KitKat statue

Android updates remain a messy, unpredictable business — and although Google and manufacturers have made progress in the past year, there's still much work to be done ...

The speed at which new platform updates arrive remains one of the major pain points of owning an Android device. Whereas Apple rolls out iOS updates instantaneously across much of its product line — the platform absolutely was designed with that in mind — Google’s lack of direct control over the firmware running on most of the world's billion or so Android devices means it’s impossible for it to do the same.

In an article published in late 2012 we discussed exactly why this is the case. The “open” nature of Android, the vast differences in hardware across the entire ecosystem, not to mention the large number of moving parts required to get most updates pushed to users, all contribute to the lengthy delays we’ve come to know and hate. As we said almost 18 months ago, it’s a weakness that’s built into Android’s DNA, and not something that can be easily overcome.

Google and the manufacturers are tackling Android updates on multiple fronts.

Yet over the past year we’ve seen new endeavors by Google and some leading Android manufacturers to tackle this seemingly impossible problem. There have been efforts on multiple fronts: Firstly, the introduction of new features and APIs through Google Play Services, and the spinning of major Google apps out into the Play Store, allowing them to be updated independently from the OS. Google has put future Android code into the hands of OEMs earlier than before, through the “Google Play edition” program. There’s also evidence that manufacturers are seeing the competitive value in being first (or at least quick) with new OS versions. And OEMs, particularly HTC and Motorola, are getting better at communicating details of these updates to end-users.

To be sure, it’s no magic solution to the gargantuan task of moving the entire Android ecosystem forward. And the update situation for non-flagship devices remains something of a crapshoot. But it’s a start, and a big step in the right direction. And as we move from Jelly Bean into the KitKat era, it’s enough to give us some hope for the future of Android updates.

Read on to find out why.

Google Play Services — important new stuff without an OS update

Conventional wisdom states that if you want to get new APIs (application programming interfaces), features and security improvements pushed out onto a mobile device you need to prepare an OS update, with all the waiting and hoop-jumping associated with that. Yet for the past year Google has been bypassing that whole process through Google Play Services, a development platform that sits on top of Android on version 2.2 (Froyo) and above.

Google can update Play Services in the background, without users even knowing

First pushed out in September 2012 with an update to the Play Store app, Google Play Services lets developers interact with Google’s services and your device through a set of APIs that live outside of the OS layer. The genius of this is that Google can update Play Services in the background, without a firmware update, and in most cases without users even knowing it. (Similar to the way updating the Chrome browser works on a Windows or Mac computer, for instance.)

Our own Jerry Hildenbrand breaks things down in his write-up on Play Services following last year’s Google I/O conference:

Being under complete and total control from Google means that the folks who built your phone, as well as the carrier you may have bought it from, are completely out of the picture. You won't have to wait six months or more to get the new service APIs. In fact, Google says they are able to get them pushed to the majority of devices in about a week after they are updated. If you take one thing away from all this, knowing that Google decides what the service APIs are, who gets them, and when is the important part.

Google Play Services APIs underpin Google Play Game Services, which was launched at I/O 2013 and enables cloud save, achievements and leaderboards in games. As such, every Google-certified device running Android 2.2 or above got these new gaming features in the space of a few days. Had Google relied on traditional OS updates to roll out these new features it would’ve taken several months for them to propagate. Many older devices running Froyo and Gingerbread would likely never have seen Google Play Games at all.

Google Play Games

In the same way, Google last year launched the Android Device Manager, which allows users to track, remotely control and wipe their devices over the web. Same again with the move from Google Talk to Hangouts over the summer. These features arrived in a few days across almost the entire Google-controlled ecosystem without anyone having to wait for an OS update.

Of course you can’t change everything through Google Play Services, but the platform is an important step towards making Android OS updates less important, and bringing new features to everyone in a short space of time. For Google, it also has the benefit of incentivizing hardware manufacturers to release Google Play-certified devices — if you’re outside of Google’s umbrella, you don’t get new Play Services features and APIs.

Moving the Google Experience onto the Play Store

Just as new features and APIs can now be pushed out through Google Play Services, many of Google’s core Android apps are now updated through the Google Play Store. That’s been the case for a while, and it’s a process most Android owners are very familiar with. But not too long ago a new version of Gmail, for instance, would require Google to send out an updated Google Mobile Services package to manufacturers and wait for them to push it out as part of an OS update. That’s exactly as long-winded and tedious as it sounds.

Not long ago, a new version of Gmail would require an OS update.

These days, thankfully, most of the “stock” Google apps live on the Play Store. The few notable exceptions include the Photosphere and HDR+ camera app, as well as the Nexus 5 launcher (at the time of writing, at least) and contacts/dialer apps. SMS integration in the Hangouts messaging app takes this a step further, allowing owners of “skinned” devices to use a Google app to handle all their messaging. (Though we're still far from convinced that the inclusion of texts in Hangouts provides much benefit to anyone besides Google.)

Regardless, we’re very close to the core “Nexus” experience living on the Play Store as a set of apps that can be updated independently of the OS. And the end result should be a more consistent, more Googley user experience across the Android ecosystem. It also means customers who pick up a phone or tablet running a third-party UI (e.g. HTC Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz) need not be excluded from some of the features of Google’s Nexus devices. (Notable exceptions, as we've mentioned, include the Nexus 5 launcher and dialer.)

Google apps

Some argue that pushing new APIs into Google Play Services and “stock” Android system apps onto Google Play makes Android less open. That’s one way of looking at things — and for sure, there’s a greater gap between AOSP (open-source Android) and what ships on the Nexus 5 than was the case with the Nexus One. But that’s not particularly new or surprising — after all it mirrors Google’s approach to open-source with the Chrome browser and Chromium open-source project. And end-users are better served as a result, with new features and apps arriving on handsets more quickly through Google Play and Google Play Services. Naturally, Google also benefits through the extra control it can exert over the Android ecosystem.

It’s a win for consumers, and a win-win for Google.

The Google Play editions and updates as a competitive advantage

When Hugo Barra announced Google’s intention to sell a “stock” Android Galaxy S4 on-stage the I/O 2013 developer conference, it wasn’t immediately clear why the company was doing this. Was Google simply creating a phone for the vocal minority of users who want “stock” Android on every device? Was this the death knell of “skinned” Android phones? Well, not quite, though it seems speeding up the deployment of new Android versions is part of the GPe program’s mission.

Android user experience director Matias Duarte hinted at this during the Android fireside chat event at this year’s I/O conference: “One small sign of our efforts [with OEMs and updates] is what we announced yesterday, the Galaxy S4 that has the Nexus software experience, will have more timely updates.” (9 minutes, 18 seconds into the video below.)

The Google Play editions program is about more than just making devices for nerds.

But the impact of Google Play editions goes far beyond simply giving buyers a viable non-Nexus option with the latest (stock) OS version and a quick path to future Android versions — the inexplicable arrival of the GPe Moto G seems to prove that. Pushing “timely” updates out onto Google Play edition phones involves getting working, work-in-progress code into the hands of Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and Motorola in advance of its arrival through the regular channels. That presents obvious advantages when it comes to familiarizing engineers with future versions of the OS — advantages that in the past may have been exclusive to Google’s Nexus partners.

