Google’s Pixel phones are usually expected to offer the latest and greatest of Android. So, when a certain Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL ship with an older version of Android, it’s bound to raise questions. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, Google’s highly anticipated ‘affordable’ Pixel phones, are already available for buying in many global markets – they're scheduled to go on sale in India from May 15. But unlike any other Pixel phone, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are (will be) shipping with a dated March security patch – at a time when they’re expected to carry the May update.
As strange as it may seem, there are more surprises to this story. Not only do the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL ship with an older version of Android (P), they’re also not eligible for the Android Q beta update yet. While Google does promise three years of OS and security updates for the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL (in line with all the other Pixel phones), it’s strange that a) Google will be rolling out the April, May, and June security patches for the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones together on June 3, and b) Android Q beta will be officially available on the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones only in June.
Google has tried to clear some air over the delay, saying that the pre-loaded software (on the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL) is based on the manufacturing schedule – which in simpler terms means, Google wasn’t ready with the update(s), in time for launch (or shipping). Google doesn’t explicitly say if this was because the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones were supposed to release early, but that could be a logical explanation.
Regardless, Google has launched Pixel phones with older security builds in the past – but it has usually updated these phones before shipping. The decision to further delay the update cycle, and roll out the April, May, and June security patches together in June is to “ensure the best customer experience” apparently, which is a little hard to digest at this point of time. Also, Google hasn’t said anything about why the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones aren’t eligible for the Android Q beta update along with its other Pixel phones – even the original Pixel is eligible and that phone came out in 2016