OnePlus 10 Pro 3

OnePlus made the right move with its new update policy, but we still have a long way to go

Earlier this week, OnePlus surprised the Android world when it announced a new update schedule for the device. Starting next year, select smartphones will get four — count it, four Major OS upgrades, along with five years of security patches. It’s excellent PR for a company, but unfortunately, the devil is in the details about this company. A closer look at the announcement proves that OnePlus is still behind the times, albeit half a step ahead of Google.

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limitations of the jump

Really, all of the issues OnePlus has here boil down to specific restrictions built into this policy, and it starts with the hardware. The company makes a lot of phones these days, especially compared to the early years of its existence. In addition to its flagship lineup, there’s the India-focused R series, the China-focused Ace series, and an endless array of Nord phones that seem to arrive quite often, and there’s a new phone every couple of months. That’s so many devices, you might not even have noticed that the R series and Ace series are effectively the same.

Despite this wide variety, OnePlus is only applying its new update commitment to “select” which phones will launch in 2023 and beyond. The company’s choice of words — along with its previous rules applying exclusively to flagship phones — largely indicates that the Nord series is falling behind completely, presumably stuck in the previous iteration of that policy. Frankly, this is not acceptable. While it may seem unfair to keep OnePlus to its highest standards on all of its phones, we’ve seen Samsung and Google provide their mid-range devices with years of support. There’s plenty of room for improvement here, especially considering how good the Nord series is these days.

OnePlus N20 5G review (8)

OnePlus Nord N20, one of our favorite budget phones of 2022, won’t see an update guarantee until close to this

It’s all about timing

Let’s talk frequency. On the other hand, OnePlus sticks to bi-monthly patches, providing users with new releases every month. Really, there’s no reason to skip updates, especially when mobile security and bug fixes alike are more important than ever. OnePlus should provide its fan base with regular patches, just as Google and Samsung do.

Likewise, there are plenty of reasons to worry about how quickly OnePlus can handle these OS upgrades. Credit where credit is due: The rollout of Android 13 was pretty amazing. The OnePlus 10 Pro received an update this year before any of Samsung’s flagship phones, with the 10T, 9, and 8 series taking over, all during October and November. That speed was unlike anything the company had managed over the past several years, and it even avoided some of the bugs that plagued previous update cycles, but I’m not confident it’ll stay that way.

Android 13 review hero

Not exactly a revolutionary upgrade.

Anyone who’s ever rocked a Pixel phone will be quick to tell you that Android 13, while certainly an excellent upgrade in its own right, didn’t completely reinvent smartphones as we know them. This has been a ‘toke’ year, cleaning up some of the mess left behind by Android 12 with a focus on behind-the-scenes changes like security and privacy. It remains to be seen if OnePlus will be able to handle the larger changes to the platform brought about by future releases, and I’m still not currently willing to give its developers the benefit of the doubt.

And that all puts aside the more controversial changes surrounding the current state of OxygenOS. While not necessarily related to this policy, OxygenOS’ “Colorfication” continues to shine in its latest iteration. Although the two platforms were never officially merged, their shared database means we’ll only continue to see more changes implemented on the Android platform, which means more development time during each OS cycle.

Better silver lining than Google

Having said that, I don’t want to run into the company too hard. Despite these complaints—which, again, desperately need to be addressed—I think it’s worth giving the sweeping changes a fair amount of praise. After all, with this move OnePlus is, in general, beating Google at its own game.

Google Pixel 7 review 13

Despite being a Google phone, the Pixel 7 will likely see fewer updates than the OnePlus 11 next year.

While the frequency, stability, and timing of updates need some serious work, four OS upgrades are one more than Google itself provides for its latest lineup of Pixel phones. If anything, the new commitment OnePlus made this week should show that the company behind Android needs to gain serious ground in this area. With Samsung and OnePlus now promising a longer update life, five years of security patches alone won’t kill it anymore. Certainly, frequency and device support remain at the highest level in the Google world. But Pixel owners deserve as many upgrades as anyone with a Galaxy S22 or, in a few short months, the OnePlus 11.