Once or twice a year the Android Blogger Conspiracy Working Group gets together to remind ourselves and everyone else that the update situation is a mess. And we know how to fix it. And we need to remind Google that all it takes is this one easy thing, and it'll all be fine. We've got the answer. Or answers.
That thing could be a lot of things. It could be forcing manufacturers to provide updates. (Never mind how.) Or it could be for Google to "shame" manufacturers into releasing updates more quickly. (Never mind how to ensure quality, in that case. Or in what world it makes sense to shit on the companies that use your operating system.)
This year we seem to be focusing on money. Hit the companies where it hurts — their wallet. Or get the folks who buy the phones (you and me) to be willing to pay a little extra to get updates.
Those are all nice thoughts, and very much miss the crux of the problem.
Android updates are hard. And expensive. It's that simple.
I remember talking to manufacturer reps back in the bad old days of the first LTE phones. The radio situation was a mess. Phones that lasted a mere five or six hours weren't uncommon. We needed fixes. But updates are hard. They're expensive. There's the engineering cost just to get them to work in the first place. There's the certification cost with U.S. carriers — something any manufacturer who sells phones at any volume in this part of the world has to deal with — and it's not a trivial sum. Companies are really good at doing math. If you're not going to sell enough of a particular device that needs to be updated to cover those costs, why update it?
No, Android update are hard. That's what has to be fixed before there's any real movement on that front. We're starting to see Google start to work that in Android N. We'll get "seamless" updates in some form, downloading themselves in the background and waiting for a reboot, just like (or close enough, I guess) Chrome and Chrome OS do today. As AP rightfully pointed out, that's going to mean new devices, because you're not going to be able to essentially cram two operating systems onto a phone the way things are partitioned today. (If you've been around this space long enough you'll remember a phone or two that ran into this problem in the distant past — the storage partitions simply weren't big enough to handle an over-the-air update.)
There's no way that's the cure-all, though. It likely doesn't take away the engineering or certification costs. And undoubtedly Google's still working on this problem. It's got plans.
So what can we do in the meantime? Keep complaining. (I can't believe I just said that out loud.) The companies do hear you. And vote with your wallet. (Preferably a Gold Nexus, right, Jerry?) Support the companies that do release updates in a timely manner.
And hope things change sooner rather than later.
A few other thoughts on things:
- Computex is this week, in Taipei, Taiwan, and we've got a full team there. (Yes, I'm jealous I'm not there.) Full coverage starts Monday, I think. Or maybe Tuesday. Sometime early this week. (Time zones are hard.)
- Take a day off work and watch all of these videos. So much to learn.
- Glad to see ES File Explorer got rid of that spammy lock screen. It was a dumb idea.
- What do you do when an app dev does something stupid like that? Leave a review and uninstall. (But it's not like they made you pay again for that abuse.)
- Holy crap. (Watch it at half speed.)
- I'm pretty stoked to see folks so excited about Android Auto, especially since you'll be able to get a somewhat similar experience without a compatible head unit.
- That's not free license to mess with your phone while you're driving, however.
That's it for this week. Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S. And the rest of y'all have a good one, too.