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Samsung plays catch-up with Apple, promises monthly security updates for unlocked US phones

Samsung will soon start providing monthly security updates to unlocked Galaxy smartphones in the U.S., according to the company, offering a level of maintenance more comparable to Apple.

"Due to various circumstances, we have been releasing security updates for unlocked (open) Galaxy devices in the U.S. on a quarterly basis," Samsung's Mobile Security team explained to ZDNet. "However, we have now resolved the challenges; and we are committed to releasing security updates for those devices on a monthly basis."

The company noted that the first monthly update is due in March, although it didn't say if that would come alongside Android Nougat (7.x) for compatible devices.

It also didn't say what obstacles it was previously dealing with. Phone updates typically require testing with carriers, and the situation may be further complicated by Samsung relying on a custom version of Android. Typically only Google phones can get new versions of Android as soon as they're released —for other devices, Google code must be merged with custom skins and apps.

Apple's security update schedule isn't public, but since it makes both the OS and the hardware, it's generally free to release updates as soon as it verifies carrier compatibility.

In practice the company appears not to adhere to a strict schedule, and will push out point releases whenever they solve a collection of bugs, such as iOS 10.2.1. It will sometimes issue emergency fixes, for instance if a critical vulnerability is discovered or a previous update rendered some devices unusable.

It rarely matters which carrier an iPhone or iPad is associated with, or whether or not the device is unlocked.

Another difference is that Apple issues public betas of iOS to people in its Beta Software Program. Recently it put out a sixth beta of iOS 10.3, which in finished form will switch to the APFS file system, bring in a new reviews API, and add a Find My AirPods app.