Currently the GPe program is limited to a handful of devices, but there’s no reason for it to stay that way forever. Indeed, one source suggests to us that the program has always been open to all OHA (Open Handset Alliance) members, so we wouldn’t bet against more device makers jump onboard in the future. The ideal situation for Google would be for every major manufacturer to be churning out Google Play edition gadgets at regular intervals — it’ll be interesting to see whether this ever becomes a reality.

However much Android enthusiasts praise them, Google Play edition devices are an extremely niche product lineup. Those outside the U.S. don't even have the option of buying them. And there’s only so much Google can do to speed up OS updates on non-Nexus, non-Google Play phones — the rest of the engineering effort has to come from manufacturers themselves. Fortunately we’ve seen a renewed emphasis on Android updates from some of the major players — and better communication all-round from OEMs on this issue.

As previously mentioned, Samsung and HTC are good examples here. Both managed to push out Android 4.3 updates for their "skinned" flagship handsets three months after its announcement, and HTC in particular has taken things a step further by bringing KitKat to unlocked developer versions of its HTC One just one month after the open-source code drop. Further KitKat updates from these two are expected imminently.

Who would've thought that a Motorola phone on U.S. carriers would be among the first to a new Android version?

But even HTC was beaten to the punch by Motorola, which pushed out Android 4.4 for its Moto X in mid-November. At the time Moto wasn't a Google Play edition manufacturer, but its phones run software very close to vanilla Google Android, meaning there was less stuff to change when the new OS version rolled around.

Still — who would've thought a year ago that a customized, U.S. carrier phone would be among the first to a new Android version?

The Verizon Moto X’s example is important for a few reasons. One of the most onerous and time-consuming parts of the update process is carrier certification — the recent failure of an update for the Verizon HTC One to pass certification resulted in a delay of over a month. Yet Moto managed to not only complete its Verizon Moto X firmware but also get it certified and rolling out onto devices in just a few weeks. Who knows exactly how this was accomplished so quickly, or whether any money changed hands to make it happen, but it at least shows the problem isn't insurmountable. The recent arrival of KitKat on 2013 Verizon Droid phones also proves this isn't a one-off.

The newly Googlified Motorola seems to view updates as a competitive advantage. Its unique position as "a Google company" means it has different priorities to its competitors, and it's clear that timely updates are pretty high up that list. Nevertheless, Moto isn't the only manufacturer to start seeing fast OS updates as a way to stand out from the crowd. At least one of the major OEMs has recently hired new engineers for the specific purpose of speeding up the deployment of Android updates, sources tell us.

Communication and updates as good PR

Getting finished code out there is important, but so is communicating update plans to your customers, and HTC and Motorola are leading the way in this area. High-profile individuals at both companies have regularly taken to social networks to provide information on the status of future firmware. Right after KitKat launched, HTC America President Jason Mackenzie committed to getting the new OS on carrier versions of the HTC One within 90 days. And HTC has been more open than any other company in discussing carrier certification, letting update-hungry users know how things are progressing in advance of the eventual OTA push. The company recently launched an updates portal page for some U.S. devices, showing each carrier version's progress through the journey from development to deployment.

KitKat HTC One

This combination of faster updates and specific timetables, along with periodic updates via official channels has generated a lot of good will for HTC in recent months. Motorola, too, has enjoyed a wave of good publicity off the back of its swift KitKat update process. But let's remember that both companies are underdogs the current smartphone market. Samsung, by comparison, continues to sell a gazillion phones while sharing comparatively little about upgrade plans ahead of time.

Arguably, fast updates are a marketing expense as much as an engineering task.

So you could argue that this new, very transparent approach to updates is just as much about good PR as it is providing customers with new stuff. While consumers are more tech-savvy than ever, most still neither know nor care which Android version they're running, especially if it's on a device layered with manufacturer customizations. KitKat with HTC's Sense 5.5 software, for instance, is almost identical to 4.3 Jelly Bean with that version of Sense. When the user experience is governed so much by the manufacturer's "skin" and the nuts and bolts dictated by the ever-changing Google Play Services, the tangible benefits of an all-new version of Android are less obvious. So when a manufacturer hurries out an update with a new Android version but few user-facing changes, the value in doing so surely comes from good publicity rather than being able to offer a noticeably enhanced product. Effectively, it's a marketing expense as much as an engineering task.

And early adopters are left having to start the update cycle all over again when Google ships a maintenance "point" release, as it did twice in quick succession with KitKat 4.4.1 and 4.4.2. To play devil's advocate for a moment, perhaps this is why phone makers and carriers have historically approached firmware updates with caution.

No silver bullet

Up to date

Every development we’ve gone over above is important, but no one is a total solution to Android’s update challenges. Even now, some serious roadblocks remain in place despite the advances made in the past year.

Chipset characteristics, not a phone’s age, can determine whether it gets updated or not.

Certain factors are still outside of manufacturers’ direct control. Phone makers are reliant on BSPs (board support packages) — code from chipset manufacturers like Qualcomm and NVIDIA — in order to begin work on firmware updates. As shown in HTC’s recent update timeline graphic, if the chip maker opts not to produce an updated BSP for a particular chipset, all bets are off. This is what’s believed to have scuppered update prospects for the HTC One X, S and X+, as well as Google’s own Galaxy Nexus. The nature of this process means that chipset characteristics, not a phone’s age, can determine whether it gets updated or not. Consider that the One X+ debuted around the same time as the Droid DNA — the latter is in line for KitKat, the former’s stuck with Jelly Bean. That's not great for consumers trying to determine which phone will be best supported.

Snapdragon 805

Imagine the outcry if iPhone 5 owners on a certain carrier had to wait an extra month for iOS 7.

Other annoyances include the haphazard nature of update rollouts based on country or carrier. Even outside of the U.S. market, which is dominated by the big four operators, the timing of the same software update can vary by weeks or months depending on where you live and which carrier’s version of the (exact same) phone you have. This muddiness leads to confusing and frustrating experience for Android owners that those on some other platforms don’t have to deal with. Imagine the outcry if, for example, iPhone 5 owners on a certain carrier had to wait an extra month for iOS 7.

The problem here has to do with the large number of moving parts involved in international rollouts — different carriers in different countries, and regional divisions of OEMs all need to talk to each other.  Some regions get done customizing for their device before others, then some need to be sent to carriers for further customization and approval. The rollout schedule is often staggered to the point where we as tech writers have difficulty keeping track of it. That being the case, what hope is there for normal people who don't follow this stuff on a daily basis?

The same can be said for staged rollouts, the practice of pushing out updates to a small percentage of devices initially, then increasing this to cover the entire user base over time. Proponents say this is needed to ensure updates work correctly across large numbers of devices in the wild. Yet announcing new features and then making the some users wait an extra two or three weeks to get them does nothing to improve Android’s image problem in this area. Maybe we’re oversimplifying, but surely the solution here is to just not release updates which might be broken.

Fighting the battle you can win

The updates problem might not be solvable for the entire ecosystem, but that doesn't mean Google can't make things better.

