In a nutshell, the new initiative is an expansion of Google's Project Treble, an initiative that first launched in 2017 as a way to separate Android OS updates from low-level, vendor-specific software running on the phone in order to make it easier for device makers to release updates more quickly. According to AndroidPolice, Google has announced that Android phones starting with the ones powered by the upcoming Snapdragon 888 Mobile Platform will support four years of Android system updates instead of the typical two to three that Android phones offer. Google, on the other hand, does develop Android but there are quite a number of individual companies that manufacture Android phones.
Another way to think about this is that a Snapdragon 888 phone (like the soon-to-launch Galaxy S21), will launch with Android 11 and could then see updates through Android 14 or Android 15, with security patches along the way.
Right now, as we confirmed with Google, smartphone vendors are already free to work with Qualcomm on a case-by-case basis to receive support for their handsets beyond Qualcomm's officially-promised support lifetime. "Despite the events throughout 2020, there is a continued momentum among our partners to either launch their devices on Android 11 or offer Android 11 [as an upgrade] on their devices earlier".
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As far as software updates go for Android phone, they unfortunately don't last very long.
None of this means that every phone will now get three major Android OS updates, either. It's still up to the manufacturer of the smartphone to provide those updates. But nothing about today's announcement guarantees or even implies that is what will happen, it's just a guess. While Qualcomm is the most prominent chipmaker in the Android space, it's not the only one.
The enhancements are meant to enable Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to upgrade their Snapdragon based devices to the latest Android OS without modifying Qualcomm Technologies' chipset-specific software and to use a common Android software branch to upgrade devices based on a wide range of Snapdragon mobile platforms across Qualcomm Technologies' portfolio. That's great news! But unfortunately, neither Google nor Qualcomm has said that your phone is now going to get four major OS updates.