Missed Android 14 by this much
After a decade of iPhone owners enjoying years upon years of updates, Android manufacturers are finally starting to catch up. Samsung's current upgrade policy — four OS upgrades, five years of security patches — is so popular, OnePlus implemented similar rules starting with its latest smartphone. Google, to its credit, has offered five years of patches since the arrival of the Pixel 6, but only three years of "guaranteed" OS upgrades. With the arrival of Android 14's first developer preview, we're seeing another smartphone fall victim to poor upgrade support.
If you rushed over to Google's online flash tool to install Android 14 DP1 on a Pixel 4a, you already know the disappointing truth. The phone, which turns three years old in August, isn't included on the list of supported devices, likely ensuring that Android 13 as its final upgrade. Google's Android 14 timeline suggests an August launch following the usual round of developer previews and betas, a similar pattern as last year's launch. Unfortunately, an August drop would effectively let the Pixel 4a just age out of this policy. Pixel 4a 5G owners, meanwhile, will likely get a final OS upgrade before hitting its own three-year anniversary in October.
Despite its age, there's nothing necessarily holding Google back from updating the Pixel 4a but its own arbitrary time window. Yes, the Snapdragon 730G powering Google's most affordable 2020 smartphone isn't as fast as the Snapdragon 765G found in the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, but we aren't talking about ancient hardware here. After all, these decisions aren't based on how powerful or capable a smartphone is; if it were, the Pixel 4 series — two phones with more horsepower than the Pixel 4a 5G — could have continued receiving upgrades past this week's final patch.
At the end of the day, the Pixel 4a's missing Android 14 support is yet another consequence of Google's outdated software support. With users holding onto their devices for longer than ever, the company owes it to its user base to catch up with Samsung. This problem won't end once the final non-Tensor device — the Pixel 5a — loses support next year. The Pixel 6, Pixel 6a, and even the Pixel 7 are all set to lose OS upgrades after three years, even with their extended security patch policy.
We've reached out to Google to confirm the Pixel 4a will end its upgrade cycle on Android 13, and will update our coverage with the company's response. As it stands, anyone with a Pixel 4a — the phone that earned our Editors' Choice award just over two years ago — will likely miss out on one final OS upgrade by a matter of weeks, if not days. Frankly, those customers deserve better.
Will is the Phones Editor at Android Police, which means he usually has a dozen different smartphones on his desk at any given time. He covers everything from leaks of your next phone to the components that’ll power it. He’s got plenty of opinions about the current state of Android phones — thoughts you’ll read in his reviews, editorials, and more. You’ll also find him writing up our buyer’s guides, where he hopes to help shoppers make the right choice in their next phone. Will appears on the Android Police podcast, where he occasionally taunts his co-hosts with bad opinions about smartwatches and charging cables, and writes AP’s weekend polls. In his spare time, he produces podcasts, rewatches the same 37 films, and pretends not to have a never-ending backlog of video games. He lives in Buffalo, NY and is willing to give you chicken wing recommendations at any time. Just ask.