This all ties into one of the main complications we discussed in our Sept. 2012 article — the sheer variety of hardware on which Android runs. As long as hardware and software customizations are spread so far over the map, many devices will simply never end up running the latest version of the OS. Unless the nature of Android changes — and it won’t, because it owes its large market share to its diversity — there’s no way Android will ever be able to enjoy iOS-like figures of 70+ percent of users running the latest version.

If you’re looking at the big picture of the entire Android ecosystem — and that’s a very big picture indeed — new OS rollouts will continue to be relatively slow. Jelly Bean will probably continue to dominate the overall platform stats for much of 2014. And getting Android 4.5 — or whatever the next major version is — onto every single device weeks after launch is of course a pipe dream.

Android platform numbers, Dec. 2013

Instead of trying to achieve the impossible, Google is choosing to fight the battle it can win — helping to get high-profile, flagship devices (particularly in the U.S.) up to major new OS versions as quickly as possible. Mid and entry-level handsets will still have to wait their turn, but hopefully these too should benefit from the infusion of high-end momentum.

The two main ways in which Google is addressing the Android updates problem — on devices directly through Google Play and Google Play Services, and with manufacturers through the Google Play editions program — will continue to be important in the coming year. Manufacturers should continue to see quick updates as a way to compete in an increasingly cutthroat industry, and we might hope for a streamlining of the rollout process across carriers and regions as a result.

Buyers wanting a Nexus-class device will have greater choice, and manufacturers will work more closely with Google as a result, hopefully to the benefit of their broader user base. Elsewhere, Google will quietly augment most devices released in the past three years with new features and APIs through Play Services, giving them a new lease on life without new firmware. The updates problem might not be solvable for the entire Android ecosystem, but Google is tackling it intelligently, and slowly but surely we’re starting to see the results of its efforts and those of its partners.

And that’s enough to give us hope for the future of the Android updates. We’ll be watching with interest in 2014 to see how things pan out. Who knows, maybe Google and friends have a few more tricks up their sleeves.

More: Why you'll never have the latest version of Android (Sept. 2012)

 
There are 174 comments

p51d007 says:

In the USA, the carriers pretty much push out the updates.
If you think about it, pushing an update, to make an older device work or perform better, kind of goes against their business model. Why update an old device, when you can talk them into extending their contract for another 2 years, with a similar device, that already has the update installed? This keeps them locked in for longer and longer, with an overpriced phone plan.

sk8er_tor says:

True, but I don't think the carriers should be in control. How can they demand control of OS updates from Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone but they allow Apple to release updates willy-nilly?

Also, the although the article was great, the author should really stop using the term firmware when talking about software. An OS update is a software update.

squiddy20 says:

I believe the reason the carriers allow Apple to push updates "will-nilly" is because Apple either straight up pays them a hefty sum to do so, or it is negotiated in the contract/terms and conditions (or both).

eahinrichsen says:

I'm pretty sure Apple just says "This phone is definitely, 100% guaranteed to be your best seller this year. But you don't get any say in the OS or the update process. Take it or leave it."

Handling the carriers and absolutely demanding control over its own software and brand are things that Apple has done extraordinarily well. I'm sure that the facts that they release a tiny number of models per year and their updates are released at very regular intervals helps as well.

swagsaunders says:

Apple's contracts with carriers are strict and always in their favor. The individual section for apple products in stores, the update process, not referring to their products as "smart phones" or "tablets". At first At&t was the only company who was willing to agree to these terms. The iPhone was originally set to go to T-Mobile, but Tmo wouldn't agree to having a section dedicated to the iPhone that separated it from other smart phone lines. Now all the carriers agree because of the monster sales of Apple products.

Posted via Android Central App

Chanlion says:

I've come to accept that the iOS platform is the only "exception" to the rule.

But there is one upside to the carrier controlled updates. Each phone has a radio file, (at least me Z10 does, I'm sure my N4 has a general radio file) these radio files can help optimize your phone to pick up reception better. Because say Wind or TMobile runs on different frequencies than ATT and Robellus.

I know this is AC, I apologize for mentioning BB here but it's more familiar for me. There's reports of leaked/ dev OS users have dropped calls or bad reception because of the leaked OS carrying only a general radio that has to be compatible for all networks in the world.

But I'm all down for taking down the carrier control and just saying we'll lose one thing.

Radios can be updated separately I'm sure.

Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.

Of course they can. an either through a recovery or through a manufacturer app (odin & others in sure) but why can't they make android modular? Instead of updating an entire system, do updates through Google play. From frameworks to radios. I'm absolutely looking forward to running ART on my note 3. Hate that I'd have to give up x posed but I'm sure they will come up with a patch for it.

roidfab0920 says:

this is really a bad practice, even in international variants. LG + HTC just denied the Optimus 4X HD and One X android 4.4...... read it here http://www.justaboutphones.com/lg-plans-update-smartphones-android-4-4-k...

Aka carrier blackmailing of customers.

Posted via Android Central App

Aka carrier blackmailing of customers.

Posted via Android Central App

demontooth says:

I think this is a problem that isn't that big of a deal outside the nerd community. Most of the people I know with android phones either don't care about updates or dread them because they change the phone they've become used to.

XavierMatt says:

This.

Editor in chief of Futureproff.com

YzBrad99 says:

Very true. Any of my friends or relatives stay away from updating their phones because it changes (sometimes for the worse) the phone.

I am somewhat of a nerd, still haven't upgraded my SGS III to 4.3. Heard the horror stories of SGS III's becoming buggy after the upgrade, decided it's not worth it. Samsung claims to have fixed them.... screw it. I rely on my phone, the rewards for the risk aren't there. "If it ain't broken and there aren't any new features to get exited about, don't upgrade it"

Jack33 says:

Agreed. But sometimes for some the upgrades are pushed, for others they do it to see if it will fix existing problems, still for others the curiosity gets the best of them. Just the fact that there is an "update" and that all other apps will be upgraded as well, makes it hard not to upgrade. I agree with some of the other comments that it if ain't broke, don't fix it.

anthonok says:

I know people that refuse to update apps out of fear (and experience) with it removing features or completely changing the layout and how the app works. No different with system updates for some. Just look at the ios7 backlash.

Posted via Android Central App

Amethyst41 says:

Couldn't have said it any better

Posted via Android Central App

Yep

Posted via Android Central App

Agreed. You want an OS update? Buy a new phone or install you're own. It's not that big of a deal.

hodan says:

Can the manufacturers separate out their skins (sense, touchwiz) or even features (moto assist, zoes) so they can be updated independently of the OS? Like Google's done with some of their apps? This seems obvious.

Posted via Android Central App

mike31082 says:

I've mentioned this plenty of times before. This is what I would love to happen with Android. Have manufacturers ship stock android on their devices and give the end user the option to install the custom UI features they want. Move the Sense, Touchwiz, LG UI and Blur features to the Playstore and include a download code with the phone, so only manufacturer handsets can get access to them.

