Why you'll never have the latest version of Android

If you have an Android phone, chances are it’s not running the most recent version of the OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean. According to Google’s own figures, just 1.2 percent of active devices run the latest version of Android. Some 57.5 percent remain on Android 2.3, a version rapidly approaching its second birthday.

If you were lucky enough to buy a Nexus device -- the right Nexus device -- you might get the latest sweet treat from the Mountain View chocolate factory immediately, or within a few weeks of it being finalized. But for most of the countless millions of active Android devices, it’s quite a different story. They’ll probably never run the latest version of Android, whatever that may be. They’re on ICS if they’re lucky, Gingerbread if they’re not, and by the time they get Jelly Bean we’ll already be singing the praises of Key Lime Pie.

This vicious cycle is a product of Google’s approach to its OS, combined with a mess of other factors including carriers, manufacturers and users’ own expectations. It’s one of the platform’s most significant issues, and one that’s all but impossible to solve. Read on to find out exactly why, as we dissect the Android software update process.

Update anxiety

You buy a phone, you pay your $200, you commit to a 2-year contract with a service provider. It used to be that the manufacturer’s involvement in developing a device ended once it shipped. Instead, as smartphones have become more prevalent, they’re constantly evolving, even after release. New software updates arrive, adding features, changing up the look and feel, and enhancing performance months after purchase. Major updates could even move devices up to a new platform version.

As updates become more common, and consumers become more tech-savvy, there’s an increasing awareness that devices can be updated, and an expectation that they should be updated. With that comes a sort of “update anxiety.” If you’ve dropped by any smartphone message board, such as our own forums or XDA’s, you’ll know what we mean by this. Threads abound asking when ICS, or Jelly Bean, will be available for certain devices. In the event of delayed or even canceled updates, Internet denizens swear they’ll never buy another phone from that manufacturer or carrier again. It’s an entirely negative ownership experience.

While this isn’t representative of the entire user base -- not by far -- it’s an example of how many power users experience Android smartphones. They’re always behind the curve, always waiting on an update, never fully enjoying the product that they’ve bought as they’ve bought it. Part of that is the fault of the tech press -- we’re always focused on what’s new, and that means talking about software that hasn’t yet reached most folks.

There’s also the problem of phones being advertised as “update-ready.” Even now, devices that ship with ICS are being marketed as “upgradeable” to Jelly Bean, in a move that essentially allows manufacturers and carriers to turn the lack of certain software into a feature in its own right. Right from the start, owners are instructed to wait for updates, acutely aware that their new phone has old software. The HTC Rezound was marketed as “ICS-ready” at announcement in November 2011. It received Android 4.0 over-the-air some nine months later, in August 2012. Needless to say, that’s a lot of waiting for an advertised feature.

But updates don’t just happen, and there are valid technical reasons why that new version of Android you’ve been waiting for might take the better part of a year to arrive.

Coding is hard

When a new version of Android is released, it’s put out through the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). AOSP is available for anyone to download, tinker and build Android at their leisure, regardless of whether they’re a major smartphone manufacturer, a custom ROM-maker. But when the code is pushed out, it's not necessarily ready for every device out there.

Getting a new version of Android up and running on any device with different hardware requires a significant amount of additional work, and even more effort is needed to bring across proprietary code from chip-makers. For example, a Snapdragon S4 device needs Jelly Bean-friendly Qualcomm drivers for the CPU and GPU. The build process the needs to be tailored to the phone’s hardware, and existing customizations need to be worked into the new version of Android without breaking anything.

Even on apparently similar hardware, there’ll often be other proprietary components to work into the mix. For example, the (international) HTC One X is a Tegra 3 device, but includes HTC’s ImageSense chip, something not found on the Nexus 7. It also lays out its internal storage differently, with a separate partition for media. Then there’s the cellular radio firmware to consider. Suddenly, you’ve got a lot of work to do to bring a Tegra 3 device up to Jelly Bean.

Sony explained the entire coding and porting process (opens in new tab) in great detail in a blog post late last year. It's worth a read if you want to develop a newfound sympathy for the programmers who have to handle these kinds of updates.

