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Android Phones: Nexus Wins for Security Updates


Recently, we released a blog post detailing the state of security patching when it came to Android devices. Our findings about the larger Android ecosystem prompted us to take a closer look at the highly acclaimed Nexus line of phones.

Background on Nexus Phones

Devices in the Nexus line have long been considered Google’s flagship Android products. While they partner with OEMs to assist with the development and manufacturing of these phones, Google plays a large role in the design and marketing efforts surrounding these devices.

So these phones look different and have a lot of hype, but what makes them different from other Android phones? Nexus devices ship with a purer flavor of Android: it has very little, if any, manufacturer or carrier modifications. Also, Nexus phones are consistently in the first wave of Android devices to receive operating system updates.

Our Findings

There are definitely some inherent benefits to having a Nexus device, but we at Duo Labs wanted to know if there is a difference between Nexus phones and other Android phones as it relates to security posture. Here are some of the key findings from our analysis:

  • 99% of Nexus phones are able to receive monthly security updates
  • As of June 30, 2 out of 3 Nexus devices are fully patched
  • 87% of Nexus devices are running the latest version of Android

Of over 200,000 Android phones in our dataset, Nexus phones make up approximately 9%. Despite accounting for a small percentage of the total number of Android phones, the stats for Nexus devices are still pretty good, but let’s look at how they compare to other models.

Nexus Phones Other Android Phones
Able to Receive Monthly Security Updates 99% 86%
Applied Latest Security Patch Level 66% 18%
Running Latest OS 87% 31%

Our Takeaways

The statistics above can’t be solely attributed to owning a Nexus device. Users with Nexus phones deserve a lot of credit for promptly applying security patches and upgrading their operating systems. Nevertheless, Nexus devices are the way to go for two reasons:

  • Google made the commitment to making security patches available for the longer of three years from availability on the Google Store or 18 months from when the Google Store last sold the device.
  • Similarly, they guarantee that Nexus phones will receive Android version updates for at least two years after they become available in the Google Store.

Google’s publicity around the stronger security model of Nexus phones, combined with the fast update rollout, has clearly resulted in safer users. Tech-savvy users might frequently upgrade mobile phones, and so they benefit from the stronger security that gets baked into each newer model, but that’s not the norm. Users often keep their mobile phones for multiple years, so making the right security choice when buying sets you up to be protected against new threats for years to come.

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