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What just happened? Anyone still using Samsung Galaxy phones between roughly 2014 and 2018 — of which there could be half a billion — should check for firmware updates. The updates Samsung is pushing are minor but unusual because the affected models are far older than the oldest phones that typically receive security patches.
This month, Samsung started sending out minor updates to Galaxy phones that are several years old, which usually no longer receive support, possibly reaching hundreds of millions of users. The affected models include the Galaxy S5 Neo (Vodafone's version), Galaxy Alpha, Galaxy S6 series, and the Galaxy A7.
Galaxy S5 owners should look for firmware version G903FXXU2BFG3 in the settings app. Galaxy S6 phones receive firmware version G92xFXXU6EVG1, the Galaxy Alpha gets version G850FXXU2CVH9, and the A7 receives A750FXXU5CVG1.
Samsung hasn't provided specific details on what the updates contain or why it sent them, but they appear to fix a GPS issue. The update for the A7 includes a security patch. Official updates for aging hardware usually fix serious security problems that could impact many users, but Samsung hasn't said as much. Furthermore, the official list of the phones still receiving security updates doesn't reach back to the A7, S5, or S6.
Last year, Samsung promised that new Galaxy phones would receive security updates for at least four years. The oldest models the company officially supports include all Galaxy S10, the Note 10, and the A10 models from 2019.
For comparison, Apple recently released a critical iOS security update for iPhone models stretching back to the 6s launched in 2015. Manufacturers should maintain security updates for as many of their devices as possible since most customers don't always upgrade to the latest models.
Owners of recent Galaxy phones should look forward to Android 13, which will come to various Android models later this year. It isn't clear yet which Samsung models the new OS will support, but it came preinstalled on Google's most recent Pixel phones. Apple is also readying the next iteration of iOS for release this year, which supports all iPhone models back to the 2017 iPhone 8.