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Slow updates are hurting Android as an app platform, and Google Play

Here's a simple truth we all probably know in the back of our minds — you don't need to get a new version of Android because not much will seem different. The home screen or app drawer may have a tweak or two, and there will be one feature we would like to have, but the apps we use are going to look and function the exact same. The things we do, like messaging or Facebook, won't use any of the new features developers have available for a while, and apps that do include the latest cool developer feature will be few and far between for quite a while.

That sucks.

Yeah. That really sucks. But there's nothing most of us can do about it since we're not building phone operating systems or apps ourselves. And we can't get mad at the developers who make the apps, because of another simple truth: phones not getting fast updates are hurting the Android platform.

Android only exists to run apps. Poor support for phones limits the people making them.

It's not hurting us a bit. As mentioned, there's not as much to look forward to as it sounds on paper, and you don't have to have the latest version to get maintenance updates. In fact, unless you're using a phone you bought from Google, the updates from the folks who built it usually bring more to the table than a whole new Android version. What Note 5 user doesn't want to new interface from the Note 7? Compare that to the number of folks excited about Scoped Directory Access in Android 7.0. (Though Scoped Directory Access is pretty sweet and will make apps safer and run better.) We want things we can see. We want application-focused things like Svelte or Bundled Notifications. We're getting neither.

All one has to do is look at the number of phones running the last version at the Android Developer Dashboard to see why. When less than 20 or 30 percent of your potential users would be able to benefit from anything new, it's a much better idea to build your apps for the other 70-plus percent of the market. It will still work for phones on the newer version, and gives you time to make changes and be ready when the cycle repeats for the next big update. There is no rocket science needed on this. But feel free to rocket science the hell out of it if you can because rocket science is cool.

GTFO Froyo? You're killing me.

This is the real story of Android fragmentation. Phones with older versions aren't the issue — it's the phones with the newer version that are. Crazy. Building apps for different screen sizes and different processors was a lot easier than people made it out to be, and it didn't even turn out to be the mess that was predicted. Working around all the different versions turned out to be simpler, too. Pick the one with the most users and ignore what's new. Google has tools to make it easy to stay compatible with the older versions (which will come in handy six months later when it's finally time to update) and phones with the latest software will still get the same experience as everyone else. And I'm on your side, developers. This is exactly what you should be doing. Work with your market, not against.

The fix is simple and impossible all at the same time. Phones that are going to get updated need to be updated faster. Phones need to be supported longer by the people who took your money. Google has to plan carefully to not exclude any phones unless they absolutely have to.

Google, as the torch-bearer of Android and maintainer, does some of this well. The update cycle has been stretched to one per calendar year, manufacturers and big names in the app space get early access to code changes and new APIs. The vanilla framework and system are regularly updated and patched. All these should make it easier to update the operating system on a phone. The department-of-making-phones, though, is a bit sketchy on the support side and sometimes the reasoning behind it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. They can do better, and they should be doing better. But they are doing something.

Fragmentation works the opposite way we think it should. The updated phones are the ones left out.

And the companies who make the phones we are buying in gigantic numbers aren't sitting on their laurels all day every day, either. Samsung, LG, and HTC have shown that they can pump out an update fairly quickly while others like Huawei and Sony even show us the progress and let us join the fun through beta programs. But nothing is done consistently. Some models get some things, others get none, and the ones in the middle seem to be in perpetual limbo. Releasing a $90 phone running Lollipop and locking it to that version is fine as long as critical issues are addressed, but the most expensive models need supported longer and updated faster to change things. And for God's sake please stop making so many different middle-of-the-road models so you have the resources to support the ones you do make. If it's not on this list, stop making it and instead make one that will be on that list next year. Done. No charge for that market insight.

Nobody can force anyone to change things, nor should anyone be able to. Android is already the most closed open-source project since WebKit. Yeah, I know, being mobile-focused is the reasoning but I'm still allowed to not like it. Only the people making the phones and writing the software for the phones can change any of this, and even then only for their own models. The market research they tout so often to support things like thinner phones with small batteries or that only users outside of North America want dual-SIM models will have to show that what we really want is better support for what we're buying.

Yes, only enthusiasts are worried about getting the latest update quickly, but everyone wants to have apps with the best features and a phone that doesn't need to be replaced every 18 months to get them.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Number one
  • You're more like a number two.
  • Haha
  • Jerry, what happened to the Sunday app thing?
  • Once again Jerry nails it. Nice to see someone actually explain "fragmentation" as it really effects users. More Jerry on AC is always a good thing.
  • They turned him loose. I love it
  • User centric, breaking it down for the average user to understand it all better
  • I don't know Jerry but he did nail it. The fragmentation on Android is a huge problem, probably the biggest problem with the entire OS. It is so big in fact that I find it surprising that it hasn't crashed the entire ecosystem yet. Earlier today in the "no more Nexus phones" article I commented that the apparent changes to the Nexus lineup, the fact they'll include specific apps on them that won't be available on other phones, is perhaps Google's way of combating the fragmentation problem. Google phones will continue to get updates, they won't be burdened by clunky interfaces, and they'll now have things other phones can't get. Can you imagine if Google started cutting out their services one by one on non-nexus phones in the future? You want gmail, get a google phone... seems petty, but what about maps, what about search? Sure it will also hurt Google temporarily since they make money from search and from maps, but ultimately it will force users to switch to phones that get updates. My 2 cents.
  • Readers here and on other tech blogs surely care, but everyone else in the world gives a rat's 455 about OS updates. Even on the iOS side of the fence, pretty much every person I know with an iPhone is currently *annoyed* at the multiple updates Apple has pushed out in the past few months. Most users just want Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram to work just like they did the day before.
  • Yep. I know a bunch of people who have actively avoided installing Android and iOS updates because they like the way their phones work right now, and they see updates as just another painting the ass to have to learn to deal with. Hell, I've offered my mom a N5X that I'm not using, but she turned it down because her three-year-old Cricket-branded LG garbage phone is set up the way she likes it and a Nougat phone is basically an entirely different phone to learn how to use, coming from her Kit Kat phone.
  • Hahahah haha
  • Those people really are clueless though. The tech savvy in the know realize updates are one of the best things about OS's . But android enthusiasts certainly pay a bit more attention than iOS fans. iOS updates just aren't as attention grabbing due to the minimal functionality it has.
  • ass* it's ok. You can write curse words.
  • It;s not like this is Deadwood Corksucker
  • There's also the other side of the argument like me where Pokemon Go was a not supported app on my phone for 2 weeks. So fragmentation can attribute to apps simply not working at all instead of breaking them.
  • I think most users want the apps they use to work like they do and with the same features that they have on their friends iPhone. That will happen months later.
