Google Android

Our pals at JK on the Run put up an excellent piece today breaking down Google's supposed (or blatant, depending on who you ask) favoritism regarding the latest OS versions, features, etc. Basically it boils down to this: Has Google put some of the latest features (i.e. Buzz, Google Maps Navigation) on the most current hardware with the newest builds? Absolutely. And why wouldn't you show off your best software on the best hardware? Writes Kevin C. Tofel:

I ask myself: if I were Google and I wanted to rock out a new app and build the biggest buzz, I’d get it on the heartiest hardware first so it really shines from a performance perspective. I’d also pair it with hardware designed to show it off — the Droid car dock morphs what’s essentially a software product into a look-alike, standalone GPS device.

And as for your older Android phone not yet rocking Version 2.0 or 2.1, remember that unless it's the Nexus One (or the G1, we suppose), updating devices such as the Motorola Cliq -- or the Cliq XT ... or the Devour -- is going to some doing, as Motoroblur is only on Android 1.6 at current. And that's not Google's fault.

Who chose to put Android 1.6 on this new Android device? It certainly wasn’t Google. If you have to “blame” someone, choose either Motorola who made the phone or Verizon who decided to sell the phone. All Google does for this phone is provide versions of it’s mobile platform to the phone maker.

Those are all points we've argued before, and we bet we'll be arguing them for some time to come. Is the platform fractured? Yep. But that's not Google's fault, just as it wasn't Microsoft's fault when Windows Mobile (RIP) saw itself running in various versions on a number of devices. [JK on the Run]


Reader comments

When you should blame Google (and when it's not their fault)


So the lack of 2.1 would be either VZW or Motorola, so glad Google is selling their own phones directly now, it should solve a lot this fracturing problem down the line.

I agree, why wouldn't Google want the latest version of android on all phones. The maker and carrier is probably the one holding back.

I have to agree with this that it is not 100% on Google. Though I would like a little transparency. I have had the G1 since day 1 and I know it does have any major manufacturer back end to work in sense or motoblur. In the interest in keeping customers happy I think it is appropriate to let us know when we can expect and update to bring our software up to a level that phones have been being produced at for months. I know some of you are going to say oh no it can't fit maybe. Again, transparency, let me know so I don't get my hopes up waiting forever. I just want some insight, not to be jerked around.

While I agree with this issue, all of this rests on Google. It is their OS, platform, and future. The rest of the companies have other interests, and other OS', phones, etc.

So, with that being said, Google should have mandated that anyone using Android must work to keep it up to date. I know it is open sourced, but that isnt much to ask. Also, why not a manual update for the Google branded phones like the G1? That would solve a lot of the issues.

While its not Google's fault, they aren't helping themselves out by any means. And as nice as the Nexus is (i have one), they aren't selling enough to make the average consumer take notice of "solving the problem."

What's the point of a fantastic 2.1 update to Android if over 60% of actual devices in the wild are running 1.5/1.6? The iPhone stragegy makes the version and hardware specs simple, allowing massive application development potential. Android is very fragmented, making it much more difficult. It's a bad start to what could have been a great platform.

Having the carriers decide what updates go on Android devices was a huge, time-consuming mistake.

That's just the thing though, it's NOT Google's platform, it's the phone manufacturers'. Google provide the entire OS source for free via AOSP, and manufacturers can enter into bundling agreements with Google to provide the Google-owned apps such as Gmail.

A manufacturer creates a phone, which requires hardware drivers, and releases it with an Android build on it. Google then upgrades the Android OS, but the manufacturer doesn't upgrade the drivers. This stops the newer version of the OS from "just working" on the existing phone.

How is this Google's fault?

Good points made here, Phil. I was wondering why Google would want all these different versions floating around but they just make and improve on the OS, not dictate what version a manufacturer has to use. And Motoblur and Sense have proven to take longer to make compatible with new versions of Android but that's not Google's fault. That's on the manufacturers, IMO, but it does take time to change your custom software to be compatible with the latest OS...that doesn't just go for Android.

Totally disagree. Android is Google's baby, just like WebOS is Palm's and iPhone is Apple's. You don't see this issue on either of those platforms, do you? Why? Because they decided not to allow it to happen. Google's Android strategy is completely different, and it was their choice. I totally blame Google for this as they are smart and had the insight to know that this would happen.

Your points about what version of an OS a phone releases on is totally pointless, actually. Why? Because, the way Android isn't controlled by Google when released on different phones means that, no matter what version of the OS it has at launch, it will at some point not be getting updates. The original 2007 iPhone is rocking the newest OS version. As is the original Palm Pre. My Hero is at freaking 1.5, with an eventual update to 2.1 and then it will be dead in the water. That's Google's fault for not designing a robust product upgrade strategy with Android.

