This is not a good chart

Let’s not mince words here: This “Android and iPhone Update History” chart is not a good chart. Oh, it’s a pretty chart, to be sure artfully illustrated and researched. But this chart -- done up by Michael Degusta at The Understatement and reposted by anyone unable to think clearly, apparently -- is not a good chart. Or at the very least, it fails to recognize a fundamental difference between Android and iOS and the iPhone.

Let’s back up: The updates chart, part of the “Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support,” shows how Android phones released through the second quarter of 2010 have failed to be continuously updated to the latest major version of Android (ie Froyo or Gingerbread). Meanwhile, the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 are all on the most current version of iOS.

Degusta actually starts out on point. The Nexus One won’t officially be updated to the latest major version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. And Degusta rightly realizes that the Nexus One, closing in on its second birthday, actually has made it through two major upgrades -- Froyo and Gingerbread. Two years of life, two major upgrades. That’s not too shabby, and it’s also exactly what we should expect from a Nexus phone, which is updated directly from Google, and not the manufacturer or carrier.

So back to the chart. It takes phones released (in the United States) through the second quarter of 2010, showing in handy green, yellow, orange and red colors just how many major updates behind a particular phone may be. But look again at the phones that are listed.

The HTC Hero. The Samsung Moment. The Motorola Cliq. The HTC Droid Eris. The Samsung Behold II. The Motorola Devour. The Motorola Backflip. The Motorola Cliq XT. The LG Ally. The Garmin Garminfone. The HTC Aria. Those are the lower-end devices Degusta has charted along with the high-end HTC EVO 4G and Droid Incredible.  And the Nexus One. And the original Motorola Droid. Once again, low-end phones are placed on a level playing field with high-end devices. It is going to make for a lopsided chart. And it has, again and again.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Not every Android phone deserves updates to the latest major Android version. (And we'll probably have to say it again.) Look at that list of phones there. With apologies to the many owners of those phones, you can’t honestly say that carriers and manufacturers should spend the time and money to update them to Gingerbread.

Here’s the thing: Steve Jobs once called Android a commodity. He’s right. Or, at least, he is partially. Android phones have become a commodity in addition to being the cream of the crop. They co-exist. Walk into any U.S. carrier store or big-box retailer and you see it. High-end phones and tablets right next to entry-level devices and craplets. It's also exactly what Google had in mind. Android everywhere. (We're tradmarking that, by the way.)

The problem isn’t “fragmentation.” It’s not that a phone that’s a year and a half old isn’t running the latest version of code that just dumped into the AOSP last week. If you want that, you need a custom ROM. (Hell, even the Nexus phones can’t keep up with official updates as quickly as the AOSP devs, but that’s hardly a surprise, either.)

The problem Android has is dilution.

The carriers have diluted the market so much that it’s impossible for them to give each phone equal attention. Not that they should, necessarily, but they’ve still made it impossible. And notice that we said carriers here, and not manufacturers. In the U.S., as you (should) well know, the carriers are the ones responsible for this mess. It’s not like Motorola or HTC or Samsung or LG sneaks into the store and night, each leaving a  half-dozen phones and hoping the poor reps can figure it out in the morning. (Though it does sometimes seem like that’s the case.)

There are too many phones for the carriers and manufacturers to support equally. It just can’t be done. That’s not Android’s fault. Google’s releasing the code. Does it have a responsibility to ensure that every phone receives that code in a timely manner? That’s certainly open to debate, and the Android Update Alliance announced in the spring is at least a small step in the right direction. (We’d love an update on that at some point, Google.)

Back to the latest misguided chart, though.

You have to understand (or at least be willing to understand) that iPhones and Android phones are completely different animals. The iPhone is a completely vertical system. A single hardware platform absolutely makes controlling the upgrade process a less difficult (we’ll not call it “easy” for anyone) endeavor.

But a chart that shows that every iPhone is on the latest version of iOS doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t show that the original iPhone didn't get updated to iOS 5. It's been "fragmented" out. And it doesn't show that an iPhone 3G doesn’t run iOS 5 anywhere near as well as an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S. And it doesn’t show that the iPhone 4 is lacking a major feature found on the iPhone 4S, the one that’s currently featured in commercials -- Siri. If that’s not “fragmentation,” we don’t know what is.

But Degusta’s chart doesn’t show that. It just paints the pretty picture that iPhones are updated, Android phones aren’t. That the vertically designed, Apple-controlled iPhones are updated, and Android phones -- which were designed with an entirely different implementation philosophy -- aren’t.

If you ignore the misleading chart and similarly misleading bullet points, Degusta’s conclusions mirror a lot of our own over the past couple of years. The updating of Android phones often is a crapshoot. But what we wrote recently remains true: Are you staying up nights waiting for an upgrade because you have just have to have to be on the latest version? If you’re reading this, then you might well be. Or you might have rooted and ROM’d by now. (And if so, good on ya!) The rest of world? The “normal” consumers? Not so much.

Android updates aren’t the same as iOS updates, and they’re not going to be. That doesn’t mean we don’t want a more streamlined and certain update process. We most certainly do. It’s probably the biggest perceived strike against Android, even if it’s largely in our heads. But perception can be a big deal, just as those who read this chart came away with (or went into it with) a certain perception about Android.

But just because something’s in a chart doesn’t mean it tells the whole story. Or a real story. Or the right story.

Coming up: How to set your upgrade expectations


Reader comments

Editorial: Fun with ‘fragmentation’ charts (or, why you shouldn’t be distracted by shiny objects)


Its not like most consumers care. When some buys a smartphone they buy it for what it can do at the time of purchase. They do not buy with hopes of getting some new feature latter on it. Most consumers Don't care what version their phone is.

As an AT&T employee I get people who need to update their phones all the time. I have gotten dozens of calls this week from people running iOS 4.3 and they did not know about iOS 5.0. I got a call yesterday where a customer did not have the latest update for the Atrix 4g. Customer had no idea. Fact is most consumers have no Clue what iOS, Froyo or Gingerbread are. Ask them is your phone running Gingerbread they will say its a (insert manufacture here) or an Android they won't know the difference.

Carriers are assholes in this country, that much is true, and Apple has taken the hardest line against them, but that chart is Apple spin and propaganda, pure and simple. Even the definition of "Major Version" is an Apples to Androids comparison as well, and iPhones tend to be pretty painful to use at one+ versions past their launch iOS version. Most any functionality you want in Android is available as an app, no matter what version you're running.

Let's make a chart that only counts an update as "OTA Available" and there is nothing but red on those iOS charts. I develop for iOS and I have *never* encountered an average user who has their iPhone up to date with whatever is being pushed on iTunes. You can bet if it was the other way around (iPhones magically opened up with an "upgrade available!" message some morning, with Androids requiring some bloated program on your computer) this would be a source of trolling at every update of each platform.

Honestly, good show Apple for saying "No, Verizon/Sprint/AT&T, you all get an iPhone 4s. Verizon can't have the Apple GRANNYSMITH iPhone 4S. Sprint can't have the Apple iPhone 4 Epic WiMax Edition Touch S, and AT&T can't have the Apple iPhone 4S '4G'. You all get an iPhone 4S and we handle the updates, keep your bloatware." I really do wish someone else had the pull to do something like that. Oh wait, Google does with the Nexus devices. They really should advertise that. The only Google ads I ever see are stupid Angry Birds Chrome ads.

But hey, pageviews make money. Had anyone ever heard of that site before this junk?

I think it is flawed to just blame the carriers.

Take a look at a company like Samsung: they've made tons of different products in different sizes for different carriers. Obviously, there are going to be problems with updates. But, as a phone owner, is it too much to ask for updates when the competition like Apple and HTC are doing so with much more consistency?

Does it help the update process when it was Samsung's decision to put a layer of TouchWiz on every phone? No.

Samsung also makes more money by doing these deals with carriers. I don't care if the carrier apps makes it harder for you to update your phones, you agreed to it in the first place!

Also, I think people have to stop blaming the carriers because there is no financial incentive for a company like Samsung to update their products for an extended period. Just looking at Samsung's strategy of product diversification, it is clear that they have elected to put out as many products as possible. When you do that, you are already handicapping yourself in the feasibility of updates. Everyone acts like Samsung WANTS to update their phones but the big bad carriers won't let them. Samsung wants to make as much money as possible and that means using their programmers on their next product lines -- not past purchases.

I think this whole update alliance is very misleading for consumers. It appears that the manufacturers can pick and choose which products they want to fully support. Take my TMobile Vibrant, for example, it took Samsung over half a year just to get it to Froyo. (behind every other major manufacturer by months) It also seems like they've given up on updating it further. So what was the update life on that? I can't even say half a year because every other manufacturer had their flagship phones updated to Froyo way before Samsung.

I've heard of poor update stories of both Motorola and Samsung but I thought flagship phones were different -- I was wrong.

This is why I will never buy a non-Nexus Samsung device again.

That's why you should stay away from the Nexus S and the New Galaxy Nexus both made by Samsuck. When will Google learn to stop having Samsuck make their Nexus phones, I won't purchases a Nexus phone until HTC or Motorola makes it. Three things that are wrong with the new Nexus phone 1. made by Samsuck, 2. cheaply made plastic quality exterior, 3. No micro SD card slot, NO SELL! I hope this phone flops hard..