Non-Google phones still won't get updates immediately like the nexus devices, because manufacturers would still have to create new drivers for all their phones, but it would speed up the update process considerably for everyone. Having to create a drive for each handset so that the newest OS version will work on it, would be a considerably easier task to do, than completely re-working their own skins with the latest features and having to go back and forth multiple times with the carriers on certification.

If they did that they probably would do the opposite

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

Yeah I said the same before the Nexus 4. So +100

twolastnames says:

What do you do with apps that work better as system level apps? I'm no dev bet I'm sure a lot of touchwiz would work worse if it was not at the system level. You can't have access to the play store if your phones come pre-rooted and that's the only way to get apps into /system as far as I know.

In not really down with this idea anyway. Android is awesome because all the oem's make different skins and functionality to phones that are all basically the same. I would get in line though if there was an advanced mode that would let you delete carrier apps without root.

derp

cschepers says:

Motorola's done exactly that with their apps for the Moto X.

NoNexus says:

No they havent

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

Gekko says:

Google has the smartest collection of minds on the planet. if it can be done - they will do it.

Jay Holm says:

Tesla & SpaceX have some smart people also.

Posted using Android Central App on my Samsung Galaxy S4 T-Mobile

I'm pretty sure he didn't imply that nobody else had smart people working for them as well.

Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.

Amir47 says:

You missed the point

Posted via Android Central App

revtech says:

Sounds like maybe Stevie-J had it right to begin with . . .

ab304945 says:

Right being only having 1 phone to update then yes. Problems with updates is one of the results of having a choice of what phone we want. I rather take slow updates and choose what phone I want. Over fast updates and only 1 phone to choose from

Posted via Android Central App

droidhead_1 says:

This^^

Posted via Android Central App

Well said!

ScottColbert says:

As right as he was about the Next computer, the Apple Lisa, and the PowerMac G4 cube.

hodan says:

Don't forget the Newton and that bastard iTunes moto phone.

Ah, the ROKR. What a turd of a phone.

Posted via Android Central App

thatguy97 says:

Ohhh carriers

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or iPhone 5

almath says:

*presses install later*

jsting76 says:

Wow, great article. Enjoyed reading it. At least HTC is upgrading my Droid DNA to Kit Kat. It seems like HTC is improving their android updates slightly. Hopefully manufacters like LG will improve speed of updates. However, Google is making os updates less important. Very difficult to tell the difference visually between 4.2, 4.3 & 4.4. I agree it would be a great idea for another android skins to move features to the play store. I see no sense features in play store.

carlprowse says:

Excellent article Alex. This is why I read Android Central.

As the updates to the core OS contribute fewer visible improvements to end users, they will become even less important to those end users, most of whom don't know or care anyway. Maybe Google has done enough already with Google Play Services to take back control of the platform.

What are the advantages to users and developers now to be on the latest 4.4 compared to just any of the 4.x variants?

I'm not concern with quick updates but for those who are obsess with quick updates, you guys/gals should get a Nexus, Google Play Edition, or Motorola device.

drokssilva says:

I think your up spell check needs an update...

Sent from inside a cave.

What's an "up spell check?"

drokssilva says:

I have no idea

Sent from inside a cave.

rudyy50 says:

At the very least Google should require all phone manufacturers to release security updates, and to sell phones with whatever the latest OS version is.
I learned my lesson when i bought a TracFone Straight Talk phone. I'll never buy another.

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

I agree except they need to allow new phones with only the previous Major release. So a phone right now could only have either 4.4.X or 4.3.

None of that 4.2 stuff to get certified.

Walkop says:

Didn't they make that a requirement with the release of 4.4? If you want Google Apps, you need to have the latest OS when you release your device.

TheMimic12 says:

It's too bad that the OS couldn't be updated from the play store as well. Think about it. The app on your phone tells you there is a new software version for your device. You open the app, the file downloads, your service restarts and installs the update. It's certainly a dream, but it wild be a quick way to do so. No carriers intervening. Probably would help if manufactures decoupled their launcher from the core, so the launcher could be updated by the manufacturer, and the Android operating system gets updated by Google.
That said, I appreciate that Motorola has taken to not only updating the os faster, but decoupling parts of the operating system that would require a system update fun the operating system and putting it in the play store. New camera software and touchless control improvements were pushed out quickly and conveniently, just like an app update.
It's a great start.

Posted via Android Central App

travaz says:

In my opinion I don't think the carriers want to give up the right to control bloat and carrier specific apps that they cram on my phone. I don't want any of them but I got 'em. That is where the real problem lies with updates

TheMimic12 says:

That's honestly the big problem, but if most of it were done through the play store, it's easy to bypass the carriers. To them, it's pretty much an app update, but to the end user, it's a system update.
What can they do? Block the play store? Google would be all over them for that.
Posted via Android Central App

panagiotisgr says:

give us the option to choose the stock android or the customized one. let us choose what to have. e.g. sumsung and LG got amazing hardware but their stock roms sucks. Ugly like hell and slow(samsung) or heavy(again Samsung). i dont understand the Google Play edition phones. give a phone and let us choose. why we need to pay more for the same phone just to have the stock experience. and it is only available to some countries

Gekko says:

you do have a choice - Nexus.

drokssilva says:

That's not what he's saying.

He's saying it should be part of the setup process of any android phone.

Sent from inside a cave.

Gekko says:

there are no victims - only volunteers. vote with your wallet.

drokssilva says:

But there's no phone that does that.

Sent from inside a cave.

hodan says:

Great saying. I will use it.

NoNexus says:

The tribe has spoken

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

Nexus is a phone. Not everyone necessarily wants the Nexus or the current GPe phones. It would be great if the UI could be chosen independent of the phone.

NoNexus says:

I will take Samsung or HTC hardware over Nexus any day.

Yup and keep watching while all Nexus 7 devices get the latest and greatest

Posted via Android Central App from Nexus 7 2013

NoNexus says:

There has been nothing since jellybean that has been great

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

drokssilva says:

I'm seriously getting annoyed with you No Nexus.

Sent from inside a cave.

MERCDROID says:

Why? He doesn't like Nexus phones. There's nothing wrong with that.

And, regarding his comment about there being nothing new since Jellybean, he's not really wrong.

drokssilva says:

@MercDroid
It's not just that.

In fact I agree (mostly) with that comment.

Sent from inside a cave.

NoNexus says:

Then why complain?

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

drokssilva says:

Idk. Sorry

Sent from inside a cave.

NoNexus says:

Its all good.

I want Nexus to be the "apple" of android, it just keeps failing.

Hmm the ART runtime increased battery life and actually made my N7 so smooth that it felt like a completely new device.The slight Judders while scrolling widgets and chrome scroll pay which I had since 4.3 are gone so its a pretty huge difference

Posted via Android Central App from Nexus 7 2013

MERCDROID says:

How can you be sure it's not the placebo effect?

