One of the primary selling points for Google’s Pixel phones is that they get monthly security updates and new Android versions for three years. The original Pixel phones launched in 2016, and that means they’ve hit their end of life. Google released new monthly patches for its phones yesterday, and indeed, the 2016 Pixels were left out. However, Google will offer owners of those devices one final OTA as a farewell.
The launch of the Pixel and Pixel XL in 2016 marked a major shift for Google’s phone strategy. In the past, it focused on promoting new versions of Android with a powerful but low-cost piece of “Nexus” hardware manufactured by an established smartphone OEM. Over the years, it partnered with HTC, Samsung, LG, Asus, Motorola, and Huawei to make Nexus devices. The 2016 Pixels might have been manufactured by HTC, but you’d never know from looking at them. These were the first truly Google-branded smartphones.
When it launched the original Pixels, Google only promised two years of major OS updates. More recent phones are guaranteed three years of support for the OS version and security updates. So, Google has already gone above and beyond by offering an update to Android 10 on the 2016 Pixels. However, the monthly updates are arguably more important as they keep devices safe from new online threats that cannot be patched in other ways.
Some owners of the original Pixel have expressed annoyance that Google would update the devices to the new OS and then immediately end support. After all, any major OS update is bound to have some bugs. Well, there’s still some hope that Google will leave these devices in a good place. The company will push one more update to the phones in December, hopefully giving it a chance to clean up the rough edges in Android 10. After that, Google promises no further update support. That’s a bummer, but the Pixels have already gotten much more attention than other Android phones.
Going forward, users will be on their own if the want to stick with their aging smartphones. Google would probably prefer everyone upgraded to new devices, but the non-Verizon Pixels have unlockable bootloaders. You can choose to flash custom software line Lineage OS on the 2016 Pixels to eke a little more life out of them.
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