The task isn’t limited to code, though. There are often design changes to be considered, especially when updating from Android 2.x to 4.x -- a version change which brought in sweeping UI enhancements throughout. As Sony explained to us at its recent design roundtable in Germany, manufacturers have little warning as to what Google may be working on, so they can’t plan ahead. Admittedly, Google’s trying to change this with its Platform Developer Kit, which gives OEMs early access to certain parts of the framework in new versions of Android. However, the PDK is focused on getting new devices ready for launch, not upgrading old ones. And if the underlying Android design language changes, so too must any customizations that sit on top of it.

Updating an Android device isn't easy, and there's much more to it than dropping in the new code from Google and hoping for the best. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and that’s before you even think about getting it all approved and pushed out onto handsets. If radio changes have been made, the new code must be certified by regional authorities, as well bodies like the Bluetooth SIG and Wifi Alliance. That all takes precious time, and in its blog post (opens in new tab) last year, Sony identified certification as the most time-consuming part of putting out new software.

The carrier problem

Here’s where we meet the great hate figures of the mobile space -- the carriers. A necessary evil in our connected world, mobile operators have great influence into what goes out on their networks, especially in markets like the U.S. and Japan. That power includes the requirement that manufacturers submit updates for approval before they’re pushed out.

The carrier certification process can be lightning-fast or arduously long-winded. Minor updates, particularly on GSM carriers outside of the U.S., are often subject to quick approval. A good example is Three UK’s approval of a bug fix patch for the HTC One S. This passed certification in a couple of days, as only minor changes had been made, and the carrier was satisfied nothing in there was going to break its network.

At the other end of the scale are major updates on some of the U.S. carriers. We’re going to pick on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus here, but there are plenty of other examples on rival networks. Big Red’s Gnex took upwards of two months to pass certification for its Android 4.0.4 update, and Jelly Bean for the Nexus, completed in July, still isn’t out. It’s impossible to know exactly why things have been held up, or who, if anyone, is to blame. But it’s an example of how extra weeks of waiting can be added if issues crop up during the certification process.

Carriers are generally slow moving, and they’ll always err on the side of caution. They also have limited resources when it comes to certifying smartphone software, and the priority, naturally, will always be given to approving new devices ready to go on sale. That’s how you make money. And a similar attitude prevails at some OEMs, too. If a phone hasn’t sold well, or it's a budget model, it might just not be worth the time and money to develop and certify an update. Smartphone manufacturers are businesses, after all.

Android versus Android-based

But these are Android phones, right? Why is it so difficult to keep Android phones on the latest software, especially when the likes of iOS and Windows Phone seem to manage a much quicker, more elegant upgrade process?

The answer is variety. Apple has no more than three current phones at a time, making the task of syncronizing updates across its devices far easier. The iPhone range also has less internal variety from one model to the next. What’s more, Apple’s tight control over every aspect of hardware and software means it can easily anticipate future software versions in a way Android phone makers can’t.

As for Microsoft, it’s almost as controlling as Apple. Its phones are limited to Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs and a fixed range of display resolutions. Certain areas of the OS are off-limits even to OEMs, and there are strict requirements for Windows Phones, such as particular button setups and memory quotas. Windows Phone OEMs are also extremely limited in the changes they can make to the UI. All of these factors make it easier to push out updates across seemingly diverse hardware from different manufacturers.

We should also point out that Android phones, as we tend to think of them, aren’t just Android phones. They’re Android-based phones.

A few months back, Google’s Vic Gundotra made a post on Google+, singing the praises of his new Nexus 7 tablet, along with an attached photo. When followers asked him what he used to take the picture, he replied in very precise, deliberate language -- it was taken on his “Android-based Galaxy S3.” Gundotra’s wording illuminates a crucial distinction between Nexus and “Google Experience” devices, and the Samsung, HTC and Motorola-branded phones that dominate the walls of most stores. Android is what’s released by Google. Once manufacturers get hold of it, the end product is Android-based. There’s stuff in there that Google doesn’t directly control, meaning it’s no longer just “Android.”

The HTC One X is an Android-based HTC Sense phone. The Galaxy S3 is an Android-based Samsung TouchWiz phone. Though they're compatible with Android and share a common feature set, they're different to the operating system delivered by the folks at Mountain View.

