What with the planet burning and sustainability becoming more of a selling point as well as a necessity, both Google and Samsung have begun to pledge seven years of software updates with their flagship phones. 

Unless you’re addicted to the bi-annual phone contract upgrade game, you probably think that’s a good thing. The Chinese manufacturer OnePlus isn’t convinced, however, suggesting that the pledge “completely misses the point” — and not because it eclipses it’s more conservative offering (four years of Android updates and five years of security patches for its flagship OnePlus 12; one less for the cheaper OnePlus 12R). 

That little insight comes from Tom’s Guide, which interviewed OnePlus president Kinder Liu. Here’s the full quote which – fair warning – contains a slightly tenuous sandwich analogy.

“Simply offering longer software update policies completely misses the point,” he said. “It’s not just software update policies that are important to the user, it’s the fluency of your phone’s user experience too.

“Imagine your phone is a sandwich,” he continued, in words which literally may never have been uttered in that order before. “Some manufacturers are now saying that the filling in their sandwich — their phone’s software — will still be good to eat in seven years’ time. But what they’re not telling you is that the bread in the sandwich — the user experience — might be mouldy after four years.

“Suddenly a seven-year software update policy doesn’t matter, because the rest of your experience with the phone is terrible.”

Although you could paint that as a handy excuse to not support phones after a certain time (software updates are expensive – especially if you need to make sure they work across dozens of handsets), it’s actually a reasonable point. Samsung, Google et al are promising that their phones will work in 2030, but not that they’ll work well. If the experience is lousy, is the promise even worth making?

That said, saying that truth out loud is risky. Not just because it makes you look like you don’t care about sustainability, but because it’s a tacit acceptance that the ~NZ$1,500 handset you’re buying today will be unpleasant to use before the decade is out.

In the case of OnePlus, it’s kind of a moot point for Kiwis anyway. The company doesn’t sell directly in New Zealand, and few will bother to import the latest handsets. All the same, it’s an interesting perspective on whether companies competing on support longevity are battling over something that’s ultimately entirely pointless.

Alan Martin
Alan is an experienced and versatile writer with the unique distinction of having written for both The New Statesman and Nuts. The list of publications Alan has written for doesn't stop there. His work has also been published in: Wired, CNET, Gizmodo UK, ShortList, NME, TechRadar, The i, The Independent, The Evening Standard, City Metric, Macworld, Pocket Gamer, Expert Reviews, Coach, The Inquirer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Tom's Guide, T3, PC Pro, IT Pro, Ideal Home, Livingetc, Stuff, Business Insider, theBit, Wareable, and Trusted Reviews. Alan now covers a range of subjects for ReviewsFire, with a focus on news - his unique style of covering technology news is a key part of ReviewsFire's success.

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