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Android's Andy Rubin: It's 'legacy,' not 'fragmentation' [#io2010]

First question out of the gate today for the Android leadership at Google IO was about everybody's favorite subject: fragmentation. And VP of engineering Andy Rubin put things in perspective: 

Some of the press has called this "fragmentation," and that's probably the wrong word for this. The better word for it is "legacy." These phones and devices ... the iteration ... is incredibly fast.

And when we stop to think about it, we like that term. It's not all fire and brimstone like you guys are looking for, but it's the way it is.

Look, that's really not going to make a lot of you happy. But that's just the hard truth: These phones are progressing extremely fast. At some point yours will be old. At some point ours will be old. And we'll all have to live with that.

Check out the whole exchange after the break.

  • I'm sorry, it's fragmentation. When a new OS is out, and your phone doesn't get it for months and months and months because HTC has to play with it and Sprint or Verizon has to play with it and then finally when your phone gets its update, a new one is out? That's fragmentation, no matter how you cut it. The Hero is being sold RIGHT NOW. That's not legacy, and if it is, they shouldn't sell it at all.
  • exactly. It's legacy when the phone *can't* be upgraded for technical reasons because it's so old. Can the X10 be upgraded? It's new, but only 1.6. If you can upgrade that 1.6 phone, what about the Magic? That's not been out too long. I trust the phone manufacturers will quickly look at the 2.2 codebase/docs and publicly declare which ones will and won't be getting the update so that customers can choose accordingly. It would be nice if Google could find people to assist in the unofficial ROM cooking subculture to help people get 2.2 onto older phones. It would benefit everyone - with the possible exception of phone companies who want to sell phones which can't be upgraded to newer versions of Android.
  • No, its not fragmentation. Just because every device is not running the same version a the same instant is no reason to run off screaming fragmentation. There are at least 5 different versions of Windows widely deployed in the world today. You would hardly call that fragmentation when you can buy a boxed software and be sure it will run. There are at least 3 common versions of Mac OS running. Simply because Verizon or T-Mobile does not want to update their phones (they make more money selling you a new one) does not make for Fragmentation. iPhone OS 4 won't run on the original 2G iPhone properly either. Why? Because Apple wants to sell you a new one. You got a problem with the Hero's upgrade cycle? Talk to Sprint. Its not Android's fault. Multiple platforms and multiple vendors is not Android's fault. In fact its a strength. It brings depth and diversity. It brings mind share. It brings different price points, for different budgets. We expect diversity in people. Its almost universally considered good for society, except in the most bigoted minds among the most ruthless of dictators. Its also good for our devices and our computers.
  • come on, my Samsung Galaxy was launched last year then people kept saying that for bluetooth ftp and 24bit color we need to wait for eclair to be released in this device but till now there is no news of updating it.
    The reason why this issue is great because my nokia n78 which is 3 years old can do that.It can do tether without any hassle and of course bluetooth ftp and 24bit color was there in symbian from 2005.
    And another thing is gaming in 1.5 and 1.6, it lags so badly that i feel humilated that first gen iphone which is only 412 mhz arm 11, 128mb ram and powermbx lite (3.4-6 million triangles) is able to able to run raging thunder 2 without lag where as 1st gen android with 528mhz arm 11, 192mb or 288mb ram and opengl es based gpu(4 million triangles) lags as if some dozen apps running background even though background apps are killed.
    Since they are saying these are legacy how about giving service packs to older version to rectify these basic flaws (which microsoft does that).
    And those guys who support fragmentation or says these devices are outdated, go eff yourself.