The perils of v​ariety

Being an open-source OS, OEMs are free to do pretty much whatever they want with Android. The only real limiting factor is the Android Compatibility Test Suite -- a set of testing programs designed to ensure they haven’t messed with the framework in a way that breaks third-party apps. Phones must pass this test in order to get the Google seal of approval. But there’s no provision in the CTS for making sure a manufacturer-customized build of Android is easy to update, and as such there are no guarantees about update timings.

You might say that’s a bad thing, especially if you’re a fan of vanilla Android. If Microsoft can force manufacturers not to mess with the Windows Phone UI, why doesn’t Google do the same for Android? Well if it did, Android would become a whole lot less attractive to Google’s real customers -- carriers and device manufacturers. They want to slather Android with their own software and design language to differentiate themselves in the crowded and competitive mobile market. Were they unable to do this, they simply wouldn’t make as many Android phones, and consequently customers wouldn’t buy as many Android phones.

Fewer Android phones would mean fewer ad clicks in Google search, and fewer mobile users funneled into Google’s app and content ecosystems. Google doesn’t want there to be fewer Android phones. Google wants hundreds of millions of Android phones, and to reach that goal it must open Android up to customization.

As a result, Google, as a platform holder, is powerless to force updates onto “Android-based” handsets. Its OS’s vast market share relies on having a multitude of devices on sale, and that in turn leads to endless variety in hardware specifications, manufacturer customizations and carrier requirements. It’s that variety which makes fast, frequent updates for devices such an utterly impossible task, for the technical reasons we’ve already discussed. Simply put, there’s no way Android as a whole can have fast updates and a large market share. It’s precluded by the nature of the platform, and more importantly, Android’s place in Google’s business strategy.

Unfortunately, despite token offerings like Motorola’s 100 bucks if your phone doesn’t get Jelly Bean, and the ill-fated Android Update Alliance, things show no sign of changing.

Is it a problem?

It may be inevitable, but having to wait longer than you’d like for an update is never a good thing. Customers don’t care about why their shiny new Android phone is one or two versions behind the latest. They just observe, with envious eyes, iPhone users getting iOS 6 on time and see that they’re being short-changed by their manufacturer.

Modern consumers are becoming more aware that smartphones are no longer phones, but computers, and that they can be updated with exciting new features. Though technical and business reasons may prevent every Android phones from being up-to-date, these devices are put out to compete with the latest from Apple and Microsoft, and when they’re one or two major versions behind the cutting edge, it makes for a clear area of weakness for competitors to exploit. That makes it a problem for everyone with a stake in Android.

In preparation for this article, we ran a small, unscientific survey on Google+, asking Android Central followers how their experiences with updates had been on their phones. The response was almost uniformly negative -- even fans of the platform described update roll-outs in terms like “bad” “terrible” and “absolute shit.” That’s a side of the Android experience that has a serious image problem among power users.

The other side of that argument is that Android is booming, despite its update woes. It’s the world’s most popular smartphone OS. Devices continue to fly off store shelves, and the platform has a strong community following, despite the majority of handsets being on older software versions.

You could argue that most mainstream consumers don’t care about updating their phone at all, and you’d probably be right. And for those who absolutely must have the latest version of Android, there’s always the latest Nexus phone, though the appeal of the Nexus brand has been somewhat diluted by update delays on Verizon and Sprint.

Is there a sol​ution?

The only true solution to the Android update problem is a change in mindset, or if that doesn’t work, a change of handset. Android will never be able to offer across-the-board updates like Apple does -- it’s technically impossible for the wide variety of reasons we’ve already covered.

Android phone owners, community members and fans need to appreciate that updates are hard to develop, and take time and money to put out, and when carriers get involved, they can be subject to long, tedious delays. That’s not the case with iOS and Windows Phone, but they’re very different operating systems. Painful as it may be to admit, waiting for updates will be part of the Android experience for many years to come.