  • I really believe your audience care more than you think. Of course, most people don't care, but it seems like you guys have been pushing this agenda that "updates don't matter" to the wrong people. Most of us are here to see what is new and exciting. Most of us want the new and exciting. To marginalize us that do care seems a little insulting. If we just cared about apps, I am sure a lot more of us would be on IOS, apps run great on the iPhone.
  • He's right though. (Not just responding to you, felt like giving my 2 cents about mobile somewhere on here cuz I have an uncommon love for stock Android since Google smashed apple with MD. Most users don't give a **** about what they can do or get update with it, and I'm not saying they should since the vast majority of people living in a modern culture really do lack moderate intelligence. I just find it a bit sad that people generally aren't more interested in mobile because of all the capability and power of modern of the platforms and beauty of modern android/iOS UI design. It's under appreciated, and honestly i take friends that have an understanding and appreciation for modern mobile more seriously talking tech because they're sharp enough to get it. How capable the 2 dominant platforms have become, how advanced hardware specs are, how powerful app features have become, and how slick and elegant Stock android MD and iOS UI design has become Also, just my biased opinion, but after the latest N release android has reached some even slicker than iOS levels of smooth. Regardless of feature comparisons among all the OEM's and their bloat loving, nexus hating fangirls on here, saying TW or LGUI is better, Stock or close to stock (close to like one+ running 6-7.0 has the slickest UI design, native trans. animations, and higher performance than anything running Android. After seeing how Google made the 810 perform on 6P I'm more of a believer in the harmony of stock firmware and hardware combo. android on a nexus is optimized almost on the level of iOS IMO. And regardless of what anyone says it's a faster device than the 6S performing the same tasks side by side. Done it myself and seen it many times. But for those of you feature bloat lovers, what you should know is the Exynos 8890 ( note 7 and S7 edge) those two are a modern mobile masterpiece and Samsung optimized TW for their custom silicone almost to perfection. Thats how dominant and powerful Samsung is when do what they're capable of
  • It might be a fraction of a second faster but it has almost zero functionality compared to Samsung.
  • Okay, if that makes you feel better then carry on
  • "Phones need to be supported longer by the people who took your money." Sorry, Jerry. Great article, but I gotta call bullshit on that one. They "took your money" for a phone with a specific feature set and they delivered a phone with that feature set. If one of those features is a guarantee of OS updates for a period of time, great. However, saying "Phones need to be supported longer by the people who took your money" is absolutely no different than saying "Phones need to have bigger screens" or "Phones need to have removable batteries". Getting guaranteed OS updates is just one of many features. Some people will pay more for that feature, some people won't care. Saying that everyone should be forced to have (and pay for) that feature is silly. My wife is running JellyBean and she's perfectly happy with it. Being unable to run PokemonGO is the first time she's ever had an app fail to work, and that was only a bummer for the 15 minutes when PokemonGo was actually fun and popular. Note: While discussing this, let's continue to remain intellectually honest and not try to pretend that security updates and OS updates are linked.
  • I agree. Unless a manufacturer is promising to update their device you're buying it as is. If they actually update your device it's a bonus. I think the biggest obstacle to updates is that the general public doesn't care about them so manufacturers are not under pressure to produce them. I care about about updates but most of the people around me couldn't tell you what version of any phone OS they're running. Until that changes the update situation won't.
  • Well, here in Australia, every network that has a forum, is full of people ranting about the lack of updates to their phones (even like S2!!!)! It's nauseating to read the vitriolic barrages aimed at the network. Personally, I'm quite happy with my devices and the updates come when they come. But probably if they didn't make so many models...
  • I don't believe anyone should blame the manufacturer's for this reason. Unless you were promised OS ugrades, you get what you paid for. But this is a much larger problem that only Google can control. For the good of the platform, Google should mandate OS updates in a timely fashion from the hardware makers at least from their flagship devices.
  • We're no longer in the world where phones are feature phones. They are general purpose computers. There has been an expectation for decades that general purpose computers can run new versions of their operating system for several generations of hardware. There is also an industry standard for operating systems to be updated with security patches (especially important for phones). Neither of these situations are true for phones because OEMs monkey with the OS and fail to support it and carriers fail to deliver updates in a timely manner. My first two Android phones were my last two after I realized these OEMs are not in the long term support business and I'm not in the habit of blowing $400/yr have a computer with current software.
  • Except Android is more like Linux (in face it is a variation of Linux), and whole point of it is for manufacturers to tweak it. If you want the consistency of Windows, buy IOS. But it Jerry's point, it doesn't really matter weather you're running an old version because the apps still work and will for quite a while. 
  • " blowing $400/yr have a computer with current software."
    A bit of an exaggeration don't you think. Most $400 android phones are supported for more than a year. Most will get at least one major Android version update and then continued security updates for a period after that. One phone I have is three years old with Lollipop and it received a security update in April. It's a perfectly secure phone as far as I'm concerned. An update to Nougat isn't going to do much to change the user experience. While I do agree that phones should be supported longer (security-wise) and receive faster security updates, they are not wholly unsupported and in desperate need of replacement after only one year.
  • Except that it's missing at least four months of security updates. But other than that, perfectly secure.
  • Maybe manufacturers should just start charging for updates? Some will pay gladly, some will not. I get your pov, and you make a great point. Security maintenance updates free, major OS updates $20-50. Only Nexus phones get the free updates because it's unaltered Android. Samsung e.g. has to pay employees to update their skin. It's more of burden to Samsung, et al.
  • Google still has to pay engineers to update the OS even if it is pure android. Not like it is magic and poof the update appears for nexus users. 
  • Google takes your info in return. The manufacturers do not.
  • Every manufacturer of a phone I've used has taken as much or more of my information than Google has. Read that thing you agree to during the setup process.
  • Hmm.. I've used nexus since the S. What information are they taking?
  • But since they gotta make it for everyone else anyway, and since the Nexus heavily undersells I hardly imagine they'd really charge you for updates. Also, this is what Apple did back then. I remember 1st gen iPod Touch owners had to pay $20 for iOS 2.
  • "Maybe manufacturers should just start charging for updates? " `100% agree. I would pay for extended security support.
  • There's a difference between security updates and platform updates.  I completely agree with you about platform updates, but agree with Jerry about security updates like the monthly security updates. Those ARE directly linked to security. Unfortunately Google does not provide those for older platforms. To your point, I've seen customers actually complain when a phone got an update and something tangible changed, for example a phone dropping their original gallery app for Google Photos.      
  • OS support duration should be printed on the side of the box.
  • Well said sir!
  • The down votes seems to be part of the entitlement generation
  • It's take too bad that you have that mindset. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect updates from phone manufacturers. Hell, I paid more for my phone than my laptop. And if laptop stopped getting windows updates, I would never buy from that company again.
  • Nougat certainly won't fix all my issues with Google Play Music. That's app specific. Been using Android since the HTC Inspire. Do my phones work? Yes. Have I had my life ruined because someone hacked my non-updated phone? No. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep am I painfully aware my phone is not updated (meaning is my user experience horrifically compromised)? No. That's my reality when it comes to being an Android user. Everything else is simply academic.