Sorry but I had a Nexus One and now a Nexus S. Samsung did a wonderful job with the Nexus S, and I'm happy to see Google stick with Samsung. The plastic is not that big a deal, really. The NS feels wonderful in my hands. It's light, but it still feels like a quality piece of hardware.

The lack of SD slot is a non-issue for me and most other people since we are now in the age of the "cloud" (google music, netflix, hulu+, pandora, spotify, dropbox, google docs, etc). The built-in 16GB of storage is plenty since most content is in the cloud. Samsung isn't the only one doing this, just look at the iPhone. I don't see the millions of iPhone users complaining they don't have an SD slot.

You may hope the phone flops hard all you want, but hoping will do nothing. All the reviews thus far point to the Galaxy Nexus being a winner all around and I have no doubt it will be a huge hit.

As a user of Samsung and also not being from America, I have been getting updates regularly, for all my devices, these are American Blogs that highlight American problems, newsflash, phones are sold outside of America, there is a huge difference between the update cycle for an International Samsung device and a carrier branded device, a difference that can be measured in months, take a look at the flagship currently, 2.3.5 have been released all over the world, now take a look at the carrier branded versions, see what firmware version they are running.

Don't blame Samsung or the manufacturers at all, the carriers hold back the updates quite a bit

Somehow you are mixing Nexus S with all other Samsung phones. The NS is getting ICS after the Galaxy Nexus is out. How much faster of an update do you want? If this teaches you anything, it's not to avoid Samsung, but to always buy Nexus devices. They will have the longest time of support from Google for updates compared to any other Android phone.

"As an AT&T employee I get people who need to update their phones all the time. I have gotten dozens of calls this week from people running iOS 4.3 and they did not know about iOS 5.0. I got a call yesterday where a customer did not have the latest update for the Atrix 4g. Customer had no idea. Fact is most consumers have no Clue what iOS, Froyo or Gingerbread are. Ask them is your phone running Gingerbread they will say its a (insert manufacture here) or an Android they won't know the difference."

Oh, god... that is so true. Last month, I went to a local music festival, and happened to see a girl who had a Droid X that still was on Froyo. I thought that since Motorola made it that you actually had to go out and get the newest update, the average person wouldn't care, and saw that as a major flaw. I had to tell my mother about the updates to her Droid X, whereas my father would see an "Update available!" notification and would load it up on his own.

People don't care about new versions of an OS, unless they read a site like this. If a rusty old tool works, they'll stick with the rusty old tool, even if you offer them some scouring pads to wipe off the rust.

This is the main reason I am getting the galaxy nexus for my wife and I. I know that phone will get solid updates for the next 2 years. All other android phones get updated based on their popularity.

Very true. My contract is up this coming July. I'm going to grab the next Nexus phone after this new one thats about to be released for sure. With a Nexus phone at least you know it will get updates and is pure android without 3rd party skins like Motorola, or entire new UI like Samsung and HTC.

If it weren't for the Nexus I would go to something else completely. I've had serious issues with Motorola devices. My X is nearly unusable since Gingerbread update, so Verizon is sending me an X2, which I read has it's own major issues. With Android you never know if these bugs will be fixed because the device manufacturers rarely update them.

Like Phil said - root & custom ROM! :) My HTC EVO 4G is running CyanogenMod7 and already has Android OS version 2.3.7 plus many enhancement tweaks. So, so glad I rooted, but this process is not for everyone.

Custom ROMs are a joke. While they are generally reliable the reality is they are still 9 times out of 10 buggy. I've gone through literally dozens of ROMs on my EVO4g and even now the ROM I'm on still has a problem on the log screen from time to time.

not necesarily true, remember the Galaxy S phones? extremely popular, froyo took forever, gingerbread, forget about it. yes im bringing that up, i own a captivate. Long live Cyanogen, or atinm in my case.

The problem (at least one of) Android faces is that the consumers that understand DO care. These same customers are technology influencers in their circles. I'm one of them, most of you probably are too.

So, you wind up creating discontent with the customers that will drive the product sales more so than any carrier sales person. Carrier sales people are viewed as little more than used car salesmen. No offense guys, but that's the fact of the matter.

When speaking about a platform like Android that's still experiencing quite a few growing pains (and the bugs that come along with those pains), updates are the lifeblood of the platform. Leave behind your customer base, and when they realize that their phone will never be updated again, so they can't do the new cool thing, they will buy another phone. And it will probably be something different, since they now have a bad taste over the whole Android thing. Some of these customers will be uneducated enough to not know the difference between something running Sense and Blur, but many will, and will go straight to the iPhone, and will wind up happy with it.

I toted around a Nexus One for about a year. I started off on Eclair. I watched the updates come, often times much more slowly than I'd have liked. The platform slowly got better over time. I even tried custom roms like Cyanogen 6/7, but spent most of my time on the stock Google ROM, not even rooted.

What did I find? I found tons of frustration over what seem like basic features that kept failing. For example - ActiveSync. I often found myself wondering if it was a slow email day, or my sync process had taken a stroll down Zombie Lane. I lost count of how many times I saw the dreaded, "Cannot connect to Exchange Server" message, while my iPhone toting co-workers were happily syncing away. When the phone is your primary email device for half or more of your day, this is something you need to have working. In the end, I too went to the dark side, and picked up an unlocked iPhone 4, which I've been using for about the past 6 months. I thought it was going to be awful. But, I'll just say that 6 months in, my mail/cal/contact sync is rock solid, my Android co-workers still have trouble with sync, and I'm much happier with a platform that works. Sorry to have to put it that way, but that's the plain truth.

This editorial comes off very much as "It's not Android's fault. It's all the carriers' fault. Shut up and buy a new Android phone!" It's a shame.

The iPhone freakin 3GS has worse specs than most of those Android Phones and it is still getting updates. The Nexus One is far more powerful and it can't run ICS? LOL! It's pathetic on Android as a whole. Fragmented, buggy, laggy, ugly, stolen shit.

Windows Computers, Windows Phones, OSX Computers, iOS Devices can all get instant/quick updates but Android as a whole continues to be a big skinned up bloatware disaster.

That is the most ignorant apple fanboy troll comment I have ever seen.

Obviously this poster doesn't understand how much more powerful the android os is than iOS.

A screen full of icons is not a modern mobile OS. The only difference between the palm pilot I was using in 1997 and an iphone is that the iphone can make phone calls. Up until a month ago you still needed to connect your iphone to itunes VIA A CABLE to get updates (like that palm pilot). Welcome to syncing to the cloud the android community has been here for YEARS.

Don't despise iOS! Android is iOS with widgets, malwares, terrible taste for colors and icons, less apps, fragmented etc.

We all know who the bigoted, idiotic trolls are.

iOS5 is really awesome right? There's not a single new innovation in that 'software update'

Notifications - Blatantly copied from Android

Messaging - Blatantly copied from BBM

Siri - Been done with apps/built in voice control in Android for years, /yawn.

Superiority Complex - Yep, that one is purely originally Apple.

That last one is purely evident by iPhone zombies trolling ANDROID websites spouting their propoganda.

And now what google copied from Apple.
Android - Blatantly copied from iOS.
As easy as that.

Oh, and there are no Android apps nearly as good as Siri. Voice control is basic, siri is AI, capable of understanding things in different ways, it understands natural talking, can answer questions, and do lots of other stuff. And, as I've been testing it for days, it almost always get what you say correctly, unlike Google's stuff. Siri can do a lot more things than those stupid voice commands.

Yeah, we are the trolls, seriously? Android fanboys always come to iPhone blogs/videos to troll, we're just doing the same thing to you guys.

Why is it that you iFans never know the history of the shit you think is the best? Android started development in 2005 and had a hard time getting support until 2007.

Okay so iCrap was first to market... With stuff that was copy and pasted into one whole pile of iShit and pushed into the hands of people as "innovative" and "next generation."

Hey if you want to believe iCrap is the best because you have Siri - which from what I've heard is only good for finding things people are too lazy to search for, or finding the local escort service (since most people with iJunk are too ignorant to at least score some p***y own their own) - then by all means go ahead.

I'd like to see you add all the customization any Android phone can right out of the box... OH WAIT, you have to jailbreak them. FAIL. I can actually make my own apps and test them out for my phone. But hey most consumers only want choice and the fact is Android has more.

On a last note, you come here to troll because Android fans troll? You as a person are very ignorant. An eye for an eye makes everyone blind. If you stop trolling, they'll stop trolling.

I know about Android's history. In 2006 Android looked like a blackberry, and then iOS came and Google completely changed Android.

The thing is, most iPhone users (including me) don't want to customize their phones. We like iOS just the way it is. You guys can't get satisfied with stock android, that proves it's not right for you.
Oh, and as a reply to what you said, iPhone users are a lot more sexually active than Android users.
Here's the graphic of the research made by OkCupid:
Oh, and you can also make your own apps for the iPhone. It's free to be a developer, you'll only have to pay if you want access to betas and be able to sell it in the app store

You know, I didn't always troll in android sites, but these Android fanboys drive me crazy! I don't think they'll ever stop trolling at iPhone sites, so we (iPhone fans) won't stand still and do nothing.

Man, you 're defending your iPhone like your life's depending on it! "won't stand still and do nothing" ??????? How old are you? Go find some friends or something! Siri won't get you laid!

okcupid? wow, the free online dating? cant afford real online dating?