But if Android is the problem, then perhaps Android can also be the solution, at least for technically adventurous users. Android’s openness enables it to run on multiple hardware platforms, but Google’s OS is also eminently hacker-friendly. Many leading devices have a vibrant custom ROM scene, where custom-built firmwares are available, often based on later versions of Android than are officially available for those phones. That means if you really, really care about running the latest version of the OS, you can crack open your bootloader and do so, at the cost of stability (and perhaps your warranty).

That’s not a perfect solution, but it’s as close we’re ever likely to get. Then open -- or “openy” -- nature of Android has its advantages -- a wide variety of hardware, hackability and custom ROM support, endless choice in screen sizes, software customizations, multimedia chops, chassis styles and industrial designs. But it comes with one major Achilles heel -- the labyrinthine, time-consuming and expensive process of getting phones updated with a new version drops. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but it's a weakness that's built into Android's DNA, and one we doubt will ever be overcome.

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

  • Add to the title...unless you have a Nexus directly from Google. Good write-up anyway.
  • Why are you crying sour grapes??? You want the latest OS, fast? Then buy a Nexus device directly from Google. You want the latest hardware? Then buy whatever Android device just got released from Samsung, HTC, Moto, LG, Sony etc... Every month there are new devices being released. Android is all about CHOICE. If very fast OS updates is your #1 over riding concern then get on the Nexus bandwagon. But stop crying... BTW, you want real crying??? Think of all those Apple iPhone idiots that would fork over $29 per adapter for every dock, port or cable they have, while still not having a replaceable battery or on board microSD/microUSB/microHDMI/NFC.... LOL...
  • while I do agree with you one thing is for sure NFC is a gimmick until apple adopts it since most places dont have the option to pay with your phone through google wallet and most carriers dont support it, making it the only way to load it while rooted and using programs like root explorer, its sad to say it but apple so far has set the bar for any new tech that comes out, first with touchscreen smartphone, tablets and well if they adopt NFC possibly by their next iteration we will see more use of it in our android phones, now I like android and Fragmentation has been a bitch, but noone can blame google is all OEMs and Carriers fault, you see with apple carriers cannot make any changes like adding bloatware that cannot be removed, unless you hack your device, yes im looking at you sgs3 from t-mobile, if Carriers or OEMS just stick to stock it will be a better experience, OEMs could focus on leaving stock on it, and just change the hardware for design appeal, you know what I mean people will get faster updates since they dont have to worry about a different UI, of course there are factors like Screen Size, Resolution slide out keyboard and so on but would make their lives much easier, anyways thats my little grain of salt.
  • NFC has many more uses than Google wallet. Someone just needs to find a good way to market one of them.
  • I have to disagree with NFC being a gimmick. It actually has multiple uses other than just wallet. For example, I have both a Gnex and a Nexus 7. When I want to tether to my tablet I just open an app on my phone, and tap the two together. The NFC chip sends the necessary info to get everything started, and all I have to do is watch. When more android phones have NFC (not just the top 3) it'll become one of those standard Android features for sharing. It still has potential. Oh, and of course, there's the NFC sticker - phone combo that people could set up around their house/work. That requires a little bit more know how though.
  • Really? Thats your killer feature? I have a S3 and a laptop, ipad, old phone, etc. and when I want to tether, I turn on tethering on my S3 and the rest of the devices just work (since the settings are saved). And dont get me started on NFC tags. Your phone has to be alive/unlocked, you have to ack any activity (since security hasnt been well thought out) so basically anything NFC can do, a settings app can do a hell of a lot better.
  • Hmm.. Yes. NFC is a killer feature. What you didn't interpret was its killer usage of the killer feature. Sharing Android apps. It's your choice if you want to fire up the Play Store to tap tap tap and find an app. I'll just tap my phone and go. Sending photos. It's your choice if you want to fire up Gmail, or bluetooth then take your time to pair. I'll just tap my phone and go. Sending links. It's your choice if you want to tap a long URL on your on-screen keyboard. I'll just tap my phone and go. There are some stuff a settings app can't do as fast. And for the record, I use tasker, NFC task launcher to automate the tasks.