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

Well the slight lag when scrolling widgets is present when in Dalvik and the tablet as a whole is not as responsive,especially Chrome I checked,its definitely not placebo,ART is faster and as far as stability goes,the tab feels rock solid,not a single crash

Posted via Android Central App from Nexus 7 2013

twolastnames says:

Nevermind all the other reports of stability issues and the reports of it not helping battery life.

derp

twolastnames says:

Except that the massive file that is touchwiz would still be on your phone taking up space. I don't feel any phones are really large anymore. We are not talking about HTC Hero's where everything lagged. Now I feel the fake lag is just the oem's slowing things down so animations can be seen, double taps can be performed, etc. I refer you to the chrome update that took the intentional lag out of clicking a hyperlink as my example.

derp

dan1431 says:

I had a chance to ask an HTC Engineer if it is even possible to say offer base (vanilla) Android and then say release Sense to the Play store for HTC phones to download if desired.

He said that while possible, he saw at least one issue, Sense is part of the HTC experience and he is not sure if HTC would want to make part of the HTC experience an option.

Personally I am a Nexus guy, just one less hassle, but I have to wonder how many average people even know or care if their phone is running the latest software, most people I talk with just want their phone to work, simple as that.

Dan

Posted via Android Central App

mike31082 says:

That's the major problem though with Sense and most other custom Android UIs, is the fact that most of them are hooked into Android too much. HTC phones suffer camera issues when you run stock rom on it like Cyanogenmod. Although they did manage to include some of the features in Google Play Edition.

I just think the majority of consumers want to buy those devices, they just don't want to pay the un-subsidized cost of one. I'd be willing to settle for a GPE GS4 over an LG G2 if it actually didn't cost over $600. It's be a considerably better option than the Moto X or even Nexus 5 too IMO.

Probably a lot more than we think

Posted via Android Central App

hodan says:

This is the core problem with all these foreign companies building android handsets. They don't understand the American consumer. The One was a critical success because of its hardware. People were excited that Sense 5 didn't fuck up the android experience as much as it used to. If only HTC, Samsung, LG, even Sony could figure this out.

Stock Android + proprietary launcher/camera apps that can be updated separately through Play store = PURE WIN.

Kolten Nay says:

The one wasn't exactly a critical success

Posted via Android Central App

hodan says:

I disagree. Please find another phone that got the highest rating from Anandtech, and was widely regarded as the best handset last year.

Posted via Android Central App

Actually, yes it was. It really wasn't much of a commercial success, but it was a critical one.

NoNexus says:

it was a lighter weight but that is about it. I would prefer Sense to TW in a lot of respects, but I get a better value out of TW.

I have run stock (and still do on a tablet which is where it excels) and would hate to have an Google version of Android on my Note. It would take away from the phone.

Each phone has its pluses, putting Googles version of android on it would ruin half of them.

MERCDROID says:

To be honest, I would really like a Nexus "phablet." I don't really care for the S-Pen, but I do want a bigger Nexus device; and I'm willing to pay a premium for it.

rampage1979 says:

Gpe Sony ultra?

Posted via Android Central App

MERCDROID says:

Touche, lol. My only beef with GPE devices is that I can't just walk into a store and buy one.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

NoNexus says:

@merc I would love a nexus 10. The 7 is a bit small for my needs and Nexus is great on the tablets

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

MERCDROID says:

Agreed, completely. I'm still holding out hope for a new Nexus 10.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

BB_Bmore says:

Great read. Thank you Alex!

merry holidays

MidMoMonkey says:

I don't get too work up about how fast HTC updates my One, but I do have a bit of anxiety over how long they will continue to update it. This was one thing I didn't anticipate when I switched from ios. It was nice knowing that I would be able to update my phone for years after I bought it.

Posted via Android Central App

mnc76 says:

And... the dream of an open source Android for all is over.

Posted via Android Central App

mnc76 says:

Since you have to part of (e.g.: agree to the terms Google sets for) the Open Handset Alliance to have access to Play Services.

The terms that must be agreed to in order to have access to Play Services have been said, internally by Google, to be "basically a way to force OEMs to do what we want".

Not exactly the free and open dream of Android. Android will be no better than iOS as more and more key code skips the Android Open Source Project and goes straight into Play Services.

Posted via Android Central App

mnc76 says:

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary.
Android is open—except for all the good parts.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-cont...

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

You are missing something that is not discussed all that often (mostly because it is newish).

AOSP and what Google puts on a Nexus phone are different things. The Nexus line is becoming another phone, with another skin. Those are the parts that are not open.

twolastnames says:

Thank you. People don't seem to understand this at all. They complain of the Samsung bloat, but Google gets a pass on Chrome? Seriously that is a huge app and still pisses me off on my phone. The AOSP browser was the bomb. Pie controls in there are the cats meow. Another stupid short sentence.

derp

mnc76 says:

But my point still stands. What you've added is that the closed-sourcing of what Joe Android user considers a "free and open OS-based phone" is actually occurring at even a FASTER pace than even I believed.

But the bottom line is that when someone goes to a store to buy an "Android" phone going forward, there will be little to no "open source" left in it, save for some fragments of system code... remnants of when Android actually WAS the Open Source dream.

Posted via Android Central App

mikepahl318 says:

While Apple doesn't suffer from OS fragmentation.... They certainly suffer from feature fragmentation.
Can you imagine an Android device on 4.1 without Google Now?

Posted via Android Central App

flychinook says:

Spot on. Every time someone whines about Android fragmentation, and points to iOS as a better model, I cringe a bit. Siri is part of the OS, but yet the iPhone 4 still doesn't have it. Maybe Google should push out an update that changes the version number on all Android phones to 4.4, but nothing else. "Yay, everybody has KitKat now!"

Posted from my Motorola MicroTac via the Android Central App

The IP4 got updated after 2 years and it must have gotten SOMETHING! Being updated after 2 years is a distant dream for any device even tho the Android Fanboy in me agrees with you

Posted via Android Central App from Nexus 7 2013

True. At least when we do get updates, we get *all* the updates. :-)

Jon_Doh says:

I wish they would address the issue of the same apps updating everyday.

Hunter Petit says:

If only the manufacturers put all of their features in the Play Store and let Google do the OS updates it would be better or put OS updates in the Play Store. (I know thats a little flawed but just some thinking will fix it.)

Posted from the Google Nexus 7 2012 via Android Central App

Google's ingenious engineers will solve the issue soon i hope!!!
http://www.jamaicanroutes.com/

FangXIII says:

It's really the manufacturers problem not googles.

Posted via Android Central App

jamie says:

I still think it's a small percentage of smart phone users who care about updates. (Myself included) most people get used to the phone when they buy it and loath any changes. They will skip updates until it makes them then get angry about it!

Posted via Nexus 5

zackmack7 says:

Great article Alex!

Posted via Android Central App

one80oneday says:

Force GPe for all new devices with next build

I wish they would start having GPe devices for the rest of the world… As for updates I think there will always be some roadblocks unfortunately, too many stages involved that needs actual communication and someone taking action and doing something.

Posted via Android Central App on my Motorola XT890 RAZR i

Synycalwon says:

Never understood the desire for frequent updates. If 17 years in IT has taught me anything, it's that they more often than not break things or cause issues on what was otherwise a working device. It's why I turn off any kind of auto-updating on all my Android devices and Windows computers and evaluate updates then make a determination whether to update or not. Unfortunately for Android OS updates that requires rooting to kill the updater as Google has yet to provide that type of option natively like Microsoft does with Windows.