SURE!!! there are more broke iFans than android users.

All i know is this, when im out, my GS2 becomes the center of the attention, 1- camera 2- size/thin. 3- screen. 4- guys cant tell im smart, and love SWYPE. and i dont just get laid, i actually get asked on a date...

iUsers are usually lame and not bright, some sexy, but when they open their mouth, im like, keep walking. its a known fact, adroid guys, are smarter, cuz they chose to not go with an iPhone.

but i hope ur enjoying ur androfied new PHONE!!! sorry u still using a tiny screen. theres always a next year.

Sent from GSII, with a HUGE 4.5 SAMOLED+ screen.

An eye for an eye makes everyone blind and arguing back and forth about whose cell phone is better makes everyone a virgin.

Apple is good in its own ways. Android is good in its own ways. Can we all just agree that we're all lucky we're not WebOS or Blackberry users?

Maybe the iPhone people have bought Androids multiple times to give them a fair shot. I know I have. But what these guys are saying is true. Anyway, the Apple guys on Android website maybe like tech blogs and technology. I have seen the same stuff over at Apple tech blogs. Chill out!
Also, without the iPhone you wouldn't have Android, and without Erick Schmidt knowing about the iPhone in 05 when he was on Apples board, backstabbing them, Google never would have bought Android probably until years later.

Haha updates for the 3GS? i loved my multitasking with 4.0, and now im having a great time using Siri with my 3GS. and on the note of "stolen shit" half of iOS 5 is taken straight from Android. Pull down notification bar? Speech to text? (kind of) widgets? really?

In iOS unless you have the latest iPhone, you dont get all of the new features, meaning you have a bunch of iPhones all running differently even though theyre supposedly on "the same version". That seems to be fragmentation, straight out of the dictionary.

The iPhone 3GS supports multitasking, and all other features from iOS 4 and 5, except for video calling (duh, there's no front facing camera in it!) and Siri (it's in beta stage, so Apple doesn't want hundreds of millions of users testing it out now, the servers are not ready yet). Older iPhones get 99% of the new features, and that sure is better than not getting an update at all!

Hahaha, oh very funny. I laughed so hard there at your very good impression of an ignorant troll using half truths combined with complete nonsense and a very small grasp on reality.

Oh what's that? You actually believe what you've written?
Ah well I'm sure your ill conceived rage will cause you to spontaneously combust at some point.

A bit more research next time and you might find your comments are better received, if of course you haven't found yourself in a pile of angry ashes on the floor that is.

Awesome!!!!!! Great point!!!!
I'll run next door and tell my neighbor that as soon as he "updates" his bit over a year old iPhone 4 to IOS 5 he'll e able to run Siri just like the 4S.
oh, thats right... it can't.
An update doesn't mean jack if it doesn't update anything.
BTW I like that new notification bar you IOS fanboys love so much. I feel like I've seen it somewhere recently but I can't put my finger on it. Surely its just in my head, after all Apple would NEVER steal anything. right??

This is a great rebuttal to this thoroughly flawed chart. As the old line goes, tell me which side of the argument you are on and I'll give you the statistics to prove you are right. The reality is that the only time that most customers think about updates is when a new phone is released with buggy software that needs to be fixed, such as the LG G2X or the Droid 3.

Yet another flaw in the chart is that it says every generation of iPhone is on current software and that is just plain not true. The first-gen iPhone was cut lose after V3 of the iPhone OS and never got iOS4. This year the 3G is no longer listed as compatible with iOS5 according to Apple and as Phil stated above, the 3GS and 4 don't even get all of the features of the update.

Arguing that the iPhone 3G (which can't run iOS 5, by the way) and Siri are proofs that iOS is fragmented too and that there's no big difference is... well, misleading.

The iPhone 3G is a three-year-old phone; the original is four years old. During their practical lifetimes, they got updates at the same time as every other model, and several months beyond that, on the same day. By the time it stopped getting updates, you'd probably sold the phone to a friend or passed it off to your kids. And iOS 5 is surprisingly robust: the iPhone 3GS actually runs iOS 5 more efficiently than it did iOS 4. Siri is still up in the air as to whether it's hardware-limited; it's been hacked to kinda-sorta run, but we don't know if it can run without performance issues. Either way, it's an unambiguously much better track record.

DeGusta doesn't always touch on it directly, but there's a genuine problem for all users, not just enthusiasts, from Google and OEMs not taking OS updates seriously. There are Android phones less than two years old, and sometimes less than one year old, that can't use important features of key Google and third-party apps. Even if you think they don't care about features, there's security; certain Google security fixes aren't there unless you're using Android 2.3, and even then sometimes only in later versions. Why is okay that your phone be at risk just because you don't replace your hardware every year?

There's also a simple matter of knowing that you'll get features that aren't clearly tied to hardware components or performance. Buying a phone shouldn't be a support lottery: "aw, sorry, you chose a lower-end Motorola, the company will pretend you don't exist after one update that comes four months late. Should've bought a high-end HTC!" Remember, Google formed a coalition expressly to push OEMs into actively supporting their phones. It wouldn't have done that if it didn't think ship-it-and-dump-it was a severe problem.

The only thing missing from this write up is a nice juicy picture of Phillys digits ....yummy those little meat sticks make me so so hungry every time I see them grace a video on AC ....

Simply put... The android platform is a lot broader than ios. There are high end product and low end product made by various different maufacturers. The mobile market is flush with a variety of android devices and the low end devices just dont deserve the updates. Not because they cant handle thr update but because carriers like verizon are releasing a new android phone every month. Then you have to take the manufactures Overlay with sense, wiz and blur, so the manufacturer also plays a part in the OS updates. And if any iphone user claims that the 3gs runs ios5 just as well as iphone 4s they are lying. Im writing this ob a P.OS. Iphone 3g ( not 3gs) apple stopped supporting this phone a long time ago. I can only run ios 4.2 and it crashes constantly. It wont even sync w/ itunes anymore. Me personally, im waiting for the att galaxy nexus. Sonif you want the most recent andriod os on your phone go w/ a nexus cuz the updates are straight from google and there are no manufacturer overlays

OK...long winded reply coming...

I think both articles made good points, even if some of them were exaggerated.

I think the main point of the original article was that if you buy a device, it's unlikely but ultimately a complete unknown if it will be updated along with the OS as it evolves. And that point is true. Phil does nothing to argue that point and, in fact, agrees with it.

I agree with Phil's point that some phones are simply not released with the intent to receive that type of support. They are there to satisfy a certain segment of the market that wants a device at a particular price point or with some feature or form factor they perceive as being valuable. But the deman for those phones is limited and carriers just don't have the bandwidth to update them all.

I think one thing should come out of this problem. When a carrier advertises a phone, it should be their responsibility to indicate in some manner if that device will receive updates. This is a complicated thing to do since the carrier doesn't have a full timeline as to major Android releases 1-2 years out. But that doesn't mean they can't make some comittments in terms of time. For example, 'this device will be updated to any major OS versions released within the next 18 months'. Or, 'this device will not receive any major OS updates'. The last one would possibly make the device difficult to sell, but it's all about transparency into the life of the product.

I'm a fairly experienced developer (and an Android user...currently with an Incredible and moving soon to the Galaxy Nexus) but have limited knowledge of the architecture of the Android OS and how deep a carrier has to go into the OS to make the changes they add to the OS (or take away). But it occurs to me that possibly part of the problem is the process by which this is performed. THere are ways any piece of software can be written to make it easily extensible and forward compatible, and there are ways not to. If a carrier decides for whatever reaosn they wabt to make a set of changes to a particular device, and to make those changes it requires them to completely take the wheels off the cart then it obviously will be a difficult process to move that device (and those modifications) to future OS revs. So perhaps a takeaway for Google would be to rearchitect certain aspects of the OS, taking into consideration the typical type of chanegs carriers are making, to more easily allow those customizations to be retrofitted to future OS revs. Alternatively, it would be nice for the consumer to have an option as to the upgrade path. They could chooes to remain on their current version with all the customizations, or opt to choose a new carrier supported version that perhaps did not have the extra bells and whistles as the original release. So, my Incredible was released with HTC Sense (which I personally enjoy). As history shows, they did update it to Gingerbread and still included the same basic set of additional features as found int he Froyo version. But, as a third option in the carrier's comittment when the device is releaased, how about the amount of time they will continue to deliver a 'limited' upgrade to new OS versions. Under this, HTC could have released a Gingerbread version without Sense and really only adding in whatever limitations they wanted to impose on the device (tethering, etc). So you might get one major OS upgrade 9 moths after purchasing a device that included all the 'glitter' the carrier added in the original release. BUt at 18 months you might have the option to receive an update to the next OS version that was fairly stock.

You're sort of crazy. Apple did charge for the 1st (and maybe 2nd) update for the iPod Touch, but never for the iPhone.

Not for the update but gor example a buddy of mine bout the iphone 4?last year and he also has a mac running os10.5.. When he plugged his new iphone 4 into his mac it gave him an error message saying the phone is not compatible with the software or visvera. So he had to purchase the os10.6 software and install it on his mac. But the funny part was that apple at that time did not sell just the OS disc. You had to buy it in a bundle pack with mobile me and something else for like $100. Needless to say he wasnt very happy about that

Phil, in a previous rant defending Android you said there was no fragmentation problem -- its just legacy (and even pointed to an Andy Rubin video backing you up). Now you say there's a "dilution" problem, but then you say that's not really a problem at all.

