Germany Wants Your Phone Maker To Guarantee 7 Years Of Software Updates

Google Pixel 5a
Regulators in Germany are making a push for smartphone makers to extend the lifespan of their handsets with more than a have a decade of security updates. Seven years, to be more price, should the European Commission be swayed by the German government's argument. And if that comes to pass, it is reasonable to think it could become a global practice (though obviously not necessarily).

It is an interesting topic, considering that smartphones are basically handheld computers, some of which cost north of $1,000. Yet in some cases, they could stop receiving OS and other updates in a matter of just a few years. Imagine if Microsoft decided that after two years, a new PC would be in order to continue receiving updates.

Granted, that's not an apples to apples comparison. But smartphones are powerful devices, they're capable of much more than simply placing and receiving phone calls, and they typically cost hundreds of dollars, even for mid-range and some lower-end handsets.

The larger motivation, it seems, is reducing electronic waste by extending the lifespan of these gadgets. According to Heise, the German government is in talks with the European Commission on implementing policies that would require companies like Apple, Samsung, and others to dole out security updates at least seven years.

As it stands, the European Commission is considering a five-year policy. Either way, it sounds like this applies only to security updates, and does not necessarily mean a smartphone would receive major new releases of the operating system (Android or iOS) five or seven years down the line. But they would at least be patched.

That's important, because there is an increasing amount of malware targeting mobile devices these days. In the first quarter of this year alone, Kaspersky said it detected over 1.4 million malicious installation packages for mobile devices. Most of those were classified as adware, but it also included banking trojans and ransomware.

Outside of security updates, there's also talk about implementing rules that would make replacement parts more affordable and delivered faster. This plays into the right-to-repair movement that has been gaining steam in the US and Europe.

As an aside to all this, Germany is entering its election period, so who knows if any of this ends up becoming policy or will just amount to political posturing for votes.