A word of warning about Android upgrades in 2019

As the fine print surrounding a certain new device reminds us, it’s more important than ever to think carefully about what you’re actually getting when you buy an Android phone.

Hear ye, hear ye, citizens of the Android-using world. You no doubt know by now that Android upgrades are, by and large, a steaming hot mess (to use the technical term). But there’s new reason to remain alert and think extra carefully about any Android phone purchase you might one day consider.

You’re probably already aware that no Android phone-maker other than Google treats timely and reliable software upgrades as a top priority and explicit guarantee. That’s nothing new, and we’ve seen the results of that reality time and time again — both with the platform’s monthly security patches and with the larger operating system updates that surround them (and yes, both elements absolutely matter).

But beneath the painfully slow rollouts and the insulting lack of communication by the companies that make these devices, there’s always been an understanding that at the very least, top-tier Android phones will receive significant OS updates for a minimum of two years from the time they’re launched. It’s an implicit agreement that’s long existed, originally as an 18-month window and then eventually (mhmm) up to the two-year standard we know today. Google alone increases that guarantee to a full three years with its Pixel products, but two years is the understood ecosystem-wide bare minimum.

Well, gang, it appears that agreement is now null and void. Motorola just launched a new phone, the Moto Z4, and is presently planning on providing only a single OS update for the device. The website Digital Trends first reported the news, and I confirmed it directly with Motorola myself: The Moto Z4, according to its maker, will be upgraded to Android Q (at some point). While Moto will “continue to evaluate additional OS upgrades,” however, the company is not committing to anything beyond that one single bump.