  • Agreed. I've been watching the upgrade sagas for different phones the past few months, and I just can't figure out why things take so long, why certain phones seem to get upgrades with no problem, yet others blow right though (almost) instantly. For instance, both Droid and Moment run stock Android. The Droid's update came pretty quickly, and now it looks like they might even 2.2, but the Moment just got 2.1 and it's debatable whether it'll get 2.2. My Hero just got 2.1, and I'm holding no hope of 2.2 till I root it. But why? If the EVO runs SenseUI and it'll immediately get 2.2, why shouldn't my Hero? Are the hardware configs so different? If so, how can they now run the same OS version? I understand that eventually the hardware and processor capabilities of my Hero will exclude it from updating. It just seems to me that right now each phone is very proprietary to an extreme point. AC this might be a good piece on why there is so much fragmentation, and how truly individual each piece of hardware is.
  • So different screen sizes, resolutions and UIs are legacy, too?
  • i dont agree, if i have windows xp atleast i have the option to upgrade, i dont have to buy a new computer to upgrade unless its a 5 year old computer....the EVO is not even out yet and its already running old software and the hero hasnt even been out a year yet and it just got to the latest old software, the only way you can keep up is to buy a new phone every couple of months and i am not made of money..... for someone who doesnt want to root their phone there isnt a good option and they said they were going to fix that, why are they bull sh*tting now. what is so wrong with spending money on a product that is suppose to have updates to its software and wanting for that product to be upgraded as soon as the update is out for any other phone?
  • Talk to your carrier. Its not Android's fault.
  • So you're upset because they're already working on the next update?
  • It's fragmentation but it's something all platforms see and will see. It's just happening first in Android. iPhone devs are starting to deal with that now - with 2G lagging behind, new resolutions coming in with the iPad and potentially the new iPhone... given time, they'll all have the same problems. It's up to the devs to learn to deal with them in the same way. Developing for one specific CPU speed and one specific resolution is an anomaly.
  • So much for FroYo dealing with the issue which they apparently think isn't an issue at all.
  • The only real issue I see here is the product lifecycle on Android appears to be less than 6 months - which (having worked in software development) is an absolutely insane pace. Most companies are used to releasing software products every 2 years, and OS's every 4-5 years to give you a benchmark. That is actually about the release time of iPhone OS from Apple. Its kinda goofy too - having worked in support customers hate it when you never release new stuff, but when you release stuff to often they hate you too. Proof yet again - customers in general are irrational and there really is nothing Google can do to make everyone happy. The only way I can see about streamlining this is if HTC (and every other Android vendor) stops making so many variations of phones, sticks to one reference design/chipset - which would really speed up testing. I'm pretty sure the problem is - they get 2.2 running on the phone in a day, but then the display driver isn't quite right, the driver for the wi-fi controller doesn't work, sound doesn't work right etc etc etc etc - and there's no cookie cutter fix because every single sodding phone uses a different set of chips - and heaven help you if there are any custom chips involved.
  • One thing that I think would help is consolidating releases. Release half as often with twice as many features, and get more involvement during the development process from HTC and the carriers. What's the point in releasing every few months when 90% of the phones out there won't be seeing the release for such a long time?
  • Seriously... What the heck is everyone talking about "fragmentation" of Android? I've read the articles and disagreed with all of them. Android isn't fragmented. Its becoming better. Open Source apps are always getting updated - and they don't always work right. For the old-timers in here that remember Bit-Pim, how many times did you get a new phone that wasn't supported? Was Bit-Pim fragmented? Nope, just changing to accommodate new devices. Now for those that complain about the Hero - 2.1 was leaked a long time ago and custom ROMs have been around at XDA even longer. Soon, someone will port 2.2 to it and it will lag and you'll want the Evo to run it. That's life with technology. Think of when Microsoft came out with Vista - remember we all had to buy new computers? Yep... technology... Saying my Moment won't run 2.2 is like asking why a freakin BluRay won't play in my DVD player. Silly arguements at best guys. Now cash in on your 1 year update and get Froyo when it hits late this year!
