Android Intelligence Analysis

Android 13 Upgrade Report Card: Surprise!

When it comes to Android upgrades, all device-makers are absolutely not equal — and this year's data brings one commonly held perception into question.

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Motorola

Android 13 Upgrade: Motorola (F, 1%) JR
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagships: Still waiting (0/50 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagships: Still waiting (0/25 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach two-cycles-back flagships: Still waiting (0/15 points)
  • Communication: Poor (1/10 points)

I'm running out of creative ways to say this: Motorola simply does not care about updates. It makes little to no effort to support its customers with reasonably up-to-date software after a purchase has been made, and we see the same exact story year after year. After year.

As of this moment (and as per usual), Motorola has yet to roll out a single Android 13 upgrade to any flagship phone in the US — or anywhere, for that matter. Motorola's message here has been painfully consistent over the past several years: 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 any progress.

On the latter front, back in December, the company provided a super-vague list of which devices should be getting the software sometime "in early 2023," as part of a scattered series of responses to questions in its user forum — not much of a widespread update, really, and not much in the way of meaningful information. It's something, in terms of communication. But just barely.

It's enough to get Motorola a single barely-there-effort point, though, leading to that appropriately pitiful-looking 1% F score.

Such a disappointing devolution for a once-mighty Android contender.

Wait — what about everyone else?

Notice any names missing from this list? For the second year now, long-time Android regular LG is absent from the roster, as the company bowed out of the phone-making game entirely in 2021 and is no longer relevant. Hey, that's one less reliably failing score 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-technically-supported flagship models, it would be doing predictably poorly.)

HTC has been off the grid since 2021'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 US smartphone market (which is a shame, really — but that's another story for another time), and in recent years, its role in the US mobile market 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 out the bulk of its Android 13 upgrades out in mid-December —  some120 days after the software's launch. It certainly wouldn't be topping the list if it were included in this analysis, but it'd be another addition to the middle-of-the-pack, C-range section if it had any meaningful US presence.

What about Nokia? That company has a fairly limited presence in the US, 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 2021, when Google's Android One program started quietly falling apart. These days, Nokia's taking its good sweet time to get current software onto its devices, and even if it were included in this analysis, it wouldn't be a great result.

Last but not least, there's Nothing — the hype-loving small-scale phone-maker from OnePlus founder Carl Pei. Nothing hasn't released a phone in the US yet, but even if it had, the company has done (ahem) precisely nothing in terms of Android 13 rollouts as of this moment, so it'd be sitting with a big fat donut-shaped oval at the bottom of the list.

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In detail: How these grades were calculated

This Android Upgrade Report Card follows an evolved version of 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 and completely objective 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:

  • 50% of grade: Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagship phone(s)
  • 25% of grade: Length of time for upgrade to reach most immediate previous-gen flagship phone(s)
  • 15% of grade: Length of time for upgrade to reach two-cycles-back previous-gen flagship phone(s)
  • 10% of grade: Overall communication with customers throughout the upgrade process

Notably, this analysis marks the first time the formula has been expanded to account for flagship phones that are two generations back in addition to the most recent previous-gen models. With the de facto standard support window now reaching a minimum of three years, it makes sense to see how different device-makers are actually doing when it comes to supporting those even older models — as a promise of support alone only means so much. How long it actually takes for those phones to receive updates is equally important. And the scores here now reflect that, extending further into a phone's lifespan.

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 13 first reached a flagship model that's readily available in the US — 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 US 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 US customers." For the purposes of creating a reasonable and consistent standard for this analysis, a phone has to be sold in the US in some official capacity in order to be considered a "US model" of a device.)

By looking at the time to Android 13's first appearance (via an over-the-air rollout) on a device in the US, we're measuring how quickly a typical US 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 US 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 13 was released into the Android Open Source Project: August 15, 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 US rollout = A+ (100)
  • 15-30 days to first US rollout = A (96)
  • 31-45 days to first US rollout = A- (92)
  • 46-60 days to first US rollout = B+ (89)
  • 61-75 days to first US rollout = B (86)
  • 76-90 days to first US rollout = B- (82)
  • 91-105 days to first US rollout = C+ (79)
  • 106-120 days to first US rollout = C (76)
  • 121-135 days to first US rollout = C- (72)
  • 136-150 days to first US rollout = D+ (69)
  • 151-165 days to first US rollout = D (66)
  • 166-180 days to first US rollout = D- (62)
  • More than 180 days to first US rollout (and thus no upgrade activity within the six-month window) = F (0)

There's just one asterisk: If a manufacturer outright abandons any US-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 US 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 US 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 © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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