- (72)
  • 136-150 days to first U.S. rollout = D+ (69)
  • 151-165 days to first U.S. rollout = D (66)
  • 166-180 days to first U.S. rollout = D- (62)
  • More than 180 days to first U.S. rollout (and thus no upgrade activity within the six-month window) = F (0)

There's just one asterisk: If a manufacturer outright abandons any U.S.-relevant models of a device, its score defaults to zero for that specific category. Within that category (be it current or previous-gen flagship), such behavior is an indication that the manufacturer in question could not be trusted to honor its commitment and provide an upgrade. This adjustment allows the score to better reflect that reality. No such adjustments were made this year, though there have been instances where it's happened in the past (hello, Moto!).

Last but not least, this analysis focuses on manufacturers selling flagship phones that are relevant and in some way significant to the U.S. market and/or the Android enthusiast community. That, as I alluded to above, is why a company like Sony is no longer part of the primary analysis — and why companies like Xiaomi and Huawei are not presently part of this picture, despite their relevance in other parts of the world. Considering the performance of players in a market such as China would certainly be interesting, but it'd be a completely different and totally separate analysis, and it's beyond the scope of what we're considering in this one report.

Aside from the companies included here, most players are either still relatively insignificant in the U.S. market or have focused their efforts more on the budget realm in the States so far — and thus don't make sense, at least as of now, to include in this specific-sample-oriented and flagship-focused breakdown.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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