  • And that's the reality of the vast majority of users. 
  • Still fun to debate it all here though :)
  • I have a love hate relationship with google play music, but can't bring myself to cancel because I get access to a bunch of services for 7.99 a month.
  • Most people don't care about the updates. The people who care about timely updates are a very small percentage of the Android population.
  • Yep. It's going to take porn being planted on a couple hundred million Android devices for people to care and for anything to change.
  • Samsung, for example, took someone's money 2 years ago for a Note 4. Why will they or any OEM feel an obligation - at vast expense - to mess with their own software to give those owners Android 7.0 or Android 8.0 goodies, while knowing so many versions may not work properly and sully the Samsung name. If you sold a car two years ago would you go back and service it today. Human nature. Everyone on Android should be given an upgrade to a Note 7 or Nexus 2016 for $200, period :p
  • Right? And after updates, look at forums where people are pissed in droves because Battery life, lag, force closes, or other issues pop up that they didn't experience on the OS the phone was issued with. The general population People want stability, rather than the bleeding edge or the latest and greatest
  • Thats because in general forums are full of 2 things, cry babies and know nothing experts. Look at any forum right after a launch of a device. Negative people complaining either about unique circumstances that dont apply to 99% of users, comparing the new device to an iPhone, or just generally trashing it. I stopped reading them because of it.
  • Wow,you should maintain that stance,instead of coming on here crying and whining about the crying and whining that disturbs you so.
  • I see what you did there
  • Maybe OEMs should do a little more to make sure the new versions work correctly with the old hardware. I understand that yes, this hardware was designed for what it came with and updating it can cause issues. But maybe if OEMs made hardware designed to be universal, and go from there, it would be much easier to update in the future. For example, Apple did this. The iPad 1, 2, and 3, and the iPad mini 1, and the iPod 4, we're generally the same speaking of processor architecture and stuff like that. Up until iOS 7, iOS simply used a "capabilities" file to determine what the device was capable of. For example, whether the device could handle Siri, or whether it was an iPad, or whether it had enough RAM for multitasking, or whether the notification center filled the screen, and even what version number the App Store relied on to determine whether an app was compatible with your device. Maybe manufacturers could do something like that, where they design a build of their software to work with all devices, making them easier to update.
  • That maybe true but you missing the real problem. Every update google promises better battery life and stability. Google shouldn't be allowed to oversell and under deliver
  • Because it inspires brand loyalty. People don't think that they are flushing 600-800 bucks down the toilet every 2 years and can't pass off the device to their kids or another family member because it's no longer safe. Apple users can get basic support for 4+ years. If you are willing to put up with the lack of exciting features, Apple is the best way to go.
  • In my opinion, i wouldn't care if my (for example) AT&T LG V10 rarely got updates if they made the phone bootloader unlocked and let me run a custom ROM on it. While I do like many aspects of LGs software layer, I'd gladly use the more stock-like cyanogen in order to get newer Android versions and better performance and features. That's just me tho
  • While you're at it, how about OEMs that rush to be the first to launch an Android update, and then leave it there, without even security patches?
  • You know what else hurts, Android? NO updates.
  • Someone give Jerry some cheese cupcakes, he is so hot on issues now.
  • Our CIO was not thrilled after he made the switch from an iPhone to an S7 Edge, seeing that my Nexus phone has Nougat at least 5-6 months before his phone will see it.
  • Is there something in Nougat that is not already present on his S7 that has caused this dismay?
  • Nope.
  • Exactly. So what?
  • By then all the bugs will be worked out. And so what if he doesn't get it on day one? Isn't it better that it work correctly given all of the Samsung features?
  • Clickbait of the week....
  • No. You should learn what that word means before you use it. The title of this post clearly reflects the words that are written. You can agree or disagree or think I should die in a fire (I get that a lot when I don't kiss up to someone's favorite phone maker 'cuz they're BFF and stuff). All I want people to do when I write my opinion is to think. Jumping in just to say something clearly derogatory yet wrong takes no thought.
  • Hahaha, excellent reply (and article!) Unfortunately, as others have said, I just don't think enough people care about OS updates for the manufacturers to care. Whilst we're probably all phone geeks on here I have to admit even I'm not that fussed about the latest version (I might Google when it's due once a month and wish I had the update but then when it comes I'm almost always underwhelmed). Then after me both my parents now have Android devices but they couldn't even tell you what version they're on let alone care about not being on the latest version. As long as messages, the internet, news apps and camera work they're fine as they are and I suspect this accounts for the vast majority of Android users. Posted on LG V10 via the Android Central App
  • I think there is a mistake in the article. The byline reads "Jerry Hildenbrand" but I am pretty sure it was written by Captain Obvious.
  • Not everyone wants updates... That is what was excellent about desktop PC updates. Security updates were a part of the package but you would have to pay for major updates. Major updates were designed for a wide audience and hardware configurations to maximize potential profit. Would be nice to update a phone that is capable with a profit driven OS update cycle as the maximum amount of hardware would be supported. If you didn't want to update you would still be secure and remain on the old OS. Would be nice.
  • Good article by Jerry rooted heavily in realism.
  • Lets be honest, no average consumer is going to pay for updates. Heck even Microsoft doesn't do that anymore with Windows 10. Every Windows 10 devices get Windows 10 feature updates as long as their hardware can handle it.
  • Until they take the power here in the US away from the carriers nothing will change. I dont know how it is in other countries, but here in the US it sucks. They have all the say. Some are worse than others. I think now that people are paying full price for phones the power of who gets to update should be forced to shift back to google like Apple does, or at a minimum the manufacturer. The Note 5 is a great example. Samsung had the MM update out for nearly a year before AT&T pushed it.
  • It's no different here in Canada. The grand majority of software updates are carrier-specific, and you have to wait for it to be released.
  • Yeah. I think to only other carrier with the clout is Samsung right now.
  • Custom ROMs to the rescue!
  • People keep saying this, but many many many custom ROMs have lackluster performance and most of them have worse camera due to lack of drivers
  • I don't think so every single Android device I have used I can see absolute improvement in performance. You just have to have a Famous device with open hardware not like some Samsung devices which lag loads of drivers a great example are OnePlus One and Moto G which are improved a lot with the CAF sources which are available. OnePlus One camera performance is increased a lot with those drivers heck it is even able to shoot 2K videos with its front facing camera, it can also be overclocked to 2.9 GHz with certain Kernels which also increase performance. Battery Life also increase with Custom ROMs as they are pretty lite
  • oh yeah, when it's close to stock like on Moto or OnePlus it's pretty good but if you take a Samsung or LG phone, for example, you'll regret it
  • Yeah I would agree with those companies right now older devices from Samsung before S6 and Note 5 had pretty good development at those times also devices from LG before G5 also had good Android development. It's sad but their current devices aren't dev friendly!