You seem to be contradicting yourself over and over by saying things like "The problem Android has is dilution" and then turning right around and saying "Not every Android phone deserves updates to the latest major Android version". The second line makes the first one irrelevant because if the second line is true, then there is no actualy problem highlighted in the first line.

Please, please, please think these things out before you post them. If you want to say there's no problem with the way Android is being rolled out, then just say it. But you're not a good enough writer to weave in and out of the contradictions that you're setting up.

Maybe these kind of pieces should be handed off to Jerry?

You are completely wrong and rude to boot. Fragmentation and dilution are two separate things and not related. Dilution is the simply mind-numbing number of devices on the market. Fragmentation is the simply mind-numbing number of different Android versions on the market. You owe Phil an apology for your lack of reading comprehension.

This article is way to wordy for what it was trying to say.

Simply put, if iOS was allowed to be tweaked and used on any phone manufacturers see fit, the same thing would happen to it. Some manufacturers would be lax and some budget devices would never be updated. Its simple. On the other side of the fence, if Android were a one phone animal and Google made the phone, it would be updated same as the iPhone.

And once again, these are both strong and weak points of both phones. Open or closed. They are both blessings and curses in their own right.

You hit it right on the head.

I will add that despite what Phil says/implies, the updating situation HAS been made worse by the manufacturers, not just the carriers. They have added so much junk on top of Android, it makes "porting" and testing all their stuff on a new version of Android a freaking nightmare.

But we all know that it was necessary in the past- if we are honest, we can all see the limitations of old versions of Android and the manufacturers (like HTC) really did do an excellent job of improving the UI and filling in missing parts to bring polish and functionality to Android.

What is exciting is that ICS (Android 4.0) really seems to have incorporated a lot of the stuff that the manufacturers were adding on top of Android. This SHOULD mean less need for the proprietary "on-top-of-android" stuff. That should, in turn, lead to much faster (and less expensive) porting of OS updates. Finally, that might lead to faster updates, more frequent updates, and less un-updated phone models.

A big resounding "DUH!" from over here. You have it exactly right. The fact that Android is open-y and allows people to mess with it as they see fit is why some devices get regular updates and others don't. The upside is you have options. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a high-end phone to be running the latest OS. Last year's phones still do that plenty well. My HTC Evo 4G is indeed running a version of the latest released Android OS, for example, and will probably get a copy of 4.0 at some point. Then I know I'm good until probably next year around this time... but by that time, the phone is 2.5 years old. Not too bad in my book.

As for me, since I'm actually aware of these updates as they happen (most users aren't), I prefer the openy-ness nature of Android, and that's why I use it.

People say how Apple is awesome for supporting the iPhone for 3 years. Look at how little iOS has changed in 3 years. Last time I checked they only had 5 different phones out. It's a lot eaiser to keep 5 phones up to date. The only big thing they have done in 3 years is Siri and last I checked it only works on the newest phone.

Android has changed a lot in 3 years and the updates are up to the manufactures. They have a lot more than 5 phones to try and update and work with their skins. And if you want a phone that can be kept up to date then get a Nexus phone. With the Galaxy Nexus I believe every carrier will get it so we all will have that option.

Just my 2 cents.

Yea Android manufacturers are the ones causing the fragmentation reason to have the same phone in europe to have a different name in the US that is exactly the same phone.

Then they keep coming out with phone after phone that is basically the same thing with a couple of hardware changes, its just a fragmented mess.

How is the nexus going to be kept up to date, this time next year it will be lagging behind just the new models from last year at this time are.

Not to point too many fingers- but THAT really *is* partially a carrier-generated issue. The carriers insist on having a phone that is DIFFERENT than their rival's model from the same manufacturer.

It is a huge sickness at the heart of the whole infrastructure in the USA's cell phone industry. Phones should not be under contact. Consumers should be able to buy ANY phone of their choice and use it on the carrier of their choice. Carriers should not exert so much control over consumer freedom and choice.

The Nexus S will get ICS right after the GN is released. AndI beleive it will be the same for Jelly Bean. And if not then Cyanagen will make it.

Didn't you hear that the Nexus One isn't getting Ice Cream Sandwich? So, if you bought it from T-Mobile on launch day, less than one year later, you received the last major update you're ever going to get from Google.

The original Droid was on the market and supported longer than the Nexus One.

Cyanogenmod brought Gingerbread to the EVO 4G before Google released the official build for the Nexus One.

From a hardware perspective, the Nexus S was inferior to the Galaxy S which launched 6 months earlier.

If you're basically going to be stuck flashing un-official ROM's anyway, why even bother with the Nexus devices at all? Why not just buy the best hardware you can, and hope that XDA helps you out.

Less Crazy Comment:

Safety is a concern with updates and needs to be addressed. But I chose Android because I can still do more with my Original Droid Incredible running Froyo than I can with an iphone on the current iOS. (notwithstanding the front facing camera, but I see that as more of a hardware issue).

Meh, the same people mocking this chart are the first ones to cry that their Android didn't get Gingerbread fast enough. Fanboys...all of you!

I think this story being posted is a joke......trying to make excuses for Android.

I have a droid incredible and should be running 4.0 right now along with all the other Android phones!

Android is a fragmented mess just like Windows.

I agree with you... up to where you say Android is like Windows. I can install Windows 7 on any PC that I want. Even if your PC is 7 years old, as long as it has 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 will run on it.

In the Android world, if you want to update your phone, you have to wait for someone to root it, and then hope that people at XDA make ROM's for it.

Microsoft has been providing updates and bug-fixes for Windows XP for a decade. Most Android handsets on the market right now don't run current versions of the OS when they're launched, and are likely to never see an update after a year.

True....but I was more towards like drivers and stuff being a fragmented mess. Its not as bad as it used to be, but still there.

*I* know who he was responding to... and he was pretty much correct. In a way, Jerry was correct too. Most people do consider Sense to be just layers on top of Android. But it is so integrated, it might as well be the version of the OS. (And all of either is on top of Linux)

This really is going to bite HTC with Android 4.0.

This isn't exactly my first time at AC, I know who Jerry is, the parenthesis were added because it would be obvious to him. He knows that Sense isn't the OS. yes to the user, that's all they may see. (It's the HTC customized user interface designed on top of the OS)

it's not the OS. Put Sense 3.5 on Android 2.0 and tell me the phone's the same as Sense 3.5 on Android 4.0.

4.0 isn't even out yet.

Your phone stands a good chance to be updated to 4.0. I know my HTC Evo will, so I don't see much of a reason why yours can't.

How is that anything like Windows? Do you even know what you're saying? OSX updates the same way as Windows. Meaning, you'll have a bunch of people running all various versions of it and you have to pay for each upgrade.

Obvious troll is obvious.

Actually, it is unlikely the Evo 4G will be upgraded to 4.0 by HTC/Sprint. Gingerbread is probably where it ends. That said, it is likely there will be unofficial ROMS of ICS available.

When I first saw this chart I took a cruise through the various development forums and saw that 14 of the 18 Android devices listed on the chart are currently running Gingerbread, and most of them are running CM 7.1. My conclusion? If you care about the update, you can likely find it via a custom ROM. But, this article does point out that if you care about updates, you should also avoid the mid-low end devices as well.

I don't expect fair and balanced reporting from Android Central, but this is article, totally excusing the fragmentation problem, is pretty shameful.

Apple supports all of it's phones with updates for 3 years from their launch. Microsoft will, in all likelihood, do the same. This is how it should be.

Google stopped updating its flagship G1 LESS THAN A YEAR after it launched. The Nexus One is being abandoned less than 2 years after launch. The picture for 3rd party devices is ABYSMAL. Today, you can still buy devices that are running Eclair, that will never see an update, ever. Many of these devices say "with Google" on them, and Google doesn't stand behind them at all.

This is a big problem. Because of the fragmentation problem, it will be YEARS before we see any apps written to take advantage of new API's and capabilities of ICS. Most apps in the market are written to be compatible with 1.6, though many now require at least 2.1.

Frankly, this (and Java) is why all Android apps are garbage when compared to their iOS counterparts. Within days of a new iOS version launching, a lot of apps are updated to take advantage of new API's. With Android, you have to write to the least common denominator, because at any given time, most handsets are running a version that's 2 major versions behind.

And before you say "what features are there in Gingerbread that people running Eclair are REALLY missing?", just think about it. If Gingerbread isn't that different from Eclair, then why aren't ALL handsets being updated?

It's only a problem for people that need to be on the cutting edge. For the vast majority of customers, this isn't the case. I hate to break it to you, but phone geeks are in the extreme minority.

Just as other posters ably pointed out, the only way the situation would change is if Google completely changed the business model of Android and mimicked Apples "walled garden" approach. Had Android not taken off, then I think Google would have had to rethink their approach. However, their philosophy has been successful as they've lowered the barrier for OEMs and built a considerable market share in an amazingly short period of time.

I understand that phone geeks are in the minority. That's the problem. For all the people who just want an operating system that works, and and is easy to use, iOS or Windows Phone are clearly superior. Nevertheless, Android is selling well, even to people who aren't phone geeks. Because all of those people are OK with running an outdated OS, no one writes good apps for Android.