It's also disconcerting that they're moving things into Google Play services that will update themselves at any given time without giving me any notification or control over the process. Frankly, this is the type of behavior that is pushing me away from Android as I want more control over what changes on my device, not less! Just because I've agreed to use Google's OS shouldn't mean they have cart blanche access to automatically update whatever they want on my device at any time. This is why I can never fully trust Android/Google. In comparison my Windows computers can be easily locked down and not a damn thing change on them unless I approve it to happen.

droidhead_1 says:

Good point

Posted via Android Central App

cegc135 says:

Easy fix, disable Auto-updates in the Play Store (Menu/Action button - Settings - unmark Auto update). Problem solved, now you'll have to authorize any updates yourself.

twolastnames says:

That does not work with play services. Mine updated and never told me.

derp

mmisep says:

Great reading. All the aspects ares well explained, but, as stated before in the comments, this isn't that big of a deal outside the most "Geeky/Nerd" community...

DocWllk says:

I recently happened to see a notification from LookOut saying" Google Play Services is safe" so I guess it updated in the background as I did other stuff. LookOut picked up on it and scanned it like it was any other app update. I think they are on the right track with the play store and GPServices. I think it would be cool if they could do something similar to the CyanogenMod installer and make it easier for the end user to update the os themselves.

fchowd0311 says:

Here is how you solve update problems. Buy a Nexus device and don't deal with Verizon. Simple. Why does everything have to be compared to Apple? Apple has to deal with ONE LINE OF DEVICES to update. All of the devices Apple updates.....

ARE MADE BY APPLE!!! Apple doesn't have to worry about dozens of other manufacturers creating their own device independent of Apple. Why should Google be blamed for other manufacturers and their decisions? Google does a well enough job updating their Nexus line of devices. Does anyone honestly think that Apple would do a better job than Google if Apple's ios was open source and any swinging dick could make an ios device with what ever amount bloatware and skins they want?

MERCDROID says:

Apple is used as a basis for comparison, because they are Android's biggest competitor.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

sv650 says:

I agree it's a mess, my first flavor was the G2X, and that was a horrible mess with the updates.

Then the HTC sensation, support was dropped quickly. Now I have the s3, which is way better. My friend had an iPhone 4S this whole time and got prompt updates till this day.

I like Android better than ios, but I am getting tired of lack of support for a 650$ device.

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

what are you really missing? I mean your on 4.3, going to be on 4.4. It is possible that if the new UI comes out for TW, it could get that as well.

Yeah it is not day 1, but it is a decent time frame.

twolastnames says:

The S3 updates keep me at ease that my S4 won't get abandoned. If I had a One, I'd be worried as the OneX just got the ax.

derp

NoNexus says:

Yeah Samsung gets unfairly shamed about updates. They support their stuff. Isn't the s2 on jellybean?

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

MERCDROID says:

It is.

NoNexus says:

Cannot really complain about the cycle

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

MERCDROID says:

People can complain, lol. But, whether those complaints hold merit is another story.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

Amir47 says:

I think 4.3 was out by the time the S2 got 4.3. Sprint version anyway

Posted via Android Central App

sv650 says:

The point I was trying to make was 650 bucks is a lot of money for a device like the G2X and the sensation to be abandoned so quickly. Htc is doing it again with the one x+.

I believe that if a manufacturer supports their phone for 2 years plus, they will definitely won some major customer loyalty (apple). I want this to be android!!

blipp says:

"Google Play Services APIs underpin Google Play Game Services, which was launched at I/O 2013 and enables cloud save, achievements and leaderboards in games."

Yes, i knew i remembered correctly when thinking Play Games had cloud saves! Now, if only developers would actually implement them. All i ever see is Achievements and Leaderboards.

NoNexus says:

Here is the fail point guys.

We know the process, Google to OEM (for skin) to carrier (for radio testing/bloat)

Google to OEM should be relatively painless and be released close to the Google announcement. The carrier really does not need to be involved because hopefully the radios are not being messed with at all. Same radios, no need for re-certification.

Now the problems come about when you add the three together. Most of the skin stuff can be APKs (yes some Android Core libraries get changed, but they can be updated as needed).

Verizon (whoever) wants to put there stuff in there, and they want it to be permanent. That to requires changes to the core. Now you have 3 separate entities updating the core independently of each other. That will never ever work. Verizon updates (X) app, which breaks app (Z), which fubars the phone.

The key to updates is to first convince the carriers to make the bloat removable. That means you are taking money from their pockets. Not gonna happen.

Then you have to get the OEMs and Google to really work together, and I mean close. When a new version of Android comes out, the OEM has to be ready, or the phone is FUBAR. I am pretty sure that this can be accomplished.

I typed a heck of a lot just to say that carriers are the ones really throwing the wrench into things. They need to worry about radio compatibility and thats it. They want to throw in apps, they need to be just apps, not core apps. Most people will be like my wife, they won't care what is on the phone and leave most of it there. Might even use it.

twolastnames says:

I could be wrong, but the radio side of things has more that just files to make the phone get signal. I think Android has some high level untouchable code up there for the core os. How else could flashing AT&T radios to a Verizon phone brick you?

derp

NoNexus says:

Incompatible bands. You can flash radios separate from the core, but where the brick come in is when the phone fires up, it hits the part about initializing the radio and chokes

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

Paul Mellish says:

Great article Alex. The quality of writing on this site is rising all the time. Keep em coming lads!!!

Posted via Android Central App

Gearu says:

People just need to realize that there is far less testing and effort put into updates than the original software that the device came with.

SouthRedford says:

great article, Alex.

s2weden2000 says:

that´s right!

someguy01234 says:

I don't see an issue with 'speed' of update by google, but they still need to work stability. I hate to admit it, but never worry about updating iOS devices and worry of issues, but I heard lots of issues with problems with OTA updates by Google. Regardless whether you think it's never a problem that you had to deal with, adequate research around the internet should get you to notice Google OTAs don't always go flawlessly or there are post update issues. This is the main aspect Google needs to work on.

I'm not concerned about the speed of the updates, recent Moto G and X gets fast updates. It's up to other manufacturers to follow suite and put more effort in it, so if you buy a non-Google device you'll just have to deal with it, there may be some improvements, but it's unrealistic to expect Google to "take control" and make it better for everyone, that's not how Android should work imo, that's Apple. It's not fair to expect Android to have similar update system to iOS, they work differently.

I don't agree with you. iOS 7 (but also earlier versions of iOS) had a lot of bugs when released. Apple fixed most of them via updates, but still, iOS isn't bug free.

sylvan says:

Is "leash of life" now a thing? Love the article, hope this isn't pedantic, but in the second to last paragraph, shouldn't it be "giving them a new lease on life", rather than, "giving them a new leash of life"?

mgfjd12 says:

I have the galaxy s4 with 4.3 and I like it better than the kit Kat android in my nexus 7 2013 tablet. Google services is good enough for me. I don't care if Samsung gets beat to the punch.