  • It's fragmentation when you knowingly have new devices coming on the marketing running on 1.X, AND you know good-and-well that the devices won't perform well with subsequent updates because of the lack of processing speed. Sometimes it seems like Google is working in a cocoon--completely oblivious to the reality of two year contracts with wireless carriers. Most people, as jxc commented, cannot afford to buy new phones (at full prices) within the contract cycle. Some of that is on us, as consumers. The way around the contract lock in is to pay full price up front. The problem with that approach is that new phones appear to be coming out at such a clip that one could, foreseeably, spend thousands on equipment in the same span of time that one would normally have a device under a two year contract. It's not a wash, in my opinion. I think Google would be better off pushing specific updates over the course of a year, and launch a major OS update once a year, with background work with companies that put their own UIs on top of stock Android.
  • Oh, sure, and Microsoft should not make any new Operating systems until Dell agrees to upgrade that old 486 they sold you. Get real! With a two year contract you can walk in and get a new phone every two years. That's plenty fast enough. You will get one major upgrade and by that time you will be sick of the device and want another newer model. Walk into your carrier and re-up for another two years and get a new phone in the process.
  • Get real? How often does MS or Apple roll out a completely new operating system, rendering a segment of the machines running the previous iteration paperweights? Perhaps you were distracted by all the energy spent attempting to be witty, thus missing the crux of what I was saying. Your retort, particularly the last paragraph, has almost no connection to what I was talking about.
  • how is 2 years fast enough? I have an evo on preorder, and I dont even get it for 2 weeks, and already there is a newer OS version... I rooted the hero and put on a 2.1 and I think the phone works smoother now.... and wasnt 2.1 out BEFORE some 1.6 devices were launched? besides netbooks, does any company RELEASE a computer running an older version of windows?
  • But...IT'S A PHONE. You buy a phone with a certain set of features. That's it. If you're able to upgrade it at some point, that's a bonus. If you want to spend top dollar, you can get a phone that has all the newest features. If you don't, you can get a less-expensive phone that has older software, fewer features. How is this a problem?
  • How is any of this Google's fault? Do you think they really approved of Motorola's Devour when it came out after the Droid and was running 1.5? That was Motorola's fault. The other problem is handset carrier lockin in the USA - you can upgrade your phone every 2 years, that's stupid insane in the computer world - even long before Google was even around. You can get an unlocked phone on GSM carriers in the USA, but if your on CDMA - you are screwed. But again - none of this is Google's fault.
  • Fragmentation is when you have a significant amount of phones running on different versions of the OS, which is indeed the case with Android. Forget 2.2 for the moment, only 37% of phones are even running 2.1. Why should a developer make heavy use of 2.1 features and lock themselves out of the majority of the market?
  • Why should a game manufacturer make a game that requires a high end processor and lock himself out of the Pentium market? You can't do new stuff with old hardware. Get used to it. iPhone 2g won't run OS4 correctly either. Apple won't support video on the iPhone 3G. Is it your contention that all new hardware development should cease right now? Is it your contention that there is no need for new versions of Android, or iPhone OS? Just what the hell is your argument anyway?
  • My argument is while iPhones didn't support exactly the same features on all models, up until the 2G was EOL'd, you could count on the vast majority of iPhones running the newest OS. There was no real danger in targeting 3.1 features because 90% of the phones out there were running 3.1 or 3.1.2. With Android you have to account for the fact that there are still a *ton* of people running Android 1.5, which puts a kink into your development plans. Why does Apple have 180,000 apps and the Android store only have 50,000? This is one of the reasons why. There are even apps there where there are two separate paid versions on the market, one for 1.5+ phones, and one for 2.0+ phones. Not optimal.
  • uh, apple has a crap ton more apps because the platform has been out for more than twice as long. and there are still people running on iphone 2g's and ipod touches.
  • Just because an older iphone didn't get all the features of an OS update either because of hardware support or apple wanting to create differentiation between their newest device, all devices had an update available to them at the same time. Granted it's a lot easier for Apple to push out updates to all devices since there aren't as many and they have control of the all the hardware used in their phones, but that doesn't excuse Google from calling a 6 month old device Legacy or having to wait 5 months for an update to a newly released device. Maybe Google should have recommended guidelines on hardware and software customization for phone manufacturers to ease the update process.
