September 26, 2021

Germany wants to extend your smartphone’s lifespan with seven years of security patches


When it comes to smartphones, we all wish updates arrived faster and for more extended periods of time. As performance continues to improve with each passing year, upgrading to a new phone every two or three years can start to feel like an unnecessary expense. It’s also an environmental concern, as many try to reduce waste created from constantly replacing gadgets. To that end, the German government has proposed a new policy that would extend the lifespan — and repairability — of your device for years to come.

While the European Union is currently considering requiring five years of security updates for smartphones, Germany’s federal government recently submitted a request to create a seven-year mandatory period for patches (via Heise). While this wouldn’t include completely new OS versions — your Galaxy S21 wouldn’t receive Android 18 under these regulations — it would include provisions for affordable replacement parts, all in an effort to reduce digital waste.

Meanwhile, tech advocacy group DigitalEurope is requesting that the EU’s requirements  be set at three years of security updates, effectively meeting the standard already set by Samsung, Google, Apple, and even OnePlus. Germany’s proposal is basically unheard of in mobile computing, though seven years of security updates are pretty standard for desktop OSes. For example, Windows 8 succeeded Windows 7 in 2012 but continued to receive patches until January 2020 — nearly eight years later.

As exciting as this may sound for the future of longer-lasting smartphones, you might want to hold back some of your excitement. As one Reddit user pointed out, Germany is in the midst of an ongoing election, so this could just be a case of some old-fashioned political promises to turn out the vote. Even if Germany’s seven-year proposal doesn’t pan out, the European Union is set to possibly enact its five-year policy by 2023.

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