  • Why would you spend almost a grand just to root a phone? Flagship phones are fine the way they are.
  • I gave up on custom ROMS years ago. Ain't nobody got time for that anymore.
  • Yeah you might have caught up on other things and had lost interest on Android Development but Android Custom Development community is only getting bigger and bigger every year with all those powerful hardware releasing and better Software components like the new Vulkan API I think it will only get better.
  • Developers are not the same as people who just consume the ROM's
  • I had the same opinion up until about a year ago. I got tired of flashing roms. I just want my device to get updated in a timely manner at least with security updates and be good to go. His is what landed me squarely with nexus phones. I see other phones and like them, like the s7 or honor 8 but I don't know personally how they are who updates so I've been reluctant to buy them.
  • My T-Mobile Note 5 is updated to the July 2016 update.
  • This is spot on. Manufacturers need to stop making so many different models - especially the Chinese. We need longer support cycles and more features packed into more frequent updates. They also need to open Android up a bit so it can be more open source as its far too closed off. This hits the nail on the head perfectly. if we wasn't just talking about software, I'd throw in larger batteries too.
  • Each company should offer 2 devices. That's it.
  • I would say 3. High end (true flagship) mid range ($200-300), and entry level (up to $150) that way will hit all the pricepoints and not overwhelm and be unable to update the devices.
  • I was thinking either high/mid or mid/low. But 3 is fine too, you get the point. Right now it's a total mess and the names signify nothing. At least with some cars you can tell right away the trim level and performance. Phones should follow something similar.
  • 2. Flagship and midrange. Last year's midrange becomes this year's budget.  As much as Apple irritates me at times, they have the right idea. This makes their budget phones more profitable because the R&D costs were absorbed when the phone cost more as a flagship.  
  • I like to see that as well, but let's be real, Not gonna happen. The people want CHOICE above all else, the same reason why there were 1,400 TV shows in the US alone last year. The people's want for choice was why Apple's offering iPhones in three sizes now when historically they've been happy with just one. You CAN'T impose a "one size fits all" approach to smartphones and put every man, woman, and child in three boxes like you want to - say the Galaxy S7, there are folks who want the normal S7, something a little more (Edge,) something they can take to Arizona trails (Active,) and something smaller but just as powerful (the closest here is Xperia Z5 compact.) You can't say to the person who wants an S7 Active "We only have the Galaxy S7 here. Just put an OtterBox on it and be careful on the trails, Good Luck!" or to those with small hands "You'll get used to it!" That's just preposterous...
  • I wouldn't put a number on it. But there's no reason to make 3 or 4 phones with the same specs and a different model number.
  • Totally disagree. I think you should let the manufacturers worry about how many devices they are making. Otherwise, go buy an iPhone
  • Google should do something fast about its update. Or, if possible, turn all Android phones into Nexus. Sometimes I wish there were more nexus phones to choose from, and also make them available overseas like any Samsung, HTC etc phones.
  • Couldn't agree more. I've been saying for years they need to expand the Nexus line. Have all manufacturers making them and we the consumer pick the hardware we like. Samsung, LG can just start making really nice launchers, charge like $30 or whatever for them.
  • Eh, the Nexus software is GARBAGE in the important bits, like the CAMERA or non cloud based multimedia support. Having Google control the keys to those important bits is terrible. Say what you will about LG UX post G4, but Holy Smokes their camera software is unrivaled in Android, FULL MANUAL CONTROLS FOR EVERYTHING. Google Camera is just laughable. Maybe if they mandate the use of the Camera2 API, but that's for another time. The point is, That's the sort of innovation Android needs, and locking it down to how Google wants it by making ALL devices Nexus devices is not good for anyone...
  • 5X and 6P camera is fantastic..
  • Remember Google Play Editions?  Nobody bought them. 
  • They were also expensive af and not many outside of us knew about them.
  • More nexus phones = more fragmentation. That will only compound the problem, not solve it. Nexus phones don't just run on AOSP, they run Google's custom software skin on top of it, which is optimized for the hardware on each supported nexus device. Like every phone from every other OEM. Hence different nexus devices have different build numbers for security and software updates.
  • Ehh.. Idk about all that. It would've more controlled.
  • Carriers should also be given both barrels for the sad state of affairs that is Android updates. Their constant insistence on carrier-specific variants of the same device is something that needs to be stopped.
  • We the consumers control this. We allow them to do this. This won't change for a long time, if ever. They bend and flex to us, the carriers want our business. They started catering to the byod crowd with new plans, they also made prepaid plans very reasonable, etc. People need to stop buying carrier branded phones and they'll stop making them. Currently people go in looking for them. And believe it or not, many use the carrier apps. Nothing exist that people don't want.
  • Apple doesn't allow carrier customisation on iThings and they're still insanely popular. Makes you wonder why Google isn't trying anything similar.
  • Because Google offers a cellular plan. They sidestepped the carriers. Nexus on Fi, that's their answer to Apple. Apple also had a humble beginning, remember. AT&T exclusive, Verizon didn't want them. The consumers foolishly supported a new device that lacked basic functions and features flip phones had (3G, picture mail, copy and paste, etc..) . It made no sense, but it worked for them. They gained the power over all the carriers over time. Idk how they pulled it off with AT&T initially though.
  • I doubt it. It's easy to finance a phone through a carrier.
  • Yeah I like my boost zone my boost wallet my hangouts app and all the fun preload games plus I love my ZTE grand phone it's only$27 month for two years. Now you can't beat that with a stick or a wiffle ball bat.
  • Google needs to put their foot down with the carriers. Google has all the power, all they would have to say is either you stop screwing with the phones or you can't sell android phones. Imagine if Google told Verizon they couldn't sell android phones, there goes their entire line up aside from two iPhones and a Windows phone or two, and some budget garbage phones. Imagine if Google told Samsung they couldn't make Android devices anymore, there goes the backbone of their mobile division. Google has all the power, they could ruin an entire company if they so choose, yet they continue to do nothing.
  • Google is only involved directly with Nexus phones. They do not have the bloat on them. Nor do they have anything above basic functionality like the iPhone
  • Why? It's what makes a carrier distinctive. Let the market speak out
  • I agree that the OS version does not matter to most users. But what REALLY hurts this platform is the lack if security updates. Lets face it, looking at those Android version numbers people are using, most users are buying the cheap phones. What do cheap phones not receive? SECURITY UPDATES. That to me hurts this platform more than a OS upgrade. Google made the right decision beig able to send out monthly fixes, but the carriers wont release them and manufacturers make too many damn models to support them. Google needs to be able to update android security just like Microsoft can with Windows update. The name of your PC doesnt matter or the place you bought it. You run windows you get windows updates. Right now I'm using a Galaxy Express Prime Go Phone, its on 6.0.1 which is fine, but he security patch date is April 2 2016. That is unacceptable. I enjoy this phone, it breaks who cares! $129 I can get another without breaking my bank account. Live from my G.E.P
  • Agreed on old security patch issue: my very expensive G5 SE (traded in with a broken LG G2 lol) still has an April 1 2016 security patch. If LG is going to go through the trouble of making two similar devices with two similar processors they better support it! Meanwhile my GS7 is doing great: from Feb (initial release), to Apr, Jun, Jul and now August. Not quite monthly, but close enough.