It's hilarious to me. I often make the claim that "all Android apps suck", hoping that someone will actually call me on it. No one ever has. No one has ever said to me, "hey, have you seen THIS app? This really shows you what Android is capable of!" I doubt anyone ever will.

The above reply listing all the Google apps is actually 100% true because these are the only pure Android apps, why? Because MOST iOS developers develop for Android too.

No. It is *not* only a problem for people who want to be on the cutting edge. It is a problem for anyone who wants to connect a smartphone to the internet -- which is everyone who owns a smartphone. Timely security updates are a basic requirement for any device that regularly connects to the internet. They are not some sort of optional added value; they are normal, required maintenance.

It is negligent, irresponsible, and inexcusable for OEMs to sell phones that don't receive security updates all the way to the end of the contract period for every unit sold. But some can't manage to keep shipping security updates even for as long as the phone is still on the shelf -- which means that unit is unfit to be online the entire time it's in the customer's hands.

I like Android too -- I was reading this story earlier on my Acer tablet with Honeycomb -- but the excuses aren't helping anyone. Android OEMs don't have an update problem, they have an update CRISIS that needs an immediate and dramatic response.

"...Today, you can still buy devices that are running Eclair, that will never see an update, ever. Many of these devices say "with Google" on them, and Google doesn't stand behind them at all."

Google doesn't stand behind phones (except for the Nexus). Google stands behind Android. The OS is supplied to the manufacturers who, along with providers, make the decisions about how, when and if they will release updates.

"...If Gingerbread isn't that different from Eclair, then why aren't ALL handsets being updated?"

Updating the OS requires modifications to the UI and proprietary applications. When a manufacturer and provider have many phones in the marketplace decisions have to be made regarding the expense of upgrading. That's business and if you think that manufacturers and providers should be obligated to upgrade every phone regardless of profitability you don't understand how companies stay in business.

The alternative is a closed system with one phone format, one interface and no changes allowed for providers. That's the Apple way.

Why can't you just select the option that you prefer and stop trying to make everyone else admit that your choice is superior?

Hard to fault a phone on fragmentation when there is only one format, one manufacturer, one interface. The first three versions of the iPhone only supported GSM.

Now let's notice that there have been three just iPhones and two bumps so far. Taking into account that many features of the later OS versions don't work on earlier phones, that's a lot of debatable green boxes in the chart.

Sure, the fact that Android is modified by the manufacturers and further modified for the providers results in phones getting updates late or never. But if updating is your main criterion in selection there's always the Nexus. For the majority of Android users it's nice to have a varied selection.

The point is that every feature that can't be at least superficially pinned to hardware (either basic parts or performance) makes it to an iPhone during its typical lifespan. Android doesn't even get that; you can get an official Google app that loses certain big features (Google Maps is the perennial example) on a phone stuck on Android 2.1.

I've always thought the "get a Nexus" argument falls somewhat flat. Why does the choice have to be between a quick updating, fast, pure Nexus phone and a phone with significant update delays (or missing updates), sometimes slow performance, and a tendency towards gimmicky, cluttering custom UIs? In a sense, "get a Nexus" is more an admission that there are certain elements of the iPhone model that work better.

Agreed. "Get a Nexus" is a total copout. For one thing, the Nexus is not available on all carriers. Usually only one or a few. Next, the single Nexus-of-the-year model might be missing some major thing you want or need- like an SD slot, removable battery, larger or smaller screen, physical keyboard, etc.

The Nexus argument only works if there are several variations of the Nexus hardware and all of them are available on all the major carriers.

That is not going to happen.

It was just an example. The new Nexus coming out will have neither a removable battery nor an SD slot has no SD card. Perhaps the following Nexus will have no removable battery. The point is VALID- with only one model to choose from, you are stuck with whatever one feature set is offered.

LOL, so if someone is complaining about a lack of Siri, does the "Get an iPhone 4s" arguement fall short because the person want's one with a metal back, removable battery, physical keyboard, and SD card slot just like the res----OH S*** there isn't a single iPhone with the last 3 features. :-P

The get a Nexus argument is no long a copout or whatever else you want to call it. It's on all major carries with the newest Nexus. If you want the other features than there are other phones, it's called choice. A lot of people don't want physical physical keyboards, why make a product for the few? There's ROM customization and a whole lot of other ways you can customize your phone if you want a feature not listed.

I honestly couldn't care less about updates, I'm rocking a G1 with Donut on it til the Nexus comes out and I actually like it. I can do anything any other ordinary consumer does with their Froyo or Gingerbread phone so yeah. If someone is dead-set on having the latest and greatest updates then get a Nexus, it's coming to your carrier soon. If it doesn't have a feature you like find a phone you do like and slap a ROM on it, it's getting easier and easier for AOSP ROMs to get slapped onto a phone.

Whatever people want to call it (dilution, fragmentation, etc), it's still an issue that needs to be improved upon, and shouldn't just be expected or accepted.

even for smaller updates, if/when security flaws are discovered, it'd be nice if those patches could be rolled out to all devices soon after, not just added to the next version of android for whichever devices that might fall on.

It would be great if updates were rolled out like windows. integrated into the OS, and provided direct from google. Not all android devices are sold and controlled by carriers. Non carrier devices could show as examples of properly serviced devices. Whenever any updates are available, those could be pushed out to those devices.

manufacturer specific software needs to be less difficult to implement as well, whether that's something android can improvement on (means for simpler third party customization), so that those devices can receive timely updates as well.

Articles like this are why I frequent Android Central daily. Bloggers with actual brains who aren't over dramatizing every story in order to draw attention to themselves.

Remove all the stupid names many people seem to obsess over, like Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, and most Android handsets are on the latest MAJOR version - 2.x. Since when is going from version 2.1 to version 2.2, or from 2.2 to 2.3 considered a MAJOR update? The version numbers tell the real story - these are incremental updates.

If you buy into this though, that means Android hasn't seen a major update in almost two years.

So true, it also means iOS is very flawed since it gets a "MAJOR" update almost every month based on that numbering factor.

The fact is: Google wanted to make an iPhone competitor that any manufacturer could use. They did. 80% of android users have no idea of what android is.
I'm not being a fanboy (although I really hate android). I do love iOS, and I tried out a Motorola Droid, I hated it. Android reminded me of when I used Windows. The same headaches, crashes, unsafeness, ugly and complicated UI. The reason why Android is customizable is because it's interface sucks, so people feel the need to change it. A grid of icons might not be the best interface on a phone, but it's still beautiful and intuitive. On the other hand, Windows Phone seems like an amazing platform, it's what android should have been. It is available for many manufacturers, but it avoids fragmentation thanks to minimum specs, and has a beautiful and intuitive UI.

You're basing you experience of Android off of a MotoBlur era phone? BAHAHAHAHA GTFO of here! That UI you says sucks is Motorola's UI placed on top of Android.

The TRUE fact is: Google saw a project in the making that was very innovative and needed a financial boost to become a product.
Manufacturers saw this as a great idea but wanted to have something to show it came from them. Motorola failed when they made MotoBlur. Get rid of a manufacturer's UI skin that is on top of Android and you have pure beauty.

How does the Android interface suck? When I touch an icon on my EVO 3D, it opens an application just like on your iPhone. Am I missing something? The iPhone interface is beautiful? It's a phone not a woman, relax. The way you apple worshippers breathlessly romanticize the iPhone is ridiculous, kinda sad and creepy too. Again, its just a phone. Stop breathing so heavily lol.

"Fragmentation" is everywhere, it's just part of life. It's not an Android specific problem, in fact I don't see it as a problem at all. It is the nature of business, new products are always in development and always being released. Is the auto industry fragmented? Multiple vehicles are released at different price points with different features. Would you call Infiniti or Ford or any auto manufacturer fragmented?

Furthermore, no one outside of tech blogs knows or cares about what version os they're running. Smartphone users and people who frequent sites like this are a very small percentage of cell phone users. The majority of users just want a device that allows them to reliably communicate with others, they don't take it as seriously as you. As long as they can talk, text and maybe email they're fine.

Lastly, the majority of updates that have been pushed contain mostly under the hood tweaks. Most of what changes isn't readily noticeable. I bought my original EVO 4G with eclair and between that and gingerbread I can't recall anything big outside of apps to SD support. Bottom line is, my text, calling, email, browsing / streaming worked on 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 which is all that mattered and is all that matters to the lion share of the people who are activating 550,000+ Android phones a day.

I take it you've never read an Android Central phone review. The "romanticizing" of the iPhone is the same with Android devices. Stop being so damned ignorant.

Personally, I believe anyone who gets all hot and bothered over a phone is ridiculous, doesn't matter if they're an ios fan or an Android fan. Yes, I've read plenty of reviews here and I find them to be very well done and more fact based than reviews on other sites which read like sales pitches a lot of the time, especially when it comes to the iPhone.

Whether you want to admit it or not, apple fans in tech blogs tend to talk with this reverential awe tone about the iPhone like it was handed down to them personally from God like how Moses was handed the ten commandments lol. To me, it seems Android users do more refuting of the knocks people try to throw at Android (like this fragmentation foolishness) than preaching about how wonderful and life changing this platform is, And how youd be a fool to use anything else like the arrogant condescending ios zealots do.

I wonder if I will ever get a official Gingerbread build for the Fascinate. I can run a hack version but those version all have their warts. The fact is the market is flooded with crappy phones that have short life cycles. Google needs to take control of the situation or prepare for people to me driven away from Android.