  • It is fragmentation.. and all I hear is *whine whine whine* Who cares? I mean really.. Yeah it sucks that there are so many deviations of Android that older devices are stuck at 1.6 or 2.0 because of the software on the phone. Technology gets outdated, and milking old platforms for the newest operating software isn't always the best thing. Sometimes they just work better on old hardware, Sure I'd like Froyo on my new Incredible.. but I'm in no hurry to get it because the phone still kicks ass. I'll still be saying that months from now when hopefully I do get 2.2 with Sense UI.. worst case scenario, I root my phone, which I believe will inevitably come before Froyo w/Sense. Then I'll be able to wifi-tether which is really the biggest deal for me with Froyo, in addition to Flash 10.1. People need to realize that these are cell phones, and no matter how top of the line they are when they come out, they're designed to last in the first owner's hands for a year or two, because by then, something new will be out and most users that care about this kind of issue, are probably going to want to upgrade to the latest and greatest device they can get their hands on. Just my $.02
  • It's just not fair...I have a 286 at home, and it won't run Windows 7!! I called Microsoft, and they didn't seem to care at all.
  • LOL, my point exactly.
  • I don't care what word they use... but bottom line is GOOGLE WAS DOING IT WRONG... with 2.2 however GOOGLE IS DOING IT RIGHT... as you guys can see Android Central posted a recent news about FROYO being released to OEM 's first .. and that's what should have happened with the 2.1 releases.. .by the time Google releases FROYO HTC and other handset makers as well as app developers will be ready to launch updated apps and devices.. so all the bickering is unnecessary but the problem has been solved...
  • Good point. But the release to OEMs doesn't mean people will see updates anytime soon. Nexus One will see it because it's Google's baby. My point earlier is that it would seem logical to work with OEMs as you were developing the update so as to reduce the gaps in rollout. I would think Google would want the Froyo experience to be available for consumers (not just in the hands of OEMs) at the same time. As for the bickering, I think it stems from people frustrated with the experience of mishandled updates, heretofore. Cynicism is understandable, until proven otherwise.
  • I think for the EVO to launch with 2.1 the same month as month as Froyo with no upgrade date in site means the system is broken. To use the Dell/Computer analogy thrown out earlier, If you buy an OEM computer usually up to 6 months before the release of a new OS, that OEM will upgrade the computer when that OS is released on the day it's released. What I dont understand is why Google cant set guidelines or requirements for how OEMs skins Android to allow OS updates independent of the custom skin. That way consumers can upgrade the core of the phone to take advantage of new features, apps, and system tweaks earlier and OEMs can roll out an update to their custom skin at a later date?
  • I think people that know software don't have much of a problem with the current situation. It's going to take some time for OEMs to learn how to keep up on their customization. It makes no sense for Google to stop working on features. And just because they announce Froyo doesn't mean you HAVE to have it or that 2.1 is now old. They simply worked on the features and put them out there mainly for developers. And the devs should simply wait until that OS version has the market share before using its features. The real problem is that Google is open about what they do and everybody thinks they should have the latest today. If they didn't tell you about this stuff until all or most ox the oems were ready to roll you wouldn't even know you were missing something. That would probably be the beat aswer except the oems arent gonna want to wait on each other for the sake of making sure all the customers get the same version.
  • Yes, the waiting is the hardest part and if we didnt know what was coming we wouldn't care (as much). And no, 2.1 is not old. And yes, I will buy my EVO on 6/4 and I will love it. But software updates are more than new APIs for Developers. It's also about new features available to the consumer and how it makes the platform stand out from the others and/or catches up to it. *Speed enhancement
    *New enterprise features
    *Cloud to Device
    *Browser enhancement - FLASH
    *Enhanced voice recognition
    *App storage and management
    *Media streaming Can you blame me for wanting all of that on my brand new phone as soon as it's available? And wouldn't it be ridiculous if I have to wait 3, 6, or 9+ months to get the update when my phone was released only days or weeks before?