This is how Google designed Android, with it's openness and all. If they wanted tighter control on versioning, they could require certain hardware specs or updating strategies. They didn't. Google failed, not the manufacturers.

it is 100% HTCs fault for not upgrading the OS, apple and palm are totally different because they have designed and built the hardware themselves, imagine how bloated android would be if google had to provide the 'drivers' for loads of companies hardware.
one of the major 'slowness' of the update for the hero is the sence UI which will have to be continually adapted for each version, a far better way would be for HTC just to use stock android and then give an optional skin/theme ontop just for their devices and then the apps you could install.

and I have no faith that motorola will ever update their android devices because they have 17 new handsets out this year that will swamp the market, compete with each other and then end up loosing lots of money for them just like, a lot like British Leyland

to sumup because the manufactures are adding coustom skins and because they built the hardware it is their responsibility to give their users the latest updates, as it would be impossible for google to have a tailored product for all the devices on the market.

anyone who blames google for not upgrading the OS is poorly informed with the technical issues involved

Welcome to Open Source people. Just do a search for Linux Distributions and you will see that providing source code to anyone and everyone will cause this. It's not going to get better either.

But instead of thinking of it as a drawback, think of it as freedom of choice. Don't like the way things progressed? Next time CHOOSE not to purchase hardware from manufacturers who seem to have held back updates. Google's release and subsequent quick updates with the Nexus One shows that it's not that hard to keep the OS up to date, so the fault clearly lays with the handset manufacturers. They have complete access to the software, they just haven't made updating existing customers a priority.

The part of the whole mess that pisses me off is the carrier involvement. Example - Google releases new code. Motorola builds it, makes it work on their handset, and then sends to Verizon for "approval". This is the same company that approved countless updates for the Blackberry Storm. As long as it works on their network (and I'm sure Moto can and does test that before they send it out), the idiots at the carriers have no reason to be involved. Carrier network engineers should be involved with Moto (for example) at the initial testing phase, then back the hell away so they don't screw things up, instead of pretending that they actually know anything outside their cubicle and hold up progress.

People (like myself) that would rather use a version of Android with a custom OS like Sense, Blur, Touchwiz, etc. also need to realize that they will NOT get all the OS updates that Google pushes out. Wasting time porting HTC Sense to Android 2.0 would have been stupid, and I'm glad that resources weren't squandered on it. 2.1 brings an entirely new feature set, and it is worthy of upgrading existing handsets to it, but don't start crying the blues when HTC doesn't release Sense 2.1.1 cause it ain't gonna happen.

You're dead right. The only thing stopping Android 2.1 from fully working on the G1/Magic is HTC's refusal to release 2.1 drivers for the GPU and Camera.

Carrier approval may be annoying but it's an understandable necessity of running an Android build. A carrier wants their phone to be rock-solid stable. A look into any of the good amateur-made ROMs such as Cyanogen, Amon_RA or Dwang will show a long development process with many releases before the image appears to run "just right". These are ROMs which often run bleeding-edge or extended features and the community doesn't mind having their phone being a bit dodgy whilst testing these for ROM devs. A carrier, on the other hand, has users who don't want to mess around and have their phone crashing all the time, so the carrier needs to opt for a more stable and feature-restricted build.

I would agree IF the carriers seemed to be able only approve rock-solid releases. When an update rolls out that has new bugs, or didn't properly address existing bugs, what exactly is the benefit of carrier involvement? They apparently did not test the changes well enough, or new bugs would have been found and addressed. IMO (key here) the time they spend approving software is a power play and benefits only the company that wants to sell new phones.

I put 50% of the blame on Google - they should have been much more proactive from the beginning in preventing OS fragmentation. Fragmentation = trouble for developers, which in turn is bad for Google and the Android platform. Android can't succeed without developers.

The other 50% goes to the handset manufacurers. It's clear that their interest in the customer ends once the sale is over. And that's too bad. I'd be much more apt to buy my next phone from a company who is proactive in providing software updates/upgrades than from a company that isn't. I have a Motorola Droid right now, and I have to say that at this point I'd be very hesitant to buy another Motorola. The backpeding of anticipated firmware updates will certainly affect my future purchase decisions. It's pretty clear that the cell carrier also deserves some blame, but for sure it's shared with the manufacturers.

Agree, but when do you replace a toaster?
When it is broken into fragments.
Same for Android.
But is the iPhone the only alternative? Seems so.
Google has not shown any program responsibility for upgrades/fixes across the board and WP7 is now back pedaling to support game developer graphics at 320x480 due to hardware/software issues w/WP7 (sounds familiar and will probably result in fragmented versions of WP7 to enable this feature). There still is no reprieve for running other WMo 6.5+ programs consumers have in WP7, just games.