  • Apple users = iDiots.
  • NFC is a lot more than google wallet... I'm using its awesomness every day...
  • I have to disagree about NFC being a gimmick, sure, wallet is not widely available, but NFC is much more, i bought dozen tokens few weeks ago and they are really useful, i've set them all over the place for quick phone profiles, one on the door, one next to the bed, i'll put one in my car as well. If you come to my apartment, you don't have to ask for wifi password, just tap the NFC tag on my router with your phone and you'll connect automatically. There are so much possibilities to NFC aside from purchases.
  • I agree with some of that, but Apple was not even close to the first with a touchscreen smartphone or tablet. Yeah, they innovated with the original iPhone, but there have been tablets since the early 2000s, and touchscreen smartphones since the mid-90s.
  • first i've never understood irrational apple hatred, second. how is that different from you buying SD cards and mini/micro hdmi adapters? or MHL adapters? My samsung galaxy 3 has a separate MHL pinout to my sg2/gnex, it needed the newest MHL adapter, and only a samsung brand will work. This does not make anyone cry. Posts like yours, showing how stupid some users can be, make me cry.
  • I'd have to agree. We can all believe apple does things poorly while also acknowledging that android manufacturers do some of the same things from time to time. -Suntan
  • Really, Jesse? He made you cry? That has to be the most pitiful thing I've heard in a long time.
  • That isn't true. You can use a 5pin to 11pin adapter and use non-Samsung MHL adapters. I am using a VGA MHL adapter just fine.
  • Let's be honest; you had a Gnex/SG2 and you upgraded to a S3 (something rather rare since the device releases are relatively close) AND you wanted to port just your HDMI feature from one to the next... Whereas Apple iPhone users of ANY vintage get to throw away ANY adapters they had before, including chargers, and pony up the apple-bucks for more of them (since Apple will crush anyone who makes an illicit charger and sells it for less than $39). Not really the same thing.
  • Guess what. Galaxy Nexus has only 16GB Storage if you get the GSM version from Google. It has no HDMI-out. It has no MicroSD. The battery life sort of sucks, so yea, you need a replaceable battery. The camera is bad compared to a Galaxy S2 nevermind an S2, One X, iPhone 4S or 5 and even the new iPod Touch will likely blow it out of the water. It doesn't support USB Mass Storage, IIRC, just MTP (which is a pain for Mac Users). If you buy a Carrier Branded Version (Sprint or Verizon), then updates arn't all that fast, either... ... The Nexus S had some of the same faults (no SD Card, terrible camera for video recording (840p only, IIRC) nevermind the Galaxy S cameras weren't all that great, anyways, PenTile WVGA screen with jaggedness and image retention, etc.). iPhones can AirPlay. And AppleTV isn't that expensive ($99 only) so HDMI out isn't all that much of a deficit. A decent mHDMI Cable + MHL adapter is almost half the cost of the AppleTV, Lol. OEM Android devices are typically DLNA capable, but not a Nexus (it's capable, but you need third party apps for that, many of which are terrible). Remember the Nexus One GB update. Remember the Nexus S ICS update. Those weren't very fast. In fact the Vivid was on ICS 4.0.3 before Verizon Galaxy Nexus devices, IIRC, and AFAIC Samsung Released their GS2/Skyrocket 4.0.4 update on AT&T (of all carriers) before Verizon got the 4.0.4 update out to the Galaxy Nexus (and Sprint as well, IIRC)). I left Android after the Vibrant FroYo debacle and came back, but I think once I get rid of this SR I'm truly just done with Google because their OEM partners are too busy releasing new redundant phones instead of supporting their customers. At least on WP8 you're guaranteed at least 18 months of updates/support) and on iOS you get years - literally (and the best warranty program/support in the business). With Android you get Adware and have to deal with major bugs like not even being able to share a photo to store on Picasa Web Albums on a ton (if not all) ICS devices basically forever cause they're too busy working on the next letter of the alphabet (or maybe just the statue they put in front of Google HQ).
  • Android is all about choice? Okay, my choice is that I want the latest and very fast OS updates AND the latest hardware. What are my choices then. I mean, it's all about choice, yes? What are they? Or do I have to do a double-secret-probation jailbreakunlockROMdonglesuperduperheadoverheels thingy to my phone to install some hacked ROM from some Russian mobster to have the latest OS on my latest hardware? Seems so easy! Choice indeed!
  • Nice you had me rolling with this statement
  • Google isn't the major source of HSPA GNexus sales. You can buy the HSPA GNexus from dozens of operators world wide and they still get updates directly from Google, although they are SIM-locked.