  • No, and no.
  • Maybe people should stop saying 'fragmentation' so they don't jump all over it. How about "Google, when you have a very new phone and a new version of Android comes out and you can't get it on your phone for months, it sucks." How about that?
  • Nobody can seriously complain about new software. I would be happy if a new OS came out every month. It seems like Google is getting their OS out to manufacturers, and then that's where the ball drops. Phone are definitely progressing faster than computers are, but there are still plenty of phones that are capable of running the newest software and don't get it for an long time. I can install 2.1 on my MyTouch thanks to Cyanogen, why is it so hard for an official update? I would call it fragmentation. Even Palm can get updates out to everyone within a week of release, but that's a whole other issue.
  • Googles own announcement for 2.2 states that this is a "minor platform release". I do not understand why a minor release is announced and it is going to take months for it to be distributed to most phones. Plus it is going to be up to the hardware companies which phones will get this release not the consumer. If this is truly a minor release as google claims then any phone that can currently run 2.x should be able to run 2.2- but I doubt if many ever will. In the video Google says if your phone is over 4 months old your phone is legacy. It sounds to me that google is trying to shield the hardware manufactures and make it alright for them to choose not to do upgrades. Personally for me as a consumer I don't accept that stance as reasonable. Google needs to do a better job of setting expectations and educating. Whatever you want to call this, fragmentation or diversity. It is starting to be confusing for the consumer and will only get worse if google does not do more.
  • I'm quite disappointed with Google's point of view. Call it fragmentation, legacy or whatever, the proposed solution that was reported that they would do - breaking up the os into many pieces and being able to put updates on the marketplace to download when one piece was updated, was really good and if they do not do something like that, then it sux bigtime. To all the rejects comparing Android to Windows, you seem to forget that Windows os's get small over the air updates all the time and big service pack updates too. With Windows if my hardware can run it then I can use it, same with Android. But people shouldn't have to root their phones to use an update version of the Android os. By now only phones with a Cortex A8 or equivalent processor should be getting further updates beyond 2.1, which is fair enough. The bad thing is having a phone like the Desire or Incredible, which has just been released and not being able to get Froyo for 8 months + (with Sense UI)and 5 months for a phone like the Motorola Droid/Milestone (standard Android), which was the case with 2.1. So by the time phones (probably other than Nexus One) get Froyo, Gingerbread will be out at the end of the year or will only be getting Froyo a few months after Gingerbread is out. That doesn't give me much excitement about getting a new Android phone unless I risk the phone and root it;(
  • could be worse, you could be using a blackberry. talk about fragmentation/legacy/old as crap devices and operating system. theyll upgrade their OS with the second coming of jesus.
  • Today I went to check out the Android phones at a local Sprint store in anticipation of the upcoming HTC Evo launch. I knew they wouldn't have an Evo to test out, but having never seen/used an Android, I wanted to see what the user experience was like compared to my iPhone 3GS. Well, the HTC Hero they had on hand seemed alright, not mind-blowing, but not bad...probably comparable to iPhone OS 2.x... And then I went to the options->about screen and saw the thing was running Android 1.5. Come on Google - call it what it is, fragmentation and a complete mess. I won't touch an Android device until Google forces handset makers to support/deliver firmware upgrades in a certain timeframe. When iPhone OS 3.0 came didn't just come out for some of the phones, it came out for all versions of the iPhone. I don't want to be left behind 6 months from now because HTC has some newfangled phone and doesn't prioritize existing device maintenance highly (same goes for Sprint.) Google has to solve this problem before the diehard iPhone fans will jump ship (I think there will be some unsuspecting 'jumpers' that will come back to iPhone next year because of these types of issues. Face it, if you want to be a high-end phone manufacturer/carrier/etc... you can't just stop updating devices after a couple of months. The original iPhone won't support much of the functionality in iPhone OS 4.0 (due out this summer), but you can bet that it will get some of its goodness on 4.0 launch day.
