It’s on six-month-old security patches and still running Android 11
Last year, Qualcomm revealed that rather than just selling its Snapdragon chips to all the other companies that make them, it would be selling its own phone under its own brand. The “Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders” was manufactured by ASUS and offered a curious mix of specs, like a Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a 1080p 144Hz OLED display at an eye-watering $1,500 price. Unfortunately for customers tempted to buy one, it’s been stuck on a now-antique January 2022 security patch level since March, and it’s still running 2020-era Android 11.
A handful of device owners at the Snapdragon subreddit (spotted by XDA Developers) started complaining about the issue recently, with one documenting the update experience in simple terms. The last update for the phone (version WW-18.1055.2201.203) was issued on March 18th, 2022. That update brought the phone to the January 2022 security patch level — an update now six months out of date, as many devices from companies like Google and Samsung are running June 2022 patch levels. This out-of-date patch level is itself a concern for security-conscious customers, but it’s not the only problem. The frequency of updates for Qualcomm’s Insiders phone has also been an issue.
According to our research, the last update for the phone before March was on December 9th, 2021. Before that, it received monthly updates with extensive lists of bug fixes, but the recent schedule indicates Qualcomm is settling into a quarterly update model. That frequency might be appropriate for a $150 budget phone but not for a $1,500 super-flagship meant to highlight Qualcomm’s abilities. At launch, the phone was promised four years of “regular” security updates — this apparently variable 1-3 month schedule is hardly “regular.”
Do free earbuds make up for slow and infrequent updates on a $1,500 phone?
The phone is also still running Android 11, which was released in 2020. This is even though most similarly-priced flagship phones have since been updated to Android 12, and some are even beta testing Android 13.
Qualcomm’s rationale behind launching its own-branded phone never quite made sense, and we have to assume it didn’t sell in a massive volume, but it’s confusing that Qualcomm wouldn’t be able to keep up with device updates. After all, it maintains much of the software and board support packages (BSPs, ie, base software for Qualcomm’s hardware bits that lets Android run) which other companies produce their device updates on top of. Qualcomm literally has a hand in updating countless other phones.
We know the Insiders phone is actually made by ASUS, and that company’s involvement might have an impact. ASUS’s software commitment is lackluster, and its flagships are often among the last to get updated to major Android releases. Sometimes it even goes back on its update promises. When we maintained a complete list of the cadence of smartphone updates across brands, ASUS devices were near the bottom of the pile for both update regularity and timeliness.
We’ve reached out to Qualcomm for more information. A Qualcomm-associated user account on Reddit recently responded to the post claiming that “the next security patch will be released on 6/20, and new ones will be released every 2-3 months after that.” Frustrated device owners won’t have long to wait for a new update, but there’s still the question of what patch level that might offer and whether a 2-3 month wait for updates going forward is appropriate given the price they paid.