You're not crazy. The iPhone original wanted $10 to upgrade to iOS 3 and it wouldn't have all the features because of hardware issues. Also my 3G ran like ass when I upgraded to iOS4. I've been with Android since and am very happy with it's openness. Of course I rooted mine and it will be updated as long as the devs are gracious enough to keep working on it. My family's phones aren't rooted because they don't care. They wanted the features that were available when they bought it. If there is a feature they want that they can't get, then I'll root theirs.

As far as the article, someone else said it best. You can get data to support any point of view. This is someone looking for attention and Phil is calling them out on it.

Good point about the iPhone 3G on iOS 4. A few months back, I dug out my old iPhone 3G, updated it to the latest iOS 4 and re-loaded all the apps and games I purchased. I figured I'd just keep it around to tinker with.

Well, it's essentially useless with iOS 4. It's slow as hell, the web browser frequently quits, as do several of the apps I had purchased. I downgraded (an enormous hassle of a procedure) back to iOS 3.1 which used to run fine, only to discover upon trying to load up my apps, several have been updated to now require iOS 4. So, the OS version which actually runs well on my phone, won't run several purchased apps, which used to run fine but have been updated to require a newer OS version. I can run those apps if I upgrade to iOS4, but then the phone runs like garbage and/or several apps I've purchased constantly quit.

So yes, the typical Android phone doesn't make the 2 year contract duration still being supported by the manufacturer/carrier with the latest updates. It's a shame, certainly, but I can't say it's any more of a shame than the issues facing owners of older iPhones - that you CAN still upgrade to the latest iOS, but the experience is so compromised that you probably won't bother.

Another point - my iPhone 3G cost me $200. My Android (first the Fascinate which Verizon subsequently replaced with an HTC Incredible 2) cost $0. A shopper with a minimum of patients can find a very solid Android phone for little to nothing, where iPhone customers all have to pay retail, no exceptions.

I like how DeLoser conspicuously left out all of the higher end Android phones which have been updated.

He didn't. For one, the Evo 4G is clearly in the list. When released, it was hands-down the most powerful Android phone to date. And it *was* updated timely, twice.

That doesn't mean I agree with chart, overall.

This is a LONG read but hopefully worth the read!
They are considered Major upgrades because the minor ones are listed as 2.2.1, 2.2.2 and 2.2.3(you get the idea).

I do agree there should be some expectation on updates on a product. Flagship products should expect to get at least two major updates. I think mid-low end devices should get updates that come out with 1yr from the release of the phone.

I refer to Apple devices as dictator devices and windows/android as democratic devices.
---- A dictatorship benefits everyone at the same level, however not everyone wants to be at the same level or desires to step outside of the restrictions.
---- A democratic setup means options, which in turn means variety, which in turn means complexity. We should know this quite well in America as we operate the same way. Is it the most efficient, no. Is it more open, yes because we are given choice and freedoms to choose out of the choices given.

Now as far as updates go and the decision and of course you have to mention the floods. So wireless service company request devices from manufacturer who uses android for its operating system. Google provides new version to manufacturers who then make estimates on the cost of upgrading older to newer and then wireless service decides if the cost is worth it. Plain and straight forward.

Manufactures issues: one of the post above hit it right on. When android first came out, manufactures kicked in and improved and polished the UI and add components. As android started adding those components manufacturers didn't remove what google added. Manufactures should build their home replacements just like a 3rd party developer does. If the purchaser of the phone wants another home replacement they should have the manufacturers home components running in the background. I did like the mention of google developing those options as part of the development of android to allow the home replacement but not so that it makes upgrading harder, but I would like manufactures home replacements to work in the same manner as 3rd part ones like ADW and such.

I'm not a developer so I don't know why those services still load when I use a replacement but I think that is something that can be resolved and make upgrade paths much easier.

Last comment: Security updates should be implemented within 1 month of being found for up to 1 yr on mid-low end devices and two years on high end devices. There is no fragmentation or dilution in android. What is left behind is old devices that did their purpose. You shouldn't buy a phone because of what it will or won't do a year from now. You buy a phone because it does what you want it to do now.

>"I refer to Apple devices as dictator devices and windows/android as democratic devices."

You might want to revise that a bit. Putting MS-Windows Phone in the same boat as Android isn't reasonable. MS-Windows Phone is not open source at all. So while MS-Windows Phone it might be much more "democratic" than IOS, it is not to the level of Android, and never will be.

Agree. WP7 is sort of "in between". It's not as closed as iOS in that Microsoft opens the platform to manufacturers. Yet it's not as democratic as Android since it's not open-source and Microsoft puts limitations on hardware. That makes three levels.

I made this point on Google plus. Google standing by and letting the carriers do whatever with whatever skin, etc. hurts Android. Yes, the majority of people around don't care about the latest update; but do these people buy these phones because their Android, or because it's the "hottest phone on Verizon", or "not an iPhone"?

Google should standardize Android across all platforms, like Microsoft is doing. It may go against being "open", but I believe it would serve those who use it for what it is a lot better than how it's being handled now.

Honestly it was slightly disappointing to hear the Nexus One wouldn't be feeling ICS love after being out just 2 years. It seems to have the hardware for it. The only thing I can think of is since it has 512mb of RAM it might not be as technically primed for it as I thought. Android runs things different than iOS. It tends to need to keep more things resident in memory because of its true multitasking abilities on top of being a more complex operating system than iOS. Look at how simple iOS is and it still runs on phones with 512mb of RAM. I'm honestly a little surprised Android can run on that amount with no problems at all as it stands now with all it's complexities and things going on at the same time.

Maybe they don't want people experiencing something sub-par? Who knows.

It's the ROM storage space.  Win7 will run on a circa 2006 laptop, but only if it has a big enough hard drive to install it.  Same thing here -- not enough space on the Nexus One.

The lack of "ROM" (Flash) space is likely the #1 reason for many phones not being able to load 4.0. 4.0 is just huge. But I bet lack of memory is likely the #2 reason. 256/384MB is unworkable. 512MB is probably not going to cut it either.... maybe 768MB like the Evo 4G will (and yet the Evo 4G probably does have enough ROM/Flash space).

That is why I listed ROM/Flash as #1 and RAM as #2 and said "probably" on the 512MB. I bet it will be tight and perhaps swappy with 512.....

I think the main problem with the story this article is referencing is the obvious bias toward Apple and iOS. The person took phone that they knew they could attack to prove their "Apple is better" believe. I always looked at Android like JavaME or Brew. It is a platform on which manufacturer can create an OS that will work for them. It is not like Apple where the hardware was made with only this OS in mind or the OS was only made with this hardware in mind. Why Android has a larger percent of the market is the fact that devices running some version of the OS is accessible to people no matter what they can afford at the time and options. Not every device is the same; some have large screens, some have keyboards, some have HDMI, some have front facing cameras. What that allows is the consumer to pick what is important to them instead of the manufacturer.

How can you ignore that important SECURITY UPDATES get neglected? Forget the pretty colors, pay attention to that line passing through the middle of the box. My original Droid still has vulnerabilities with the OS that allow for an attacker to take ROOT privilege of my phone according to CVE. Is it likely? No. But it's a possibility. The manufacturers and the carriers need to realize that we are using our phones for more than ever before including financial transactions. If they want our business they need to be more responsive to security concerns. Imagine the outrage if Microsoft released Windows 8 and then announced that they wouldn't offer security patches after its first year. There would be a massive deal made over it. So why not our smart-phones? I don't believe that each handset should get the latest OS (feature updates) but there should be security updates released regularly to address these vulnerabilities. To not do so is setting us all up to be robbed.

Security updates for the entirety of the contract period are a basic requirement for any smartphone. But nevermind that, some of these devices were STILL ON STORE SHELVES after the OEMs gave up on providing security updates. This isn't something that's "just different" about a platform, this is something that is just broken about the way the current Android market is working.

A smartphone has my contacts in it, my correspondence, it has access to my private email and any social media services I use... compromising this system is potentially every bit as damaging as compromising my personal computer. If an OEM or carrier can't even get it together enough just to ship security updates -- updates someone else provides -- for two years, then they need to decline selling that device on a two-year contract.

This isn't "fragmentation" or "dilution" or any other silly excuse. This is abdication of a basic responsibility.

Until OEMs or carriers or some combination thereof can get THIS right, they do, at the very least, need to immediately stop spending resources on developing custom skins and apps. After they learn to ship vanilla Android with security updates for two years, well, maybe then we can let them graduate to shipping Motoblur and Touchwiz again.

Right now, they clearly need some remedial help.

Whoever did this stupid chart is definitely lacking technical knowledge, Think of Android phones and iphone as personal computers (desktops laptops) iphone is based on one OS and mostly same hardware that gets improved from time to time plus ONLY ONE maker manufactures it. While Android OS is being installed by many many makers just like Wndows on laptops or desktops. People dont say "fragmentation" when talking about last year's Acer, HP or what have you computers/laptops and comparing them with today's latest models. This guy clearly is missing the point of Android being a completely open OS. and that is one of the main reasons why Android is such a great and widespread OS and that's how it should be. I dont hate Apple or Google or any other company I'm open to explore new technology and I think OS flame wars are involving either less-then-clever people or/and general consumers who know something about technology with half knowledge taken here and there but not enough to make their own decisions or even try a new system. just my $0.5

"People dont say "fragmentation" when talking about last year's Acer, HP or what have you computers/laptops and comparing them with today's latest models"

No they don't because that isn't an example of fragmentation.

