Google Ends Regular Updates for 2016 Pixel Phones, Promises One Last OTA in December

Google Pixel

Google sold Nexus phones for years, but they were always geared toward keeping the price low. The Pixel and Pixel XL are the first uncompromising flagship phones Google has made. This phone comes in two sizes — a 5-inch model with a 2770mAh battery and a 5.5-inch version with a 3440mAh battery. Both have AMOLED displays, with the smaller at 1080p and the larger one at 1440p. They are otherwise the same with solid aluminum frames, highly accurate rear-facing fingerprint sensors, and the best overall camera on any Android phone. The hardware design isn’t flashy, but it’s very solid. Sadly, it lacks water-resistance.

Google launched the Pixel with Android 7.0 Nougat and since updated it to 7.1. The Pixel will always have the latest version of Android for at least two years, and will get monthly security patches for at least another year after that. In addition, it has exclusive software features that not even Nexus phones have including Google Assistant voice control and the new Pixel Launcher home screen. Google has tuned this phone to be lightning fast and have better battery life than any other phone in its class. It’s the best Android phone released in 2016.

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. 

pixel back

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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