Published today, a two-year study of Android security updates has revealed an anguishing gap between the software patches Android companies claim to have on their devices and the ones they actually have. The manufacturer of your phone may be lying to you about the security of your Android device. In fact, it seems that almost everyone does it.
Arriving at the end of a week dominated by Mark Zuckerberg's congressional hearings and an ongoing Facebook privacy investigation, this news may seem minor, but it goes to the same issue that has attracted lawmakers' scrutiny to Facebook: the issue of trust. Facebook is the largest US technology company less reliable, and Android could be the operating system equivalent to it: used by 2 billion people around the world, tolerated more than loved and susceptible to major flaws in the privacy and safety of the user .
The gap between Android and its nemesis, Apple's iOS, has always been reduced to confidence. Unlike Google, Apple does not earn money by following the behavior of its users, and unlike the vast and varied ecosystem of Android, there are only a couple of iPhone models, each of which is updated regularly and over a long period of time. weather. hour. Owning an iPhone, you can be sure that it is among Apple's top users (even if Apple faces its own cohort of critics who accuse it of programmed obsolescence), while with an Android device, as evidenced today, You can even be sure that the security bulletins and the updates you receive are true.
Android is perceived as unreliable in large part because it is. In addition to the question of the misrepresentations of the level of security, these are some of the other important problems and the villains that plague the platform:
Version updates are slow, if they arrive. I've been covering Android since its early Cupcake days, and in the decade that has gone by, there has never been a moment of satisfaction about the speed of the operating system updates. Things seemed to get worse at the end of last year when the batch of new devices from November came loaded with the Android Nougat of 2016. Android Oreo is now almost eight months old, which means that we are closer to the release of the next version of Android that the current one, and LG is still preparing to launch that software for its flagship 2017 LG G6.
The promises about Android device updates are as ephemeral as Snapchat's messages. Before becoming the largest seller of smartphones in the world, Samsung was notorious for breaching the promises of Android update. The Sony Xperia Z3 fell infamously because of an incompatibility between its Snapdragon processor and Google's Android Nougat requirements, leaving it prematurely stuck without major operating system updates. Every time you have so many voices involved (operators and chip providers along with Google manufacturers and devices), the outcome of your collaboration tends to be exactly as random and unpredictable as Android software updates.
Google is obviously aware of the situation and is pushing its Android One initiative to give people peace of mind when buying an Android phone. Android One guarantees operating system updates for at least two years and security updates for at least three years. But, as with most things with Android, Android One is only available on some devices, most of which are of an economic variety. You will not find the big global names of Samsung, Huawei and LG to support it.
Some Android OEMs are saved from you. This is an ecosystem problem rather than something rooted in the operating system itself, but it still discolours the public reputation of Android. Android phone manufacturers usually load their devices with bloatware (things you do not really want or do not need on your phone), and some have even started to load spyware. The Blu devices were removed from Amazon for doing just that: selling phones that were vulnerable to remote control sockets and could be exploited so that the user's text messages and call records were recorded clandestinely. OnePlus also got into trouble for having an excessively inquisitive user analysis program, which transmitted personally identifiable information to the company's headquarters without the explicit consent of the user.
Huawei is perhaps the most famous example of a potentially conflicting Android phone manufacturer, with US spy agencies openly urging their citizens to avoid Huawei phones for their own safety. No hard evidence has yet been presented that Huawei does anything inappropriate, however, the United States is not the only country that expresses concern about the company's relationship with the Chinese government, and distrust is based on both the smoke and the real fire.
Android is still vulnerable, thanks in part to Google's permissiveness. It is noteworthy that, when the Facebook data breach became public and people began to investigate what data Facebook had, only their Android calls and messages had been collected. Why not the iPhone? Because the walled gardens philosophy of Apple makes it much more difficult, practically impossible, for a user to inadvertently consent to applications that erode privacy, such as Facebook Messenger, to dig into their devices. Your data is better protected on iOS, and although Android has taken significant steps to make application permissions more granular and specific, it is relatively easy to trick users into what data an application is getting and for what purposes.
The development of Android hardware is chaotic and unreliable. For many, the vertiginous, sometimes chaotic, pace of change in Android devices is part of the enchantment of the ecosystem. It is entertaining to see companies try all kinds of quirky and improbable designs, and only the best survived more than a few months. But the downside of all this speed is the lack of attention to small details and long-term sustainability.
LG made a major promotional push two years ago around its modular flagship G5, which aimed to usher in a new accessory ecosystem and elevate the flexibility of LG's Android devices to new heights. In six months, that modular project was abandoned, leaving all those who bought modular LG accessories – with the expectation of multigenerational support – in a high and dry state. And speaking of dryness, Sony got into trouble recently by promising too much by calling their Xperia "waterproof" phones.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the best and clearest example of the disastrous consequences that can result from a hasty and overly ambitious hardware development cycle. Note 7 had a fatal flaw in the battery that caused the bright new Samsung smartphones of many people to ignite spontaneously. Compare that with the pace of the iPhone of the generally incremental changes, implemented at predictable intervals and with unbearable annoyance.
In addition to committing to deliver operating system updates that never arrive, claiming to have delivered security updates that never came, and taking liberties with their personal data, Android OEMs also have a tendency to exaggerate what their phones can actually do. They do not collaborate too much, therefore, despite making great efforts to develop their experience with Android software, they also end up feeding the old and constant complaint of a fragmented ecosystem.
The problem of trust with Android, like the problem of trust in Facebook, is based on reality. It does not matter that not all Android device manufacturers get involved in a grim invasion of privacy or that they over-ride marketing claims. The perception, like the Android brand, is collective.