"People dont say "fragmentation" when talking about last year's Acer, HP or what have you computers/laptops and comparing them with today's latest models"

No they don't because that isn't an example of fragmentation.

I love how new buyers of android phones aren't savvy or caring enough to want updates that last as long as their $1000 contracts, but should examine the market and avoid phones that "aren't likely to be updated, or are undeserving of updates." New buyers just want support for as long as they're paying for the phone and its service. New 3gs's are sold for 50 bucks and still get IOS5. What's androids excuse for not updating cheaper models?

No matter how you slice it, Google is letting the Market, Gmail, Maps and all other core google services on these abandoned devices. That's utter garbage. Google should not bless these devices with those services in the first place without BOTH the carrier and Manufacturer GUARANTEEING at least 2 major updates. If not that, then why not split security updates off from carriers and manufacturers like they did with Gmail and maps?

I'm sick of everyone involved in this shity mess not taking some goddamed responsibility and HELPING OUT THE CONSUMER. When I talk about this topic with those that ceaselessly defend Android , I feel like I'm calling my cable/internet provider. "No sir, the modem is at fault.....No sir, the router is at fault." Uh, no asshole, the cable you provided my with is worn and frayed." UGH.

"New buyers just want support for as long as they're paying for the phone and its service." I think it is more of the carrier's issue not OS. Signing up people for 2 year plan with a shitty or high end phone doesnt matter whether it is apple or google or anything else is a plain rip off. Those things done absolutely different way in many European countries where people have freedom of choice of the carrier manufacturer and OS.

Use Cyanogenmod...problem solved...LOL
(Don't mind my comment...I just installed it on my Captivate and am seriously impressed)

I feel sure the majority of Android Users get a new phone with their new contract every two years. Most will get the latest OS version. This puts a big hole in the upgrade argument that phones should be upgraded for 3 or more years!

Does anyone have statistics about getting a new phone with a new contract?

Hey, when did the original Iphone get OS 4. Oh, it didn't. When did the Iphone 3 get OS 5. Oh, it didn't. Nice fail! Next time do some better research for your propaganda.

Though I hear fantastic things about Cyanogenmod, I simply shouldn't need to flash nighltly updates or stay one step ahead of the (maybe)carrier update headed my way. I shouldn't have to ask myself the question of "Should I stay rooted, or update officially?" I shouldn't need to void my warranty to keep my security updated on the most important device in my life. While I agree that using an full upgrade on a cheap phone is essentially penny wise and pound foolish, they're still android phones and would benefit from OS upgrade attention most of all.

I keep hearing that choice is the number one android advantage over IOS. Hardware choice, software customization etc. This cornucopia of choice is literally in front of us in the myriad of phones we get to choose from. Carriers and manufacturers are making a killing of selling these devices. Google is making BILLIONS selling advertising off these phones, updated, rooted or not. Why can't there be an investment in the OS update branches of these OEM's and carriers? I've heard enough excuses about it not being financially worth it for these MASSIVE tech businesses to build timely OS updates and send them out to folks. Maybe you update these devices faster if you didn't make so damn many of them with marginal advancements and minor color differences.

Many people balk at paying 300 bucks for a top flight model that's already been subsidized over 2 years. Even then, updates still may not be timely (I'm looking at you T'bolt, Charge, MyTouch 4g, ANY Samsung 1st gen Hummingbird phone etc). 200 bucks is my golden ticket in, I shouldn't have to consult the entrails of a Moto Cliq to see if my 1000 buck investment proves worth my hard earned cash.

BTW, saying certain phones "aren't worthy to get upgrades" reeks of a certain level of arrogance I've heretofore only encountered with IOS fanbois.

There's a lot more that goes into than you think. Carriers have testing departments that run the upgrades on demo phones for months to make sure the updates don't affect service quality or cause massive network issues, as well as making sure they don't completely ruin the phone. Granted, some bugs slip through the cracks, but it's a lot of hard work that goes into the updates that already have been pushed out. Take the Epic 4G for example; Sprint has received about seven builds from Samsung to test, and has had to send each one back due to glaring issues. That's why this year old phone is still stuck on 2.2. Sure, they could have made it vanilla android, but wouldn't that be taking away from the "choices" with android? So many people complain about UI enhancements, yet that is really all that sets android phones apart from each other. The only true innovation of the hardware is bigger brighter screens and faster processors that 80% of people will never need for anything. And those two options are so common now that, without the UI differences, there would be no actual variety with android.

Wait, what? You seem to have erected your own reality distortion field! Android doesn't have fragmentation because old phones don't deserve to be updated?

Either you have an odd meaning for the word fragmentation or you are willfully misinterpreting it.

4S -vs- 4 having Siri/not having Siri is not an example of fragmentation. It isn't an API that programmers can make use of.

Phone running 3 versions of Android behind is an issue because APIs don't exist on the older phones, thus you either have to ignore older phones or you have to write different versions of code to cater to different versions of phones.

Whoever made this chart is mentally retarded. What are they considering a major update? Android 2.2 to 2.2.1 is not a major update. Android 3.0 was not made for phones. Sprite hero was left at 2.2, 2.3 is the latest generation. I also noticed a lot of cheap phones on the list. I am sorry but if you got a free android phone don't expect it to carry updates for 2 years. You get what you pay for nd android is great for that reason. Fragmentation is a good thing! I like options!

I am officially leaving Android Central. I used to read this site everyday for news about cool new android developments, which was very useful since I work in the wireless industry. It had good info, good editorials, and always a lot of fresh content everyday.

Now i look through the comments and see nothing but a thousand whiny bitchy little kids, arguing over whose toy is better and throwing temper tantrums whenever someone has a dissenting opinion. I'm a citizen of the Internet and have seen plenty of relentless arguing over non-issues, but never to the extent expressed on this site. Even the worst apple sites aren't half as bad as this. The few voices of reason who realize that people like different things for different reasons and that that is ok, get drowned out by the mass of man-babies who can't believe someone else would have the audacity to carry a cell phone that wasn't what said man-babies deem acceptable. (See Echo, iPhone, low-end smart phones, BB, et. al.) They are the same people who used to fight over which series with Star in the name is better suited to make you less interesting, which console can coddle your crushing lack of self-worth more, and which color of mountain dew will cause less mouth-breathing.

This site is now dead to me. For all the integrity some of the writers here try to maintain, it's all shot to hell by 95% of you commenters. Congratulations, fellas, you have successfully driven someone away from android.

@ tastethelink

Please don't take this the wrong way. (Btw, prefacing a statement with that never works.) I usually don't make comments off of the comments of others on this site. I do, however, feel compelled to say a few things about yours.

Its my opinion that you are making a foolish decision to leave this site based on the comments of the users and fans and not based on the quality of the editorials, reviews, conference coverages, pod casts, deals-of-the-day ... etc. Have you read the local newspaper online? Its not much better (the comments that is). The reason I stay on this site much more than,, etc is based purely on the editors and the content for which they provide and sometimes not provide.

I say "not provide" because I notice the editors here don't get wrapped up in a bunch of hearsay, rumors and conjecture. Are they biased to Android, of course, that's who pays the bills. This is an Android site, right? But, do they tell the truth about Android's pro / cons, advantages / disadvantages / shortcomings? Yup. I often times feel they are blogging / commenting / posting stories on certain events / subjects, not because they want to, but because its the right thing to do. This is an example. If you were to view / listen to the most recent podcast 28Oct2011, Phil made a quick sarcastic comment about the original story for this article. No disrespect to Phil at all because I believe his reaction was totally based on how skewed and slanted this article is and how much BS it would be to waste any quality time on it. (someone correct me if i am only imagining things) Its been a long time since I have seen some of those low-end devices. To me, a blog about this article was totally unnecessary, again - for me. However, to please the masses and to provide info to the people and sometimes entertainment for all, a post / story about this chart was probably necessary.

The beauty of Android, not rehashing this article by any means, is choice. The beauty about the country I live in, is choice. I am free to make a choice (hopefully the correct choice) for me, my family, my current situation, my future, etc any way I see fit. Each person on this site can share that "choice" by expressing what they feel. We all should know that the comments made by the fans / users may / may not necessarily be shared by AC editors. Do we really need a disclaimer? Really? With that in mind, your reason for leaving is, in my "choice" of words, foolish. It appears that you want to say or read only what appeals to your way of thinking, whether right, wrong, or indifferent. That's your choice. Others feels the same way, whether you feel they are right, wrong or indifferent. What they say is "their" "choice", whether its right, wrong or indifferent. If you don't like the site because of the content, fine. But if you don't like the site because of the comments, then why read them. That's your choice. Do you vow not to cook again because you burned your hand on a pot? It wasn't the pots fault and I bet you still cook. The moral? Don't blame the site because users exercise the same thing you exercise - "choice". I made the choice read all 108 comments at 4 something in the morning about this post. My choice because I enjoy other view and opinions that may be the same / different as my own. But hey, some people like their pickles pickled.

BTW Phil - great write up!!
AC - Great site!!
AC users - Great comments. Keep the coming because I'll keep reading them!!

