As more people keep their smartphones for longer, the survey found that most companies are failing to update older versions.
Global firm Counterpoint Technology Market Research said Nokia and Lenovo were some of the only Android brands that made a sincere commitment to updating the security and software of their devices.
In their survey, named "Software and Security Updates: The Missing Link for Smartphones," Counterpoint discovered that most companies were not doing enough to update their devices despite evidence that more people worldwide were keeping their smartphones for longer periods of time.
"Operating system and security updates are an aspect of Android smartphones that get relatively little attention. In our experience researching the industry, we have seen few brands focusing on this. And perhaps because manufacturers are not talking about it, consumer awareness is also low. It doesn't appear among the ten features consumers say they care about most, in our research," said Counterpoint Research Director Peter Richardson.
"Unsurprisingly, therefore, little effort is expended by the top manufacturers in focusing on regular updates to the operating system and device security, despite it being a critical element in the continued safe performance of the smartphone."
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Counterpoint found that huge, global brands had fewer than a third of their sub-$200 smartphones updated to the latest Android version. Nokia led the entire field with more than 90% of its devices updated in the same price tier.
Just a quarter of the top Android models are updated to the latest OS version.
"Many of the key features including battery life, processor, camera and memory are linked to the performance of the underlying operating system. We believe it is important to the overall consumer experience and is likely to become more widely recognized as such," Richardson added.
In the US, EU and China, consumers are spending more on smartphones with the expectation that they last longer. The survey found that most people across the world are now keeping their smartphones for an average of 30 months, which is the highest its ever been.
Other than Nokia and Lenovo, many of the companies in the survey were doing the bare minimum to make sure the devices were up-to-date.
"Among the top 10 smartphone makers, nearly 96% of Nokia smartphones, sold cumulatively since Q3 2018, are already running on Android Pie or have had an Android Pie update issued to them. Samsung closely follows Nokia with 89% and Xiaomi with 84%. Xiaomi is good at ensuring its mid-price range products launch with the latest version of Android," said Tarun Pathak, Counterpoint associate director, in a release.
Any companies that were not releasing quarterly updates were failing their customers, according to the whitepaper.
"There are a lot of factors that play a role in issuing software updates. But some brands put much more effort into reducing the time lag from the release of the latest Android version to issuing the update to all their smartphones," Pathak added.
"Only a few brands commit to making sure their smartphones are always running the latest version. Nokia was the fastest brand in issuing the latest software updates covering 94% of its portfolio within a year of the launch of the latest Android version."
Companies such as Samsung, Huawei, Alcatel and LG were shown to be very slow in updating critical security features that were vital to protecting customers and their devices.
"High-priced devices are often updated first, but having the latest software is as important to mid- and low-priced products as it is to flagship devices. We, therefore, looked at manufacturers' performance at updating software across all price tiers," said Counterpoint Research Analyst Abhilash Kumar.
"By this analysis, Nokia stands out, again, as the brand most likely to update its full portfolio quickly. Xiaomi and Lenovo also rank high in this metric. Brands such as Alcatel and Tecno are the laggards. This is because these brands have broad portfolios, mostly in the sub-US $200 segment, and the lifecycle of their models tends to be short. Their products often transition from launch to end-of-life in as little as six months, which means they have less incentive to provide long-term updates."