New legislation has been drafted by the European Commission (EC) that would require Android smartphone manufacturers to provide long-term support for their devices.
The proposal intends to set a minimum support term that will apply to all Android devices sold in the EU, with the goals of reducing e-waste and protecting consumers from predatory behavior.
Some of the more affordable smartphones would effectively double in useful life if manufacturers were obligated to provide three years of major feature updates and five years of security patches under the new rules.
While some manufacturers claim to provide long-term service (Google's Pixel 6 already satisfies the new requirements, for instance), others either only promise to do so for a few years or don't say at all.
Consumers are put in a difficult position because they must decide whether to pay for an expensive upgrade even though their current hardware is sufficient, or whether to forego the benefits of the upgrade, such as the addition of new features and enhanced security.
The new EU regulations will reduce the environmental impact of the rapid replacement cycle for mobile devices and give users an extra five years with their current phones or tablets.
Separately, the proposal includes safeguards against planned obsolescence, the practice whereby a device is designed intentionally to degrade over time, forcing the owner to upgrade.
For instance, the proposed law would mandate new minimums for battery life and, if manufacturers cannot meet these standards, would require the reinstatement of more antiquated mechanisms for the installation of replacement cells. In a similar vein, manufacturers must continue providing support for a product for at least five years after its initial release.
There will be a period of public comment on the proposed legislation until the end of the month. The proposal is scheduled to go into effect no sooner than the fourth quarter of 2022, with enforcement commencing a year after its introduction.