Android OS updates: Why the latest doesn't mean the greatest

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus with Android 8 Oreo should arrive in the hands of customers next week. Existing Galaxy S8 and Note 8 customers still have Android 7 Nougat, but there is no reason to panic and buy a new device just to get the latest version of Android.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

There are plenty of articles discussing the widespread distribution of different versions of Android and comparing this diversity with Apple iOS. While it would be great if Android could mirror Apple, in terms of OS updates, receiving a yearly update to Android is perfectly acceptable for major manufacturers and may actually be advisable for the enterprise.

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Samsung invests in its Samsung Experience, previously known as TouchWiz, to create devices that are optimized for the hardware and also offer more than you can find in stock Android. Samsung provides functionality in current versions of Android that are commonly brought to the rest of the Android community with an OS update months later. For example, Samsung has had dual app capability for years, while its still rather new on stock Android devices. Samsung's implementation has also evolved to be better than the stock experience.

The new Galaxy S9 Plus launches with Android 8.0.0 and Samsung Experience 9.0. Existing Galaxy S8 and Note 8 devices still have Android 7 -- with an Android 8 update likely coming in the next month or two. Comparing a Galaxy S8 Plus to a Galaxy S9 Plus, in terms of software, shows there is very little difference between these experiences, so if you don't need the new hardware in the Galaxy S9, the software is not justification enough to upgrade your device.

Samsung has done an excellent job in providing Android security updates to its devices, often within a few weeks of the release of the monthly update. It sometimes takes even quicker action when there is a critical update available. These security updates are critical for enterprise adoption, and Samsung has proven its ability to provide these over the past year.

While the tech media and enthusiasts slam Samsung -- and other Android manufacturers -- for taking months to release OS updates, I do not think this is a concern for the enterprise. Companies want tried-and-tested software and are not interested in beta testing major OS updates. Apple's iOS 11 has been shown to be quite buggy, so one has to ask if they really need the latest and greatest software, which could cost them time and effort in supporting something that is not proven to be reliable for critical systems.

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In addition to providing core efficiency in the OS, Samsung also provides applications that are often better than what is provided in stock Android. These apps can provide separation between business and personal communications and functionality, as well as advanced capability to help people complete their work better.

I'm tired of hearing that Samsung and other Android manufacturers are terrible and that one should only purchase a Google Pixel product to get the latest version of Android. Google has had many of its own challenges in hardware, so it is not always the best alternative for the enterprise.

Look beyond the hype, and if you find a phone that does it all for you, enjoy it. Don't worry too much about having the latest version of Android, as that doesn't always mean it is the best.

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