Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the word which is followed by the iOS from Apple, Windows for Mobile from Microsoft, Ubuntu for mobile, and more. Due to the openness (open source) of Android system, meaning the source code can be used and modified by anyone to create a Custom ROM, Android can run on almost any piece of hardware. It can even support the Rasberry Pi. Moreover, AOSP releases new sources every month in support of the Android operating system. These sources are then used by third-party manufacturers to compile and roll out Android updates for their particular Android phones in the form of stock firmware OTA.
We keep track of most of the updates and have listed the manufacturers who frequently release Android updates. We have taken into consideration the latest Android version like Nougat, Marshmallow as well as the minor security patches and bug fix OTAs.
Usually, the software update support from most of the smartphone manufacturers lasts not more than 2-3 years. Meaning a smartphone company would release Android updates only for 2-3 years for a particular smartphone. Later they are abandoned and support their new devices. Taking this into consideration we have created a list of top five mobile phone manufacturers who release Android OTA updates regularly.
Of course, this is our first and obvious choice. Google owns Android. All the company’s directly supported mobile phones including the new Google Pixel (XL) and the Nexus range receive the latest Android updates before any other phone in the market. Google phones receive monthly security patch updates over-the-air and hence, the customers experience the latest Android firmware on their devices. Not just security updates, but the Nexus and Pixel phones experience the latest Android versions like 7.1.1 Nougat before any phone.
The most recent update released by Google is the December 1, 2016, security patch update based on latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat for Google Pixel (XL), Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, 6, 9, Pixel C, Player, and much more. The Nexus 5 and 4 have been abandoned. Moreover, January 1, 2017, update is on its way and will be available on the third of next year.
Google actually doesn’t have any hardware manufacturing unit. All the hardware is contracted to third-party manufacturers like HTC, LG, Motorola. However, it does own the Android OS and that’s what matters.
The only problem with Samsung smartphones is that there are too many of them and releasing an update for each and every Android phone has become unbearable to their development team. Mostly, the recent flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7, Note 5, S6, etc receive the latest Android upgrades like Android 7.0 Nougat or Marshmallow. Other mid-range smartphones like the Galaxy J5 and the A8/A9 series smartphone has no new for the Nougat update any soon.
One of the marketing tricks Samsung Mobile uses is that they launch mid-range smartphones like J5 & J7 with the latest Android versions currently available at the time of their launch and later these devices see no further updates for years.
However, the Samsung phones do receive some minor bug fixes and security patches on a regular basis. But its more frequent with the top Galaxy range. Some of the regularly updated phones include Samsung Galaxy S7, Note 5, Note 4, Galaxy S6 (Edge), S5.
Moreover, Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge is already running the Android 7.0 Nougat. Although beta, but it’s something. Once the beta gets stable, we shall receive the full stock firmware file.
Lately, Samsung has been working hard on releasing the latest security updates every month to many of its phones.
Unlike Xiaomi and Samsung, OnePlus has a very limited range of Android phones. Hence, it gets quite easy for their software development team to compile and release the latest Android firmware upgrades for all their phones. All their devices are running on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow or later, while some of them on Nougat Beta.
OnePlus has proved to be a tough competitor to other smartphone manufacturers, especially those manufacturing Android phones. The China-based company has been able to gather a lot of customers/community due to its “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” quality hardware specifications and not to forget, the breath taking sweet Oxygen OS.
Moreover, their current flagship phones OnePlus 3 has already received the Android 7.0 Nougat with Open Beta 9 (Oxygen OS 4.0+). The OnePlus 3T shall directly receive the stable version Nougat once the Oxygen OS is out of Beta for the OnePlus 3.
Meanwhile, OnePlus has not abandoned the support for OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X. The OP 2 now runs on Oxygen OS 3.5.5 with VOLTE support and the OPX shall soon see another update.
Also read: Best custom ROMS for OnePlus 3
Most of the manufacturers are now getting into releasing the Beta version of Android 7.0 Nougat OS. Just like Samsung, OnePlus, Motorola, Huawei has also released a Beta Android 7.0 Nougat for the flagship phone Huawei P9 (Plus), P8, P8 Lite, P9 Lite, Honor 8 with a new EMUI 5.0 firmware build.
Huawei has a plethora of smartphone range just like Samsung. However, the manufacturer manages to keep its customers happy by pushing frequent OTA updates for almost all of its currently supported devices. Even the older smartphones like Huawei P8, P8 Lite, Honor 6, 4X, Mate 8, etc. have seen many updates.
Motorola firmware is very close to the stock AOSP. Hence, it gets quite easy for the company to release the latest Android versions for their phones. Motorola mostly launches budget smartphones like Moto G4 (Plus), Moto Z, etc. Now, the manufacturer has released the Nougat update for Moto X and Moto G4 under soak test.
For a major electronic company, Motorola also maintains a limited range of smartphones.
Other manufacturers who are struggling at rolling out Android updates
All the credit for the Xiaomi‘s popularity goes to the astounding MIUI ROM. MIUI, just like CyanogenMod, is one of the most popular third-party custom ROM that support many Android devices. Most importantly, the Xiaomi smartphones as MIUI ROM comes in stock with all the manufacturer’s devices. The MIUI 8 has become quite popular lately due to its colorful UX. However, the ROM has not yet seen the latest Android 7.1 Nougat update. It is still based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.
LG keeps the tradition of launching new smartphones with the latest Android version very first in line. For instance, LG G3 was released with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, the LG G5 was launched with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, etc. However, LG has failed to keep up with the updates. The G5, G4, G3 has not seen any update since long. They are still stuck on Marshmallow. Now, the manufacturer is looking forward to releasing LG G6 with latest Nougat version.
If you are into modifying, customizing or tinkering with your Android phone then the official updates should not bother you as you can try new custom ROMS like CyanogenMod 14.1, Resurrection Remix easily and get your device to latest updates unofficially. There are TWRP and root methods available for most of the Android phones. The only thing we recommend taking into consideration while buying an Android phone is to check the unofficial or developer support for the device. That way, developers can compile and release latest Android firmware with many customization options. You can also find many custom ROMS and mods for your Android device.
However, different manufacturers build their own user interface on top of stock Android system. So if you like all the official updates then you might as well stick with any manufacturer listed above or to be on save side go with Google phones to receive monthly updates and also stable ones.