  • My lg volt had old versions it was outdated the day I bought it a month later the sequel was released.
  • Google only develops the platform. Security updates are usually pretty quick with newer phones. You'll never see them waste money on supporting old platforms, it isn't cost efficient and so many people customize them, it would probably break something.
  • The real issue here which oddly enough not mentioned yet is not with Google nor the OEMs, it is the carriers... Even though Android is open source, in no way, shape form or fashion, should carriers be allowed to alter any code coming from manufacturers and should not be a link in the chain of release. AT&T is a prime example of this as they insist on changing numerous settings and background services, essentially delivering updates 4-6 months after other carriers. This is unacceptable in every way. And btw, this prolonged "testing " period as AT&T calls it doesn't make their phones any more stable than other carriers in the least and many times their "tweaking " makes things considerably worse. This should be talked about in an article of its own.
  • I agree. My AT&T LG v10 cannot boot into it's stock recovery.. It comes this way from AT&T. Way too often the carriers tweaks are the biggest cause of fragmentation and their legal opt out of warranty if the user changes anything on it. This is why I will move my whole family to non carrier branded phones this year.
  • We control it. I did this with my family also. Nobody in family has carrier branded devices. But since people are bad at math, they will always go for the 99 dollar phone on contract, which will be carrier branded. Paying 4-600 for a phone is crazy to them. But they'll pay $180/m and not 80/m and not think twice.
  • I have an LG G4 on Virgin Mobile..What do you mean by "Carrier branded"? because i don't have any branding on my phone?
  • AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile the big 4 carriers in the United States.
  • Virgin is prepaid.
  • Verizon owns you that's what they mean
  • Carrier tweaks have nothing to do with security updates
  • I Blame the OEMs for caring more about the carriers as a customer than us. I see why, of course ($$$) but when they make the decision, they then own the consequences.
  • The only consequences they have is people getting po'd and do what many of us have, or go somewhere else.
  • Your too irresponsible to handle your own phone and ruin warranty
  • You need to vote with your wallet.
  • For me, the value of updates is not so much new features: I'd be hard pressed to tell you which version each of my devices runs. It is in a) security and b) performance. My Samsung Galaxy Note (v1) used to be unable to play Clash of Clans past TH7. Just pushed CM12 or 13 to it, now it runs OK at TH9.
  • Well one way that some of the fragmentation problem could be avoided is to outlaw locked boorloaders,all phones should be easily and simply rootable,then far more people would be willing to flash factory images direct from Google and makers..
    There is a growing campaign to outlaw locked bootloaders for devices in the eu,there is no sensible logical read on for makers to cripple phones,especially for those of us who have always bought their phones outright..
    It's like buying a new car that has a seven speed gearbox but maker has decided to lock 5-6-7 so that you cannot use them,just in case you break the engine !!!
    Or buying a four door estate car and they have welded three of the doors shut,why cripple a device,it's mine outright,it's not like John Deere tractors etc where what they are selling you is a "lifetime licence to use" which is bullshit enough,but that's not what the phone makers are selling you,you are buying a device outright,just like you would a food processor or a jet washer,so why are they allowed to half cripple the devices capabilities ?
    my piece of crap from HTC was sold as an upper mid range device,and was priced as such,in 2.5 years,it has never received one update from HTC,and because it's impossible for anyone to get it to rooted state,it never will,so it's stuck on poxy kk 443,which is the worst version of android ever,you cannot do anything useful with the sd card,just because Google think they are a security risk,which with the huge great bleeding holes that ALL android versions are full of is an joke..
  • Leaving the bootloader open for EVERY ANDROID OUT THERE like you want is good for you at least, but North Korean (and other rogue states and entities) hackers will love them just as much because you've just given them a red carpet access to your device and all its precious content. At some point your device can and WILL be hacked just for even being CONNECTED to the Internet, no rooting exploits, no rogue APK, just an Internet line. The Watch Dogs (game) future is closer than you think to becoming real...
  • I agree...that's a STUPID idea
  • Then you develop a phone. Anyone who says anything a private party should be limited on the their intellectual property short of it being morally reprehensible should take another look. Yes, it's your device but you bought it knowing full well what you could do. And it's nothing like buying a car with gears locked out. If you did that, you bought it knowing those gears were locked out.
  • Needs a monetary incentive.
  • Ars said it best: since Google shares some revenue with both carriers and OEMs through Search ads, remove the portion shared if the phone is older.
  • That would not be legal. Contracts exist to prevent one side from changing the rules out of spite.
  • Not with existing devices of course. Change the contract/MADA for new devices, which they can probably do. Here's the article if anyone's interested:
  • Imagine the fun the EU will have if Google tries this. And maybe they would be right. Android is given away. But Google Play is the only reason anyone would want an Android phone, and Google calls the shots. Doing things that make it harder to use the store would be better for us, but it would hurt the companies who want access. I think those companies need to be hurt a little bit, but I'm no expert on what is and isn't anti-competitive behaviour.
  • If Google can't do anything about the slow updates they should offer longer support windows for each version. Make it 3 years of OS updates instead of 2. The new android was supposedly designed to run on the lowest end of phones so it shouldn't be a problem.
  • It will likely take years for developers to start supporting Multi Window on Android Nougat, thanks to so many people not having access to it. Even Samsung, who rolled the feature out to older much less powerful devices wasn't able to attract much dev support.
  • Exactly. This doesn't hurt us. Yeah, we would like to have it but all our stuff still works. But it's hurting Android when apps won't do things that apps for other platforms (iOS) will do, let alone use any of the features designed to make the whole experience better.
  • Most people don't even know or care what version they have and to be honest the differences between major versions have become smaller and smaller from year to year. While we had big feature updates in the past it's now more about polishing since 1-2 years. In my opinion there is a much more important thing that hurts Android - Wakelocks. No matter what Google tried to improve battery life in the last major releases, they didn't found a solution to avoid these random wakelocks that ruin peopls battery life. Most of the time they blame the phone for it because they don't know better. I think the biggest problem is that Google tries to motivate 3rd party developer to optimize the battery life of their apps, but meanwhile the Google apps got the worst. Google Now? Google Location History? Play Services? They aren'T really optimized for battery life at all ...
  • It's the carriers, not Google. That's always been the case. So, unless Google steps in, and forces AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc nothing will change.
