As we dump more and more private information on our phones, hackers are finding new ways to break in without ever learning your password. That̵
Monthly software updates are the key to security
While a strong password and two-factor authentication should deter most hackers, some software-level vulnerabilities exist and are well beyond your control. Hackers can use apps, files, or even text messages to exploit these vulnerabilities, gain access to your private information, or block your phone.
That’s where Android security updates come in handy: Google releases monthly updates to fix vulnerabilities in Android software and keep you safe from bad guys and hacker groups. These patches are essential for the security of your device and missing an update could expose you to publicly known exploits.
“Wait a minute,” you could say, “my phone isn’t getting an update every month!” While Google encourages phone manufacturers to keep monthly updates for two years, very few manufacturers adhere to a strict update schedule. Some may even opt out of the security updates altogether, much to the chagrin of security-conscious customers.
Ultimately, some Android phones are more secure than others. Two phones released in the same year can follow dramatically different update schedules, even if they are from the same manufacturer! So, what can you do to make sure your next phone gets regular security updates? Which manufacturers should you stay with and are there any manufacturers you should avoid?
Which Android Phones Are The Most Secure?
If security is your priority, you have no choice but to stick with brands that guarantee long-term support for their phones. Google and Samsung are the best in this regard – both companies guarantee 3 years of security updates for their most popular phones, along with two major OS updates (so a phone released with Android 10 will end its life with Android 12).
All new phones from Google, including the high-end Pixel 5 and the affordable Pixel 4a, come with a 3-year warranty. Samsung’s warranty covers its flagship Galaxy S phones and premium Galaxy Note phones, although most of the cheaper A-series handsets are out of the question (the $ 350 Galaxy A50 is a notable exception). It’s also worth noting that while Google phones get security updates as they go live, Samsung tends to push the updates a day or two late.
But are you really stuck with just two brands? Yeah, sort of. Top-of-the-line devices from Sony, OnePlus, LG and Motorola often end up with 2 years of security updates, although the updates are not as consistent as what you get from Google or Samsung. (OnePlus pushes security updates every other month.) Cheaper devices from these brands often have a shorter support cycle or receive sporadic security updates every few months. Overall, if you’re a security freak looking to venture outside the realms of Google and Samsung, you’ll have to pay for a high-end device like the Sony Xperia 1 II or the LG Velvet 5G.
I say “general” because, it turns out, some low-cost devices from Motorola and Nokia actually offer better update support than their high-end counterparts. These specialty phones run on Google’s Android One program, receive security updates directly from Google, and are the best option for those who need a secure phone on a budget.
Android One offers the best security for a limited budget
Manufacturers don’t like to provide long-term consistent support for their low-cost devices, which makes it a bit difficult to buy a secure phone for between $ 100 and $ 300. You can end up with an old device that is at the end of its support cycle, or worse, a new phone that only gets a handful of updates in its lifetime. But don’t worry, you can still get a safe phone cheaply, just make sure it’s an Android One device.
Android One started out as an initiative to bring low-cost yet practical smartphones to emerging markets, but the project now extends to most regions, including the United States. Devices in the Android One program run a standard version of Android and receive 3 years of security updates (with 2 years of OS updates) direct from Google, offering customers peace of mind without decimating their wallets.
At the time of writing, the Nokia 5.3 ($ 200) and Moto G Pro ($ 260) are two of the best Android One devices for long-term use and security. Released in 2020, both phones will offer Android security updates up to 2023 and will receive OS updates up to Android 12. With an all-day battery, Snapdragon 665 processors, high-megapixel cameras, and large HD displays (6.55in for Nokia, 6.4in for Motorola), these affordable Android One devices cover all bases without breaking the bank.
The newer the better … sort of
Guaranteed support cycles offered by Google and Samsung are great, but keep in mind that these support cycles start on a device’s launch date, not the day you activate your phone. A phone released in 2019 will expire in 2022 at the end of its 3-year warranty (if any), while a phone launched in 2021 will have support until 2024. From a safety standpoint, newer is always better.
But from a budgeting perspective, buying a phone for a day is not that economical. Android devices drop in value after just a few months on the market, and old flagships often cost hundreds of dollars less than their slightly improved successor. If you want a high-end phone it’s usually best to wait for the price to drop a bit, and if you’re on a budget, an old or refurbished flagship can provide better features and photo quality than newly released devices in your price range.
While brand new phones are the best option for long-term security, it’s fine to buy a product later in the support cycle to save money or get your hands on some cool features. Keep in mind that if you use really To get the latest Android security updates, you may need to replace your phone sooner than if you bought a device on day one.
Shopping for a good, secure Android phone is more difficult than it looks, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Sticking to Google, high-end Samsung, and Android One devices is usually the way to go, although most high-end phones offer decent, albeit unpredictable, support for at least 2 years.
If you are frustrated with Android’s messy security update system, consider switching to iOS. Apple supports its iPhones for 5 years and offers regular security updates and five major OS updates regardless of which model you buy.