Sustainable smartphone manufacturer Fairphone has released an Android 10 update for the six-year-old Fairphone 2, a device that originally launched with Android 5 in 2015. The update is in beta for the time being, but the company says it hopes to release a stable version early next year. Alongside it, the company also plans to start beta testing an Android 11 update for the 2019 Fairphone 3 and 2020 Fairphone 3 Plus.
Although getting an Android update two years after its original release wouldn’t normally be cause for celebration, it’s basically unheard of for an Android manufacturer to still be updating a handset six years after its original release. Only Apple comes close to these kinds of support periods and recently released its latest iOS 15 update for the 2015 iPhone 6S.
Meanwhile, Samsung offers four years of security updates and three generational Android updates for its recent phones. Google has promised to provide security updates for its latest Pixel 6 devices for five years and Android version updates for three years.
Offering updates for this length of time isn’t easy, as Fairphone explained in a blog post when it released its public beta of Android 9 running on the Fairphone 2. One of the bigger challenges is that the chipset manufacturer Fairphone uses, Qualcomm, only offers support for its processors for a certain number of years. As of last December, Qualcomm supports its chips for three major OS updates and four years of security updates. However, once this support ends, manufacturers like Fairphone are on their own if they want to continue keeping their phones updated.
For the Fairphone 2’s Android 10 update, the company says it collaborated with its community to speed up the update process. Together with help from Indian software developer Bharath Ravi Prakash, Fairphone says the Fairphone 2’s Android 10 update took just 10 months to develop, compared to 18 months for Android 9.
Today’s news will be welcome for anyone still using a Fairphone 2 who wants to benefit from Android 10 features like gesture navigation and support for an OS-level dark mode. But it’s also reassuring for anyone thinking about picking up its latest phone, the Fairphone 4, which the company hopes to keep supported for six years until 2027.