  • I guess I'm a little bit slow in things... I'll just leave it at that. It's been probably 6 to 8 years ago that I have done any mobile programming... And nothing to do with Android either... Ok... I don't see the logic in supporting certain chip sets. The code should just do certain things, execute certain commands, flush / release the memory etc. I can see the graphics part of it varying quite a bit to support the new displays... And then let the chip factories support those instructions... If the developers can avoid edge cases, then that's all the better for all applications. That's the short version... :)
  • Mobile is a mess. An even bigger mess that you saw 8 years ago lol. Chipmakers like to add or alter the specs for the instructions set they're using (ARM especially) and the GPU is bundled on the package. One thing the Android development tools does well is let you code once and build for multiple architectures. One major issue is that the people making the chips sometimes won't (or can't) update "driver" support for new versions that have new features when those features depend on things like new graphics APIs or memory execution. I'm sure there are some legitimate cases where a chip just can't be supported. I'm equally sure that there are plenty of times where not enough time or money is spent to make sure.
  • Is this where the custom ROMs come into play and adjust the source code to compensate for the lack of driver support for that chip set?
  • I don't like Apple, but knowing that my ipad mini 2 runs the latest O/S is great and makes me feel like I didn't waste money when I bought it new a year ago. The latest update does not give me all the features that work with the newest ipad tablets since newer hardware is needed. People saying that when you buy a phone that is the end of when a company should support your device is fine with low end phones and I accept that. But, when I pay for a Samsung Galaxy S7 with Android Marshmellow, I expect that I will have Android N at the very least and that my device will have the same new features of the Galaxy S8. Samsung is developing new phones and it costs pennies for them to make the software available for the previous version. Android is free for them, so saying that Samsung needs more money for updates is bull. Say what you want about BlackBerry, but my Priv is awesome. Yes it was a little slow getting Marshmellow, but I am getting monthly security updates. My Priv has also been receiving multiple app updates. Best yet, I fully believe that my Priv will get Android N. With all that said, I am more than fine for paying a lot of money for my Priv because of the commitment from BlackBerry. Will I buy another BlackBerry, I'm not sure, but I can tell you that I will not support companies screwing me over to make short term profit. One fix could be that if your phone has a one year warranty then you should be guaranteed security updates for that year. If you buy a high end phone you should be guaranteed security and feature updates for 18 months.
  • You must be on a network other than Verizon, because the Verizon Priv hasn't had an update since May and still does not have Marshmallow.
  • So Samsung shouldn't pay its it!
  • Dam, this article really puts things in perspective.
  • Governments can very easy spy on phones. They got powerful tools, security patches or OS updates won't help you at all :)
  • Android updates are fine in all, but what really kills me is the lag between Google/Samsung/HTC/Whoever and the Carrier to the Consumer. All major carriers released 6.x for the Note Edge. Except AT&T. And with the bootloader locked and no one working on a perm root, there isn't really any chance those with these devices can take advantage of the new updates and features. I wish handset manufactures would do what Apple and Microsoft are doing. Rolling out updates without the carrier lag. I don't see the point in the carrier bloatware. Even the "normal" users I know disable or uninstall it all. The ONLY carrier app I use is the MyATT app, and even that is super rare. I think manufactures need to set up and go beyond the carriers. I know many on AT&T with slightly older phones that are not getting 6.x/7.x because of the lack of carrier support or willingness to push them out is hurting the device brand more than the carrier name. Most people don't know it's a carrier delay. I have to explain to many people that it's not that Samsung didn't release MM for the device, it's AT&T putting the brakes on it. *sad*
  • Lot of phones are stuck on older Android versions even though they might support better ones. I like what Microsoft did with this problem, the OS updates are pushed separately, hence, updates are controlled by OS provider and not OEM while OEM may push updates for firmware and other modifications it did over the stock version of the OS. This might not be good for OEMs, though, since there will be one less reason to buy new phones :P
  • When you are shelling out $800 for a new phone people usually do expect that the phone they are buying is going to get the latest and greatest software in a timely manner, along with all the correct security patches to make their phone more secure. That being said I use both Android and Apple. I didn't see the value of "overspending" as I called it before I had a Apple product, but now I see why you spend more money with Apple products. They are spot on to everyone with their IOS updates along with security patches. So it hits all their device. Heck, I think the Iphone 4s is still getting security and software updates up until IOS 10? Android is really slow across the board with pushing out security patches and software updates period. Consumers shouldn't have to wait 6-7 months for a operating system only then to be teased with a new operating system coming out 3-4 month after they got their so called "new" operating system. It's a shame, but Android does it for a pure marketing concept standpoint because they know they are mass producing phones yearly they hope consumers will buy the newer phone to the market that will carry it.
  • You could have bought a Nexus just as easily. Like the iPhone, it's perfect for those who want a basic no frills device.
  • Forgive me for my ignorance but why cant google make the latest Android update available for download on the play store?
  • A lot of the issue is differences in hardware, so not something that would be in the play store. Google does make AOSP available (on the web), but again, every OEM has to take that, then make changes given the different chipset in their phone. The parts that do not depend on hardware differences are available in the Play Store in the form of updates to "Google Play Services".
  • Before i met my wife she didnt care about updates on her note. But now she has married me ive gotten her to Care about android updates lol.s jes like ooo when am i getting it now?
  • Enjoyed the hell out of the article and the comments,thanks for the excellent read (s).
  • Based on revenue and sales metrics, the only folks who care about updates are enthusiasts. The rest of the world is perfectly fine. So slow updates aren't hurting Android.
  • From that perspective, that's correct. Security updates do matter however, even if none of this exploits affect anyone however.
  • I thought the purpose of this was to highlight the underlying harm it causes to android by making apps based on older versions and how we could have better quality apps and better featured apps if android was less fragmented skewed to the bottom?
  • Thank you. I was beginning to worry that I wrote it in the wrong language or something :P
  • Google should just be like Apple. Come out with 2 phones and a new OS every year, No OEM's, no carrier intervention (bloatware, holding back updates). Also make the phones widely availible like Apple does. How come Apple does this so well and what is stopping Google from doing this?
  • Too late for that. Apple's name, branding, and popularity is what gives them the power to establish terms for carrying its products. Most average customers dont even know that their samsung lg sony htc or whatever phone is running android, what android is or that android is a Google product. So the general public wouldn't show much interest, proof being how little the nexus line sells.
  • Google does this. 6p and 5x. Then again, Apple control both the hardware and software. Android is open source, Apple is a walled garden.
  • The issue of people considering security updates a minor things will only change when a major vulnerability is exploited a and a mass number of people have a actual loss. Unfortunately security really only gets the attention it should after a major problem happens. That does not mean a report of a vulnerability, but it actually being exploited. As consumers the majority of us would misplace the blame. The credit card industry is going to help drive security to some extent. Requirements they are making will break older platforms fairly soon.
  • The problem is that Google is childishly releasing far too fast major version of Android and making perfectly capable hardware obsolete for no tangible reason. Instead they should be focusing on support and security. Just look at the debacle caused by GOOGLE arbitrarily dropping support for the relatively recent, powerful and popular Snapdragon 800/801 chipsets.
