The EU must go after the broken Android ecosystem next

Garikai Dzoma Avatar

There is no denying it, the Android ecosystem is completely and well broken. Without external help, it’s doubtful that Google and the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in charge of the Android project will ever get it fixed.

I am talking about the issue of updates and patches. Right now everyone does pretty much what they want. Some OEMs update and patch their systems for years while others cobble together a buggy ROM install it on a phone and forget about it. There is no set number of years for when a manufacturer is obliged to push updates at all. As already said some don’t even bother with updates. Some like Google, religiously push the latest Android updates, others like Xiaomi make a half-hearted effort and lag behind and some nameless Chinese brands never even bother to provide bug fixes.

The EU can use it’s cloud to fix this

The days when America and its government used to lead the world in the technology sphere are long gone. The two biggest parties in that country are embroiled in bitter ideological feuds they cannot even pass a budget to keep their country open without bickering and name-calling. In the multipolar world the EU, on matters of technology and business seems to be emerging as the leader.

They have managed, for example, to bring a little bit of sanity to the cookie and privacy world with their GDPR provisions which have reduced some of the power tech companies like Facebook had. That’s just one example:

  • The right to be forgotten kind of makes sense in some cases and companies like Google have been abiding by it.
  • Companies like Microsoft were forced to unbundle their browsers and now we don’t have to endure Edge/Internet Explorer as they fell from grace allowing the wider public to sample Google Chrome and embrace other alternatives.
  • Google which abuses its search monopolies, had to pay steep fines in the EU too. The US government hardly comes down hard on it’s own behemoths choosing to focus on stupid things like “protecting conservative” viewpoints and passing clearly unconstitutional laws as the political bickering continues in various congresses.
  • New tax laws in the EU will mean the 1% who are hiding behind shell corporations will soon be paying their fair share of taxes soon. This is an ongoing fight.
  • The recent USB-type C initiative. Some people might whine and complain all they want but we seriously need a charger standard. USB itself has improved our lives a lot. If you used a computer before USB you will understand what I am saying. Some manufacturers actually too the time to include their own ports which you had to add to your PCI slot. A complete waste of resources it was. Hopefully this bring us closer to sanity as my colleague hopes it will.
  • Making behemoths pay for news links. I don’t fully agree with this but at least someone is trying to change things for the better instead of letting Big Tech run everything.

Mandatory minimum support will fix most of Android’s problems

There used to be a time when I looked forward to every Google, Samsung, Apple and even Xiaomi launch event. There would be exciting new radical devices being introduced. Naturally, most of them went on to be flops but it was still exciting to see these new innovations on offer as companies took bold risks. With the passing of Steve, Jobs Apple is now playing it safe.

We have lame phones being introduced each year with barely any improvements. Instead of the iPod, iPad and iPhone kind of launch we are just getting a bigger screen, better refresh rate, ooh a good new camera, better software, smaller bezels… Frankly, it’s insipid and it’s hard to keep awake at times. The only exciting thing to happen at Apple in recent years is Silicon.

Google’s Pixel 5A is just the something as its Pixel 4A 5G

It’s not even just Apple. Google too. Why did they even make the Pixel 5A? They just took their Pixel 5A 5G and re-christened it as the 5A. They are not the only ones. These days manufacturers are just making small useless tweaks to their phones each year just so they can push the next iteration. It’s as if they are obliged to make a phone each year.

It would not be a problem if their launching new iterations didn’t affect existing customers. In their rush to provide new shiny iterations, they also see it fit to ruin their older devices. Most of the time I swear it’s deliberate sabotage in a bid to force you to upgrade to a new one. Apple, which is not part of Android by no less guilty, was actually caught pushing updates meant to slow your older phone.

Rather than actively sabotaging their phones by pushing dubious updates, the Android Corps have settled for something less active and therefore hard to regulate-abandonment. They simply don’t push updates at all. When you buy a phone there is no minimum set support period. You just get a phone and hope the manufacturer will be kind enough to provide you with patches and updates. When they choose to not do this you just shrug and buy a new phone or keep using the buggy one with publicly known security flaws.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is another way. Germany, an influential member of the EU, has already provided a sound proposal that could fix this mess. Make it mandatory for phone makers to support their device for at least 7 years after they first announce or launch it. The good news is that the EU is seriously considering this proposal and it might soon come into effect as early as 2023.

Those who cannot abide by this directive would be free to sell their phones elsewhere like in the horned continent where despots are all about passing laws that give them more power and rule forever rather than on protecting their citizens’ rights. However, such a law could also indirectly protect us in Africa. That’s my hope anyway that it becomes something like what eve have seen with the GDPR.

I am banking on the inherent laziness of manufacturers here. They will probably find it cheaper to just provide everyone with uniform service including extended support instead of having one rule for Africa and another for Europe. Without external pressure, they will just keep what they are doing and drag their feet.


What’s your take?

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  1. Anonymous

    Garikai, let me guess, you’re an avid iPhone user and a die hard Apple fan, aren’t you😊

    We can see some typos in there I’m thinking that you were quite emotional about the Apple hate hah😂

    1. Anonymous

      Like some really disturbing typos for an article for what should be a well known supposedly established respectable website. Particularly about google, maybe you just don’t like google right now hah😂

    2. Chakauya nengarava kwete nexiaomi

      Typos are the order of the day. I even asked if TZ had an editor. Now I’m pretty sure they don’t have one

  2. Imi vanhu musadaro

    The EU regulating minimum support will do little for the plethora of budget Android phones used in Africa. Most of those phones aren’t certified Android devices to begin with, hence they don’t have to comply to anything. With part of the low cost being derived from not having to support their devices manufacturers will probably never do so, if its of their own volition.

    Even if the EU restricts such imports, it will just result in Africa being the primary market for the null IMEI, update less devices.

    We as Zimbabwe or Africa should have our own organisations setting such standards for us, but we don’t, we’ve resolved to be passengers on the global stage.

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      We are just passengers indeed. We don’t even have privacy laws. Our cybersecurity bill is also full of holes. It’s sad.

      1. Imi vanhu musadaro

        A number of times, on the world stage, devices even vehicles from Ford and Toyota have been recalled and I have never heard a statement from their local or African representatives. Even the consumer watchdogs don’t say a word, let alone establish the extent to which local consumers are affected.