Posted via Android Central App

PeteyNice says:

Part of the reason that fewer people care about updates *right now* is that there is no lusty feature that is new in Kit Kat. Sure there are things that are cool but nothing that would make you bug Samsung every day about where your update is.

Going from Gingerbread to ICS you had the complete UI overhaul.
Going from ICS to Jelly Bean you had Google Now and to a lesser extend Project Butter

If my phone doesn't get Kit Kat for a few months I am fine with that. If it doesn't get it at all I will be disappointed because you know that Licorice is going to kick ass.

NoNexus says:

I doubt it. Obviously I am no inventor, but now it is just about bells and whistles. Supporting this or that. Not a true game changer

-----------------------------------------
Mommy posted this because I am not allowed to internets

net62957 says:

I liked my GS2 on Gingerbread just as much as my Nexus 5 on Kit Kat. I did not want ICS or Jelly Bean until I learned they existed.

Two years ago I used a flip phone and had never heard of Android or iOS. I'll never go back there but I could be content in my first Android ride.....I think.

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

I cannot see being happy with GB, ICS I can see. GB was tough for the best of phones.

net62957 says:

It was a really good experience for me. The GS2 was a very good device and GB my introduction into the Android experience. I chose the non contract route with the older operating system verses the flagship devices with the most recent. I probably would have started my Nexus experience earlier if I had known it existed back then.

A895 says:

I was so happy with GB only my Droid Incredible 2. I knew about ICS but u didn't really care. I could have mostly any app I wanted and it didn't hurt that the Incredible 2 was arguably the nicest 3G android phone on Verizon at the time.

Posted via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App

oddom says:

The solution has been found by those of us smart enough to know...its nexus...that's all. Anything else is androids lame cousin that we accept but don't care for.

Posted via Android Central App

Spoken like a true Nexus fellowman :-)

Posted via Android Central App from Nexus 7 2013

The thing i wonder always is why that device maker (Qualcomm or something) is also such a big problem. Why is the hardware abstraction layer always changing in Android or better said Linux... with every , sometimes quite small, release. Compare that to Windows where drivers from xp to 8 only changed maybe once or so. If i look at core drivers on my Windows 8 system then some are years and years old....

I also would like that Google would sell nexus and gpe devices over here, i think the would even do better then in the usa. Because we are used to just buying the phone and then do sim only. I do that already for years and more and more people are doing this.

Posted via Android Central App

mawil1013 says:

Phone users/buyers need to educate themselves. They hold some responsibility. I own a Nexus 4, pulled my head out of my arse and bought one. Why should Carriers change when customers continue to buy from them and only grumble about updates. Personally I don't feel the vast majority of phone owners give a damn, they buy a phone with a set OS and through time become familiar with it and don't appreciate a bump in the OS. I feel it's just a few that hang around these types of phone forums feed upon their own dreads and others like them and their dreads about not having that latest and greatest, supposedly newest update. Average buyer USA isn't smart enough to care about a tweak here or there. That being said, it would be nice for the tiny fraction of phone owners who care about minuscule OS updates that the Carrier give them the option of having pure Android as it's is released (if the phone is capable of running them), or stay on the Carriers version of Android and wait for a possible update. Anyway, if you the phone owner, owned a Carrier, you too wouldn't spend an extra dollar to pay employees to work diligently to get every OS update working on an already sold phone, would you now?

mtvictor says:

I just want update. 4.4.3 or even 4.5.
Android 4.2.2 is verry buggy and laggy :(
I wish they could send a 4.3 jellybean update to users..

Posted via Android Central App

Chex313 says:

What's so impossible about updates...?Just do what iOS does. Put out an update for old phones that never adds the new features often makes the old phones unusable (iPhone 3G and iOS 3.0) and basically just assign the new version # to the old os. Seems quite simple.

Posted via Serenity

Andrew Roach says:

The real issue is that OEM versions of Android arent SKINS at all. They are completely separate versions of Android built from the ground up. So its not so simple to update, and add new features. Carriers certainly slow the update process down; but the majority of the slowdowns are because OEM's have to do all of the footwork.

kpluck says:

I don't know, the problem just doesn't seem that complex to me. Handset manufacturers are pushing out too many phones with too little profit margin. They simply aren't willing to expend the resources to keep all their hardware up to date in a timely fashion.

And the reason is simple, most users don't care. Sorry to say it but many smartphone users are "average joes" these days. A handset manufacturer makes a decision about balancing nerd rage from a increasing small percentage of their customers (with the resulting bad tech press) vs spending the money on the next whiz bang smartphone to try and keep one step ahead of their competitors.

The end result being slow, incomplete updates for hardware. If this is important, get a Nexus going forward. It is what I plan to do.

Mighty_Red says:

Firstly, we should put the carrier issue to one side as that is one that the Manufacturers have little influence on. Even a company as big as Samsung will do their best to pacify the carriers (esp in the US) so they will allow carriers to customize the phones and hence delay updates.

Only Apple have the leverage to refuse this model and set their own terms to carriers since they are less reliant on them (Apple fans will buy the phone regardless of network).

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the main problem is the lack of customer focus. Supporting the phones you release should be part of your commitment to the customer and is reflected in the price you pay. When you pay over the odds for an iPhone, you do get a high level of service. You can't expect that from a budget or mid-range android phone, but I believe you should when you pay for one of the premium phones. Adding updates to phones is part of this support.

The HTC One X is the biggest case in point. This phone was released as a top end phone, competing with the S3 and the iphone and yet it will not go beyond 4.2, an OS released in late 2012. This phone should've got 4.3 at the very least and really should be getting 4.4 before being retired. I know how I would feel if I was a HTC One X owner - that they took my money and ran, and that next time I go elsewhere.

Even as an S3 owner, Sammy have also frustrated us but generally their problem is speed of updates rather than an unwillingness to do so.

When people bring up the issue of cost, then let me ask you this - are you willing to lose a customer just to save a few bucks? If that customer goes somewhere else at renewal time, you may not get them back. HTC don't seem to have learnt from this even though they are making good phones again. If you are charging close to iphone prices then you need to justify it.

paulw3 says:

I guess if IOS and the iPhones had the same carrier bloat as Android fones then we delays in updates on this platform as well. That's why I use a Nexus 4 now and maybe a Motorola next. Quick updates..

jlongrc says:

OS updates have been adding less and less - it really isn't a huge deal to have 4.2 instead of 4.4. The most noticeable changes are usually from the OEM, who doesn't need to wait for Android for them to tweak their own software.

Posted via Android Central App

enigmax says:

Sueing carries is just an excuse. There is a big world outside of US and phones are without carriers bloatware. Plane devices, only having stuff inside manufacturers put there in the first place. So it is still depending on the manufacturer. But if the manufacturer is just a big toymaker, making tons of differend kind of models on every weeks, what should you expect to get. Exactly, nothing. And it is not only non-flagship devices, even flagships suffer this phenomena.

I bet when time is right, windows based tablets and phones are better, it will be the end of Android. Not even now, there is no room for Android in business and schools. And eventually home users will abandon it too. Android phones/tablets seems to be just toys you have a year or possible two years and then throw it away and buy new one because of the lack of support. I think windows is the os which will replace Android eventually.