  • It's not arbitrary.
  • I agree. I mean, doing it to the point iOS does it is a little excessive, but Google needs to find some way of getting os updates to devices. I think as phones are used for longer now (less important improvements so people keep them longer), we should be able to reasonably expect 3 years support and updates within 3 months. But I guess I should stop dreaming now.
  • I think a big issue is carrier specific devices. Why are manufacturers making separate phone models for each carrier when they could cut out the middleman and make the phones compatible with all carriers? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Bingo! Carriers should have no place demanding specific custom versions of the same device. The Play Store can already detect what carrier you're on and show the relevant app category.
  • You know what sucks? Buying a Nexus phones because of "fast updates" and still being on the July patch.
  • You can always flash the OTA yourself.
  • My Note 5 has that one.
  • If Google wanted control over Android, they should withhold every major release to the carriers and make them sign legally binding agreements to not install their own software. Agree, or don't get updates.
  • Thus would end Android once the word gets out Android will no longer update their OS.
  • Great write-up. For me, updates are just bonuses. Every time I buy a new device, I know in my mind that updates are just plain "not gonna happen". The only two OEMs that will pass updates is Google(Nexus line), and Apple(iPhone). Simply because there is no middle men. They have the power. For the rest, carriers have the power. I just got a note 7, I knew there was a 'great' chance, it would never see an update. I knew that going in. But I am OK with that.
  • What makes the morning coffee even better is when you roast is when you buy quality green beans roast them yourself. A little more time consuming, but usually well worth it! On a side note, I appreciate the the desire for quality over quantity, and resurrecting some of those older articles probably wasn't necessary... The Pokemon craze here at AC central dried up my enthusiasm for the site, and my logging in for updated news and articles dropped dramatically.
  • No one cares. Bye
  • Android only exists to run apps should read..... Android only exists to run ads. Google = ads= revenue
    Google = android = ads = revenue *"powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you"*
  • I don't mind relevant ads.
  • I'm kinda surprised when an OEM supports a phone over a year, tbh. Sent from my Sony Xperia XA
  • You would have thought that the Android developer previews for Marshmallow and now Nougat would have made it much easier for manufacturers to build those updates a lot quicker than before, yet it seems that they are slower than ever to update to the latest version of Android. Something has to be done by Google to fix this somehow. There must be a way that they can separate the updated Android from manufacturer skins and allow quick and easy integration of the 2 parts, so that Android users don't have to wait forever for the updates or not get them at all, which is what most users get. Whether it is done this way in 2 parts or maybe even better, many chunks of the Android operating system can be updated seamlessly over the Play Store and if any of them have bugs, it is much easier to update the chunk that is at fault than a whole update. Just do it Google! The current way of doing it sucks. It is also very poor to pay so much for a flagship smartphone these days and get so little updating. Some manufacturers and Google claim a meagre 2 years of support, yet most are so slow during these 2 years, that you would be lucky to get a major update during that time. Google also has to be criticised for the very short amount of update support that they give their Nexus phones. Apple and Microsoft really put them to shame in this regard. I don't buy the bs about not being able to update the Nexus 5 to Nougat for instance. So the hardware doesn't support Vulcan and some other stuff. Why the hell can't they just make any app that uses those elements say "device not supported" in the Play Store and all the other billion things that you can still do with the phone can be done with Nougat. Bring back Andy Rubin.
  • +1
  • Slower than ever to update to the latest version of Android? How many days has the latest version (Nougat) been final, what was their previous track record?
  • #nexusmasterrace
  • This is probably also why it is so hard to get a decent high end Android tablet/2-in-1 from traditional PC makers like HP, Acer, Dell, Asus etc. They only want to make top hardware with Windows, because it gets updates all the time and users are not left behind. IMO Android is a much better touch screen experience than Windows, but there is the problem of Google not having done enough to make Android adapt as well as it should to different screen size devices and make better use of the extra screen space. Even Samsung and Asus have done a much better job on their tablets. Google really needs to catch up in this field. All of these convertible 2-in-1 laptops and Microsoft Surface type devices would be a lot better if they ran Android, as they are pretty much tablets with a detachable keyboard and don't really have amazing hardware, rather the hardware is set up for long battery life, fanless cooling and small SSD storage. Sounds perfect for a more polished Android tablet experience to me.
  • The reason why OEMs ditched Android tablets, was because of the lack of profit in the market and that is putting strain on the Android tablet ecosystem. Even if you get the apps, convincing OEMs that there is profit in the market is a tricky. I'm surprised Google hasn't learnt this yet, heck it was the reason for the surge of Windows Tablets/2-1s in the market and the reason why more Mobile OEMs are joining the PC market and not the Android tablet market.
  • Easy solution: Add a parameter to the google play certification thing or whatever Google has for that and make it so that in order for the phone to support Google Play, it must be supported through the next Android versions, otherwise it will deactivate.
  • Spot on Jerry. Not even worried about getting Nougat on my Nexus 6P. I have had many of the features in Nougat on My Samsung for while. Sadly, I am looking forward to iOS 10 ore than Android 7.0. In the past, I would flashed the factory image the first day, now I do not really care, I'll wait for the OTA on my Nexus.
  • It's a silky smooth OS. On another level. The animations are awesome
  • I love playing with iOS 10 beta on an old iPhone 6, can't get excited over nougat because i don't know when i'll get it, desperate for it cos marshmallow on g4 is pretty unpolished. otherwise love the g4 more for the camera and google photos and nova launcher, if someday iOS can open up to be more like android and have a cheaper phone, that would be quite good also.
  • A really good article! I get Android is open source and different manufacturers play differently with Android, this is where Apple takes the lead and faces the competition.
  • They clearly do as an OEM, but there are resources to get the latest even faster on Android than an anxious iphone user. It's just a jacked up market because Nexus is finally getting some of the marketing it deserves and prior to Google's never wanted it to keep OEM's happy It's the best anyone has to offer on Android because of fast updates and support. The HTC pair are gonna take over !
  • Nice post jerry
  • Android fragmentation is not an issue until you can't have some apps because you are so last year..... Till then fragmentation is not real...
  • Nailed it
  • It's already, 2016, can we expect something different. 64gb base storage and 3000mah batteries are good to start with but software updates should really go beyond Nexus devices, here's why. When people ask for recommendation it's easy to say just get the Nexus or get a Samsung it's getting really good and I hope Samsung bring quick updates to their phones. In most countries Nexus are not readily available to most consumers even in 2015, haven't seen a 5x before, 6p maybe a few. In 2016 manufacturers had such a long time to test on their phones, it's tedious to test on all the phones but software update is a basic requisite, every consumer should get it at least as a choice, manufacturers have had too much excuses. To get the most of new features developers have to support new API and without critical mass adoption most features will not only be slow to be adopted it could be forgotten even on Nexus device. I really think 2016 would be the year it would change, there's still time. Posted via the Android Central App on G4
  • Go the July update on my Note 5 awhile back
  • Samsung updates are crazy, my S6 gets monthly updates but they have so many different country and carrier codes it's ridiculous. Mine is an unlocked EU model (XEU), but the UK also has BTU, for Europe there is also SEE, NEE, and country specific variants too. Then there are different carriers versions as well.
