No one in the Android ecosystem can get a grip on Apple’s software support schedule for the iPhone, but there’s one company that comes closest: Fairphone. Following in the footsteps of the Fairphone 2, the Fairphone 3 also gets the best Android OS support for seven years in the Android industry. Fairphone continues to run circles around tech giants who have far more resources than they do, and it’s doing so even in the face of component vendors like Qualcomm who have dropped support for the phone’s core components.
a company Announce today Support for the Fairphone 3, released in 2019, has been extended to 2026, making it seven years of updates. The company also just released Android 13 for the Fairphone 3. Support for the 2019 Google Pixel 4 closes in October 2022.
Fairphone strives to make sustainable smartphones, designing its products to be repairable as well as offering parts for sale online. Part of this sustainability mission is a painstaking effort to keep Android updates flowing, even as Qualcomm drops critical software support for the SoC. Fairphone says the Snapdragon 632 SoC in the Fairphone 3 was only supported until Android 11, so continuing to support the Fairphone 3 means doing the upgrades on its own.
For the normal update process, Google releases a new build to the Android open source repository, and then SoC vendors such as Qualcomm take those builds to create a “Board Support Package (BSP)” for each SoC, which includes updated drivers, key proprietary points, and all pieces of code. Others make the device work. Android phone manufacturers usually start their work from the supported Android versions of the SoC, so they just need to add support for their additional devices. With Qualcomm dropping support for the Fairphone 3 SoC, Fairphone had to do the BSP update work on its own. Fairphone is Just Android phone manufacturer that does. Everyone else is stopping support along with the SoC vendor.
While seven years of updates is incredible, the one thing you can knock on Fairphone is that the updates don’t hit a regular cadence. In fact, the company skipped Android 12 to introduce Android 13 because of all that “build your own BSP” thing. It’s possible that monthly security updates won’t arrive on a regular basis either. However, that Fairphone did it for a fraction of the big companies’ budget shows that the usual excuses Android manufacturers give aren’t true. Any company can provide longer support if they wish; They are all just content that forces people to upgrade and create electronic waste.