  • I think the biggest problem here is that Google continues to develop this software updates at such a break neck pace that it is making phones that came to market obsolete in just 6 months. Seriously, think about it, I know that eventually the phone I bought is going to be outdated spec wise and I need to upgrade to better hardware. But for me to get Android 2.1 one DAY BEFORE 2.2 in officially unveiled is ridiculous. I'm not even hoping for the Hero to be updated to 2.2. What this means is that my phone, which hasn't even been out for a single year, has essentially been left behind. Less than a year. Now take into consideration that our carriers have us sign over our soul for TWO years, most (with the exception of Sprint in some cases) don't allow you to upgrade each year. So for a full year I have to lug around my outdated phone, even if I didn't mind paying for a new phone if I could upgrade. To have put down close to $300 before mail in rebate when I first adopted Android, I would say this is a VERY unsatisfying situation. And I know it's not JUST Google's responsibility, but they should definitely address this issue.
  • Is this REALLY all Google's fault? I think the major problem is a disconnect between hardware development and software development. Phones are designed with an OS in mind - chips are procured/developed, screens, buttons etc and supply locked in and a production line booked - it's probably a 2 year cycle and has SIGNIFICANT places where things are frozen in. Time to market will also depend on how much needs to be new and what is put together from existing methods/knowledge.
    That's just the way manufacturing works. Software on the other hand - the cycle will vary wildly based on if it's a minor/major release. Whether things gel in a product release or not will depend on where in which cycle both happen to start. Maybe in the SE X10 case they were pretty far along in the development with 1.6 when the 2.0 cycle was begun and it was too late to switch. Of course - if you're so worried about it - go to iPhone where you can be assured of never needing to worry about it as Jobs has is locked-in cycle . Otherwise - be happy that you're part of the most exciting phone OS out there - where you know Google is trying very hard to make it The Best as well and be very thankful that it's not too difficult to Root and apply the latest custom ROMs if you can't wait for the manufacturer to do it.
  • Having to buy a new phone every 6 months to stay up-to-date is unsustainable for most people. I don't think Android / HTC Sense etc are well polished interfaces (yet) compared to the iPhone OS. They'll get there (and maybe they're almost there), but I don't want to have to buy 3 phones in a year & a half to get there (or wait a year to get the update from 6 months ago.) Rooting a device to get it up to date is a hack at best. It's just like jailbreaking an iPhone. Sure you can do it, but it's a hassle to maintain updates, etc. Ultimately the OEMs (HTC, etc) have no incentive to keep these devices up to date. Spend money to make customers happy whose money we already got, rather than investing in the next phone(s)? Sorry existing customers are at the tail end of the priority list. If Google can solve this problem, maybe they'll have something... In the end, maybe Google is happy building the Toyota Corrolla of smartphones. For now, I'll stick with my 'BMW' iPhone.
  • You don't know what you're talking about. Have you ever rooted a phone? It takes about ten minutes tops, and installing new updated ROMs is as easy as installing a market app. If you don't feel you're up to it, that's ok. So someone with a newer / more powerful phone has some features that you don' what? I just bought a brand new PC a couple weeks ago, and guess's not the most powerful PC ever made. There are things that people with more powerful PCs can do that I can't do. And I'm ok with that. And the comparison with the iPhone - that's just silly.
  • what about the people that just bought the Incredible or will buy the EVO. Both phones have the latest, greatest and most powerful hardware. They are the flagship phone for the respective carriers. Both phones will not have the latest software when it is available.
  • I have a Droid and I was going to upgrade to the EVO, becaue I prefer the larger screen. But I am really having second thoughts now about buying the EVO with 2.1, having no idea how long it will be before the EVO gets 2.2. This is going to be a difficult decision, as I really want the EVO, but I may wait now until a 2.2 phone I like is released. I like that the Android OS is being developed at such a breakneck pace, but I think it is irresponsible that the manufacturers and carriers are taking months and months to release the OS upgrades. I love Android and would buy nothing else in a phone, but this is getting annoying.