Sent from my N8000 using Android Central app

Zig261 says:

You're delusional.

Posted via Android Central App

enigmax says:

A reality check!

Will this is the first nail to the Android coffin (especially for Samsung devices):
http://www.asus.com/us/News/yi29FiPzTzzNXPhu

annedev says:

nice article.

XChrisX says:

Android owners want new updates the minute they're released, but even iOS takes 3 or so months before it actually ends up on the devices of all of us. Apple announces a new version of iOS, and then they send it out to developers for testing, and then a few months later, they release it publicly for download. I have a Note 3, but I'm not too excited for Kit Kat because it's a mediocre update. Nothing ground breaking with Google updates since Jelly Bean really. I'm fine with my Note 3 as is.

Jimmy Walker says:

Agreed, there really isn't much of a big change in Android's software from all the way back from ICS to Kitkat except for Google Now.

Posted via Android Central App

enigmax says:

Excuse me? You dont see any big changes from ics to jb4.3???

Sent from my N8000 using Android Central app

enigmax says:

Well, Note 10.1 was updated from A4.0 to A4.1 on january 2013. Since then nothing major, only fixes for bugs, so please dont talk about minutes here... Note 10.1 has been a year without an upgrade and the device should be their flagship marketed not only for home users but for business and schools. It was released just over year ago and Samsung already forgot the device since their released it..

Released on september 2012 with A4.0, updated few months later to A4.1 on january 2013. Now we are living year 2014 and during this time Google has released a4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 and Samsung has done nothing - only billion other phones and tablets and even an incompatible accessory, Gear, that was really needed with this huge, N8000, 10.1" phone. But no, Gear doesnt work with Note 10.1 because Gear needs A4.3 to work. Lucky there are other choices, like Sone SW2, that is perfect and working great with N8000. N8000 got an update today, another stability fw and the Android version is still A4.1.2.

Just over a year old "premium class flagship for business, schools and home" and it is already forgotten by its manufacturer that is only interested in making new toys, billions of them! No business or schools can think about Samsung/Android seriously. But lucky we have choices... Asus already launched win8.1 tablet with wacom, so now we are talking about "premium". Premium and Samsung in the same sentence is just a bad joke, nothing else... And because of manufacturers, like Samsung, Android will die eventually...

Sent from my N8000 using Android Central app

Ditto on the Note 3.

Posted via Android Central App

Ronzdaname says:

This whole updating thing is crap! I'm still waiting on Samsung to send an update to my Note 10.1. It's been sitting on 4.1.2 for ever and all I get from them is "The update has been released."

Pollster says:

Nobody cares.
For every nerd on this site crying about lack of updates, there's 1000 regular users of both iPhone and Android who aren't applying updates at all.

My wife doesn't even know they're there.
My daughter avoids installing any update until her apps won't run without it.

thatguy97 says:

Solution: launchers

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or iPhone 5

xgman says:

This is my single biggest complaint about android devices. They are all over the place and there is no quality control over the os. It is a big deal and a big mistake to continue on this way. My second biggest complaint is the lack of "clone" style backup like Apple devices enjoy. It's another big fail that needs to be remedied. Thanks for this article. Time to pull the heads out of the sand on this issue.

thaguy; launchers are NOT a solution at all.

There are actually better ways of pushing the updates which google should keep in mind according to... http://j.mp/1eFyWeT

Windfrenzy says:

I don't get it. When there are multiple ROMs and Google Apps packages for the latest version of Android on the Galaxy Nexus, but it is no longer supported officially, how can it be an issue with the lack of processor support?
When I have to keep a device for two years, updates keep it feeling new. I've had a launcher get updated for 4.4 that removed a feature I liked on 4.3. Problems, new features, and situations like that prompt me to update to newer Android versions.
All I can say is that I sure appreciate unlocked devices and the dev community.

Posted via Android Central App

raguram88 says:

Great article for android users and i came across the article from http://www.gadgetride.com/blog/top-smartphone-releases-coming-up-in-2014..., it creates huge expectation.

As far as the characteristics of the chip set involved well I've to say that the nvidia has the worst record in this regard. From the fiasco lg optimus 2x that ended up without ice cream sandwich updates, something that hit the reputation of LG so much that it is still struggling to recover despite launching two nexus devices.
To carrier flagships like Motorola photon 4g and atrix 4g getting stuck on gingerbread and the T mobile g2x, what was bragging pure android version of the optimus 2x never went ics. Nvidia never released the drivers for their processors making even custom roms a difficult task
And what has this got to do with the HTC one X and LG optimus 4x, well tegra3 chip by nvidia
About time developer community became vocal about it.

While it's understandable that device makers can't support the devices forever (unless you're Samsung, and the device is galaxy s2) they should at least unlock the boot loader for custom rom

And yes nexus devices need to be more available, why not still sell the nexus 4 with a 32 gigabytes version as a cheaper nexus, since the hardware is certainly great.

Posted via Android Central App

nasellok says:

So, here i sit, with a Lagtastic crashtastic Galaxy Nexus, rooted, and Rom'ed to death, unable to find a stable build of Android working, debating to flash back to stock, and see if it makes a difference. My Wife, Droid Incredible 2, stuck on Android 2.2, with no update, ever, in 2 years of owning the phone. We are both coming off contracts, and can renew.........What to do, what to do - Verizon has no Nexus 5, Moto X Camera is terrible, HTC One (over a year old). LGG2 (hate that rear button, worst design ever), Samsung GS4 (hate the plastic and touchwiz - could root, but I think im over the roming, and customization), Note 3 (that's a maybe for me, but too big for my wife), my concerns are LAG, and build quality - I have friends with both GS4, and Note 3, and ive personally seen them crash, and lag it up when doing simple things like switching apps, going to the home screen, etc.

Iphone is an absolute, unequivocal NO for both of us, so what is out there worth getting on Verizon - ugh, guess we will have to wait until Samsung releases the GS5, or I might even try a new windows phone to see how it is. My buddy has one, and it seems pretty cool.

What we need, is a GS5 with better build quality / camera, a HTC One 2 that has better camera. WTF

my mobile is samsung galaxy grand and had updated to android jelly bean 4.2.2 .. the mobile is too slowly and I can't share photos or any thing in what's app , viber and instagram applications!

Posted via Android Central App

t0m5k1 says:

The main problem I have always had regardless on which phone manufacturer I use is the very tedious task of receiving app updates in google play via wifi!

I am beginning to think that some form of rate control is built into google play that is turned on when wifi is enabled.
I have had 2 HTC's, 1 Samsung & now a Sony this problem has always been present for me since Froyo.

Android sucks in PLAIN ENGLISH. Way to many phone manufactures, They never ever work correctly. from one android to another. And anyone can create an app on the playstore. I have a note 2 only because its large. It never gets updates. The battery life is terrible. 4.3. I'm lucky i can get 4 hours out of a charge. Who the hell want the hassle to root the phone? Its a pain in the ass. They always have conflicts. They never ever run smooth. I can't wait for the new iPhone 5 inch screen. There OS is always flawless,due to the fact they have strict quality control. Droid doesn't, its an open market.