During his testimony, Pichai revealed a tidbit on how Google operates that gives a better look behind the curtain and could help explain users’ frustration with Android phones not seeing security updates. According to Pichai, Google financially incentivizes OEMs to update their phones. Companies that keep phones current with the latest security patches see a higher revenue share from Google services than those that don’t.
In other words, the amount of money an OEM makes from you using Google products on its device is correlated to how often it keeps that device up to date with security patches. This means Google intentionally strongarms OEMs to be better about updating phones, which is something we didn’t know before. We knew that Google mandates two years of updates for any Android phone and strongly encourages more extended support than that, but we didn’t realize there were financial incentives involved.
I’m honestly not entirely sure if this wasn’t known before, but this is an interesting approach for Google to take. If it’s not financially interesting for OEMs to update their Android devices, why not give them a bigger slice of the Google revenue pie to incentivise them? I’d prefer proper update windows be legally mandated – I wouldn’t be surprised if the EU is working on that somewhere – but in the meantime, I’ll take this rare case of Google’s interests lining up with consumers’ interests.