  • by the time a 2.2 phone is released everyone will be talking about Gingerbread. yes, it sucks that EVO is being released without 2.2, but if you're always waiting for the next greatest thing, you'll be waiting a long time. If you want the EVO get the EVO. It'll get 2.2 sooner than later and we can all pray that Google will actually address Fragmentation (if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck; call it what it is).
  • If it's "legacy" they should try to stop releasing new full OS upgrades every few months and at least have the decency of wait for the usual cycle of carriers contracts (1.5 to 2 years). That, or apply a stronger grip on hardware and software specifications so Google itself could provide updates to all devices.
  • But why? Because it's just too frustrating for you to know that someone has something that you don't? Tech moves forward - it's as simple as that. It's like I've always said about PCs - you spend weeks doing research, you find just the right one, you go to buy it, and, by the time you get it home, it's obsolete. It's just the nature of things. Personally, one of the things that excites me most about Android is how quickly it's moving. I had a G1 on release day, and thought it was great. When I got my Droid on release day, and I compared them, it was hard to believe that things had come that far in about a year. It's also hard for me to take all of the complaining seriously when, with about a half-hour time investment, anyone can have the latest and greatest ROM by doing a quick search on rooting, reading the instructions, and following them. Once you're rooted, installing a new ROM is as simple as installing a market app (ROM Manager). There's no need to wait for the carrier to get its act together (Unless you're running a Milestone, of course.) - all the great new features that you're wishing Google wouldn't implement can be yours.
  • Call it whatever you want, however some customers are being treated better than others - even when they pay the full amount upfront. Some customers have bought Android phones which aren't even a year old and haven't received a minor update, even though they've been promised one. People need a well defined update structure from the manufacturers to have any confidence. I don't expect a phone to be updated forever, however they should provide updates for the expected lifetime of the device. Given that many networks sell these devices on 2 year contracts, it should be a fair assumption that these phones are designed to last that long. I wouldn't possibly expect quality updates for the full 2 years, but phones should get some form of updates for at least 12-18 months in my opinion. After that then the community can take over with custom ROMs. Too many customers have been stung by bad devices which either aren't being updated or are painfully slow. Samsung i7500 Galaxy - stuck on 1.5 without any chance of an update. HTC Hero - only just starting to roll out 2.1 after over 6 months of delays with previous versions. If a so called smart phone is going to become an unsupported model within 6 months then people will not have any confidence in buying them.
  • Don't want to deal with Carrier and OEM crap. Get a Nexus.
  • If you can't get your hands on a nexus, just wait a couple months to buy a new phone to see if the developers and modders take to it. By then you can prolly get it on craigslist for $200-300 instead of having to sign a contract. I did that this summer with a DInc, a DInc 2, and a Thunderbolt. Not only was it a lot of fun figuring out how to root the various phones, but now I have them all running android 2.3.7, and aosp at that! If fragmentation is the side-effect for the uninitiated in this open-source scenario, then that's just fine with me. That's perfectly reasonable collateral damage. But if Google has enough leverage at this point to require every carrier to sell a Nexus phone, that would be a huge step forward.
  • you know what I dont like? When people whine about not getting this update or that. You buy a phone for the way it is out of the box. If there is a software defect, you should expect a quick patch for that. Software updates however are never guaranteed. You are buying THAT device for 2 years or whatever it may be.. that device with that OS on it. The ONLY way you should expect an OS update is if you
    1) have a nexus device.
    2) are told by the MANUFACTURER NOT THE CARRIER or anyone else, that there will be an OS update on that device. Reps dont know squat, they look at these sites for information.
    This is also the reason many samsung SGS1 owners were upset because samsung continuously promised updates that took their sweet time or never materialized.