The problem with Android Fanboys is that they can't accept 'Cons' of Android OS and that's why they are called blind fanboys. You people can't be objective when it comes to Android, you become emo when someone starts pinpointing flaws in Android and start attacking him.
Though the chart was prepared using phones released in US and which were carrier bounded, the problem exists in other parts of the world too. My friend bought Galaxy 551 when it was just released.It'd Froyo running on it but Samsung denied Gingerbread updates to it.Not even security patches. He spent $270 just to get a brick. While the similarly spec'd Galaxy Pop runs on 2.3 and mind you Galaxy 551 has Adreno 200 or 220 GPU too to handle any graphic load from 2.3. And you tell us that not every phone deserves update to latest version and write pages of article on it. You should study better. And the thing you tell about carriers having many phones and how it becomes impossible to pay attention to them is rubbish. They are handling such a big business and they can't handle some phones isn't acceptable at all. Even with phones not bounded to specific carrier OEMs themselves deny updates. And FYI LG has just denied update to worlds first ever dual core phone Optimus 2X. Now I guess you'll again say Not every phone deserves update to current version. And even SE X10 was denied updates in first place. SE even refused to give multi-touch update. But community pressure made them change their minds. Get a life people. Android sucks is the truth.

You end your statement with "Android sucks is the truth" and actually expect your comments to be taken seriously?

All OS's have there problems including iOS and none of them are perfect, in fact the problems you state are actually to do with the manufacturers and carriers not anything at all to do with the OS. There's plenty of phones and tablets that get updates in a timely fashion, just take the Asus Transformer for example, its had exemplary support worldwide and received all updates with very little delay whereas Motorola's Xoom has often been left lagging behind.
The reason many lower end or older handsets get fewer updates or none at all is not because they don't "deserve" them, its for many reasons one of which being that it costs time and money to test and apply updates on individual handsets and if its a cheap handset then you really shouldn't be expecting the best support and if you do you clearly don't understand the way technology and commercialism works.
Fragmentation for the vast majority of Android users is not an issue in the slightest, most people don't know let alone care about the latest updates, they just get a phone and expect it to work for the length of their contract. Its only the techy types like us who frequent sites like this that actually care and quite frankly we're by far the minority.
Personally I think Android is a superb OS and works brilliantly for me but that doesn't mean I think iOS or WP7 "suck" as you so eloquently stated about Android, just that they don't do what I want from a handset at the moment.
All this nonsense about my OS is better than your OS is just spoilt brats with toys arguing amongst themselves, some people just need to grow up a bit and appreciate that just because you find one system better than another does not mean that everyone else should.

I guess I made myself very much clear by giving enough examples. I knew blind fanboys will come forward to defend Android and pull other OSs to prove their point. If Samsung can make Android 2.3 run on even cheaper Galaxy Pop then what makes it 'low end' phone? Right it has really low end hardware but it still manages to run Android 2.3, I won't guess the efficiency though. And what do you think, people who are stuck on 2.1 and unable to install any more apps just because their phone mem got full aren't asking about any solution? Don't tell me about aftermarket solutions. And you must have heard of LG Optimus series saga over ICS update. So if Samsung in future denies update to SGS2 to ICS then too you people will say it's the low end phone.Fanboys.

How is it the OS's fault that the manufacturer won't update a perfectly good phone? What he means by, "not every phone deserve an update" is that there are some phones not able to handle an upgrade due to actual hardware limitations.

You may dislike Android but you can't fault them for a manufacturers inability to act.

the HTC Hero was not a "low end" device when it was released... i love android, but the OEMs & carriers are the ones that cause this "fragmentation".
the original galaxy s phone can handle ICS, but those phones wont see an update.
my evo 3d can handle ICS but i know HTC will half-ass the update because of sense 3.0(which is beautiful). same goes to all the android OEMs that slap skins on their phones. i know it's to make them look different, but still. give the consumer the option to apply your skin. apply it to the packaging, give the consumer a link & if they like skin, they can apply it. if not, they can revert back.
it's times like this i wish Google handled the updates... solely! smh
as much as i dislike how updates are handled i will never go to iOS. my evo 3d is rooted anyway so i know XDA or any other awesome android community has my back with ICS.

I am also an AT&T mohility business care rep...and all my customee call in cause of oblems with ios5?.....amd de

Nothing but fanboys......on both sides. No platform is superior to the other. As a user of BOTH android and Iphone, both have their strenghts.......and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the hatred spawned by Jobs blatant disrespect for Google only fuels the fire. Both have copied elements.....FROM EACH OTHER! The chart above is a poor explanation of "Android's problem". Both systems are their own way. ios not nearly as much as android, but that's an ecosystem created problem....which isn't necessarily a real "problem" except for phone geeks. I know very few who are unhappy with their choice of android or iphone. And I know plenty who like both.

Point is, without one, the other will suck. BOTH push each other to be better, which is better for the consumer. No need for one side to insult the other. BOTH are great options, and unless you have a true need for something one side offers over the other, it all comes down to preference.

There is no point arguing over which platform is better. Obviously, both iOS and Android have their shortcomings which leads to one undeniable FACT: it's all a matter of CHOICE. The fragmentation chart may be open to debate but the charts telling us the market shares of Android and Apple DON'T LIE. Simply put, fragmented or not, people will choose the devices with shortcomings that they prefer to tolerate. Android, particularly, is all about choices -whether the consumer wants a low end device without much care for the software or is an obsessive gadget geek who wants to keep up with the most recent roll outs. It is also safe to say that people who go for Android devices are types who are more open to a greater range of models and manufacturers -and carriers. Android is a cornucopia of choices -from customization down to hardware which means only one thing: ANDROID IS EVERYMAN'S PLATFORM.
Apple, on the other hand, keeps a great degree of control over their devices and software which simply means: with a dictator, you're not allowed to do much because everything is done for you in the first place. That means a more uniform and efficient way of providing hardware and firmware updates that are guaranteed seamless. It is therefore safe to assume that people who go for Apple devices are no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point consumers who are after convenience and control.
Now, if we consider the market share of both platforms in the smartphone market, it's pretty obvious that Android covers more needs of more varied people. Thus, it's dominance. In the tablet market (which is relatively young) we can say that people still choose the familiar functionality of the iPad and the market is still weary about choices that may put all that familiarity into disarray -which explains Android tablets getting left behind (so far).
Other factors like marketing notwithstanding, i think the people have spoken. Wanna know which OS is better? Look at a different chart.

"major update"... What's the difference between ios1 and 5? Mms and folders? Compare that to cupcake and ice cream sandwich.

Skimming this article, I didn't notice a mention of the fact that the chart isn't even accurate. For example the original iPhone got it's last update 2 years after it was released. I didn't check others because its safe to assume the research isn't very credible.

This is only my 2 cents, but i think that regardless of how many phones run Android out there, if we look at THE Android phone(Nexus) and compare it to THE iPhone(wait theres only one of those, right?) we will get a fair comparison. Excluding every other Android phone, Nexus has a pretty good track record for updates. That is Google's Baby just as iPhone is Apple's baby. They control them as they see fit. The mass appeal that Apple fans don't understand about Android is just that.....mass appeal. There are so many choices and flavors available. I am a part of that mass appeal group. I used a CLIQ XT(stuck on 1.5) on T-Mobile because it worked for made phone calls. I use an iPod for music. I didn't give a hoot about updates for either. Now i use an LG Thrive(prepaid Froyo 2.2.1) go phone on AT&T. Still use the iPod for music(just MY preference). Simply put, I WANT a Nexus, but don't NEED a Nexus to still have an Android phone.

Sorry peeps, that was more like 4 cents rather than 2.

What Applefanboys forget (or not want to talk about) is that every android phone is getting updates all the time!

Gmail, Google Maps, Flash and so on... lots of updates going on between the mayor versions.

Ios: njet. you want updates to maps, mail... wait for a ios update.

And btw: Ios has ONE mayor update per year - android has TWO.

Just sayin.....

oh and btw - i call the chart BS!!!!

Because when phones are not running mayor features of an new operating system version THEY ARE NOT RUNNING THE VERSION!!!

And since the original Iphone and the 3G are unable to run multitasking - even the "baby limited apple version of multitasking" - they are NOT REALLY running even IOS4...

THATS the real fragmentation: technically running an IOS version but not the mayor features ;-)

I think if you buy a phone with the options it has and then wine about how you font get an update you are a fool. You bought it as it was now live with it. If its updated to an improved state then you are lucky. Because y you didn't bUy those improved features. When you get then free the cartier out phone manufacture is essentially giving you free stuff. Apps that are god cost money right?

Hey. I'm a huge Android fan, and would love to see it succeed (as it already has been). But I just have one gripe about this post. It doesn't matter whose fault it is that Android's aren't getting updated. If you go to a typical consumer that knows enough that they aren't running the latest version of Android and want it, they aren't going to care if you tell them that it's the carriers fault, or it's the manufacturers fault. They are just going to buy a different phone next time, not say "well its not Android's fault."

Hey. I'm a huge Android fan, and would love to see it succeed (as it already has been). But I just have one gripe about this post. It doesn't matter whose fault it is that Android's aren't getting updated. If you go to a typical consumer that knows enough that they aren't running the latest version of Android and want it, they aren't going to care if you tell them that it's the carriers fault, or it's the manufacturers fault. They are just going to buy a different phone next time, not say "well its not Android's fault."