  • Yep, updated from lollipop to marshmallow, there were some cool new things, but changes weren't radical. Android is very much "finish os" I mean it doesn't need much new features, like when I was using WP, it is kinda "unfinished OS" updates brought a lot needed features, like in 8.0 there wasn't notification center but 8.1 brought that.
  • If all would just stop selling different version or give us a chance to update on our own PC. That would give us a big advantage. But like it is now I won't buy a note 7 because i am not sure when I'll get the next update.
  • My Note 5 had the July update.
  • Here's a thought. Manufacturers and carriers should be required to provide updates that provide necessary security patches, and so forth. But for major releases, make it a paid update. Most phones nowadays are capable of running Android many iterations in the future. If you want the latest and greatest from Google- and your phone meets the minimum operating requirements, then you can pay $15-20 for the update. This would be very similar to how the PC market has handled updates for years (present times notwithstanding). This way, those who are happy with their current setup will not be affected. Yet, those who want to upgrade will be able to- without manufacturer or carrier interference. Google could even let the manufacturers/carriers take a cut of the revenue as an incentive to offer this. I know that having to pay for updates isn't ideal. That said, it would give everyone the opportunity to support their devices the way they want; and carriers can be happy in the process.
  • I've been an Android user almost since its beginning, my first android phone had Cupcake out of the box and it was updated up to Gingerbread, which was a long run for versions, but not in terms of time. Now I have a Nexus 5 and I'm starting to get tired of the update cicle in Android. Sadly i'm tied to the ecosystem by the apps and the lack of options, otherwise I'll be considering switching to something else.
  • There is a solution to this, and Google has the power to fix it. Google has the Nexus line. If they begin including a lot of the elements including in the bloatware of other manufacturers like HTC and Samsung into the pure Google OS, then people would buy more Nexus devices and manufacturers like Sony, HTC, Samsung, etc would stop adding their bloatware over the pure Google OS to keep their sales from dropping. If all Android devices only ran pure Google OS, then there would be no reason all the phones couldn't be updated at the same time like the Nexus devices. It's this bloatware that causes the delays in non-Nexus products. This is why i ONLY buy Nexus devices. I already have Android 7.0 on my Huawei Nexus 6P and I love that I didn't have to wait 6 months to a year to get it. And, Google has already begun taking this advice adding features like split screen and clear all on multi-tasking screen, even support for stylists and mouse controls. I really believe that if Google continues this trend, we will see more and more manufacturers reduce or even eliminate their bloatware over pure Google OS. In fact, it's already happening with Samsung and HTC products.
  • Knowing that there are different UI's over top Google stock Android is not common. People just look at the phones and use them - very few people give a crap about stock Android. I would even bet most people would say it's boring with its monochrome look throughout.
  • But most of us like having more than the basics on our device.
  • Great article! Saying exactly what needs to be said. I think it dances around the subject of phone makers doing it intentionally to entice people to purchase a new phone, they've already sold you the one you own, they're goal is to get you to buy another one now.
  • I care about getting updates. That's why even if a certain phone might be better in terms of hardware or design, I would still rather go for the Nexus devices.
  • Of course, the other problem is the carriers. I've got an AT&T Galaxy Note 4. One reason I bought it was because Samsung was known to be pretty quick with their updates. But after almost 2 years, I still haven't gotten a single update on my phone, for some reason. At this point, I'd be pretty happy just to get the security updates, never mind going from KitKat 4.4.4 to Lollipop or Marshmallow, but nope, no updates at all.
  • Not even a security update???
  • Nope. And to be truthful, I think I have to be on Lollipop or Marshmallow to get them, so actually, I DO want to get the OS updated, too. If I had to, I can probably flash with the latest AT&T firmware, but that means wiping the phone, which I'd prefer not to do if I had a choice. It's starting to look like I don't have much choice, though.
  • Fact is, I wont buy anything but a Nexus right now because I can have the freedom to do what I want with my phone on a Nexus. I also know I am not the only one who feels this way. I tried the "slow boat" with a Samsung Note 4 and it drove me banana's that the updates took so long. To each his own, but I couldn't handle it. I would be willing to try any phone as long as it comes to me unlock-able. Doesn't have to be unlocked, just able to be.
  • Hey, if you like a basic Android phone, that's great. I buy the Samsung because it's chock full of useful features I use. Many of us are like that.
  • As much as there are complaints about the Snapdragon 800 Android 7 issue, the bigger issue, specifically in regards to the Nexus 5, is security updates. Folks have put forward the idea that it's Qualcomm's fault Snapdragon 800 phones aren't getting Android 7. Fine. But Google is dropping *security updates* in about a month for the Nexus 5. That has nothing to do with Qualcomm or Android 7 support. It's that Google doesn't feel like supporting that phone anymore, so they aren't going to. That's actually *worse* in my opinion, because right now, you literally can't buy an Android phone that you know will get security updates in two years.
  • I have a Note 4 with AT&T and I still don't have Marshmallow. I've pretty much given up hope that I will ever see it. Of course, I'm still paying for the phone for another year, but why should I expect OS updates when I'm spending around $750 for a phone? So unreasonable, huh? Maybe they need to have a simple rule, if the carrier fails to provide an OS update within six months of release they are required to unlock the boot loader for anyone who asks. If you bought a computer running an older version of Windows and they stop supporting it, you can just install a different OS. Why are phones different? I will never buy a carrier locked phone again. I'm actually considering going back to Apple depending on how the iPhone 7 looks. I can buy it from Apple and trust that I will get timely updates for at least 3 to 4 years. I also wont be worried about being stuck with a barely functional phone for 9 months while they figure out what they screwed up and fix it like Samsung did with Lollipop 5.01. If Apple does have a bug they halt the release and fix it ASAP because they recognize that they the sale of an iPhone includes support, while Samsung just considers it another unit out the door.
  • Android sucks in general....but there's no better platform yet....
  • While I agree that fragmentation is a problem for developers... It's not really a problem for those with the latest phones, as you make it out to be. Why? Because the majority of the updates are usually to the system (i.e. Notification Shade, Google Now, etc)... or how about the way Lollipop's material design worked across pretty much all apps when introduced. The most pleasant update in Android 7.0, from my participation in the beta, is the update to the notification shade... it was both subtle and significant... and will work from day 1 for anyone able to update to 7.0. For those that don't mind waiting a few months (the majority of Android users), it's not really a big deal. For those enthusiasts that enjoy the latest OS updates, there are options that enable them to do so... including buying the phone directly from Google. I agree that fragmentation is a problem from a developer perspective... but I don't think consumers really care.