  • This doesn't make Android sound that good, ya know... What I got from this piece is that getting updates (any at all) are not to be expected, even bug fixes and optimizations have to go through a bunch of red-tape and cost/benefit analysis. nice. Gotta buy a new phone for a better OS. I hear a case to buy even a MS phone if i want to get my phone updated to be more up-to-date in security. WOW. What is Google to do? Is Android really the ghetto OS now?
  • To the average consumer which is the majority, they don't know and the majority could care less about what OS# they are on or if they are on the lastest...just as long as it works.
  • I actually observed people buy new phones because of the hype (Not OS or anything).. Average consumers don't care about the version number, they want the latest phone!
  • I agree, they go into the store and say want the SIII or the RAZR or whatever they saw on last nights TV ad. The devices could run Donut for all they know or care.
  • "they simply wouldn’t make as many Android phones, and consequently customers wouldn’t buy as many Android phones." I don't think that would be true. If there were less android phone models, more people would be buying more of the same models of phones. If 2 million people are offered 10 different types of android phones to buy, they buy 1 of the 10. If they are offered say only 3 android phones instead they are going to buy 1 of the three. I think it makes more sense for less phones to be released than say for example 5 different razr phones in 1 year.
  • I understand what you're saying here, mwara, but the key thing Android has going for it (and the real reason Android is dominating iOS in the market) is the fact that there are *so* many phones to choose from. Most users would never find themselves in the position that they can't find an Android phone that they like the way it looks and feels in their hand. That's a *huge* deal. For me, I have large hands and the iPhone is actually hard for me to hold on to. So are some of the smaller Android phones, but at least with Android I have the choice of a larger phone. Then, there's the "cost" factor. Some people can't afford a $200 phone. With Android, people have the ability to have a smart phone at a $50 price-point, although not with as good of a hardware. I have had numerous discussions with people about whether this is a good or bad thing for Android, since these phones often offer a less-than-optimal experience, but I always point out that you can't honestly expect a $50 phone to perform as well as a $200 phone. That's like me complaining that my $20K Sentra isn't as fast as a $160K Audi. I think, on the whole, it's a good thing and eventually consumers' expectations will become a bit more realistic.
  • This is true, and was addressed in passing in the article. (Well written Article, by the way). The key quote is this one:
    "Modern consumers are becoming more aware that smartphones are no longer phones,
    but computers, and that they can be updated with exciting new features. " When that point is more fully understood by more people, it may get to the point where you can drop a new kernel on your phone as easily as you can do an in-place upgrade on Linux, or Windows, or OS-X without losing anything or having to re-install all your software. (Most of the time). But part of this problem is Google's fault for designing the linkages to hardware specific components in such a way that makes updates to the OS very difficult and requires manufacturers to get involved with every update. In other words, Android's hardware abstraction layer is light-years behind Linux and even Windows. Worse: Google had to strip most of this hardware abstraction out of linux when they made Android from linux. Because Linux already had it. You don't have to wait for Dell or HP to approve the latest version of Red Hat or Windows and release new drivers for your existing laptop. The old drivers will do. The phone's screen and the radios aren't going to change, so the phone's old hardwar rom modules should continue to work when used with a new Android version. Google can solve most of this problem with a little (or a lot) of work on the linkage and the APIs that chipset makers use to integrate their binary blobs.
  • Kernel it's a fundament of the system... and i didnt seen that yet to change, so i don't belive there so dramatical changes in kernel on each update. I also don't belive they throw away driver system from Linux kernel... since it's core of that thing, if they owuld do that they could as well write new kernel. If manufacture need to do something in kernel is most likely is to update driver code
  • Here, here! The bottom line is that this is a project management issue on the part of the manufacturers. If they do their part right, the certification process for the carrier becomes much easier. For a MANUFACTURER, they have the same level of control over their hardware and how it interacts with the Linux as Apple does. The interaction between the Linux kernel and the Android abstraction layer shouldn't change. The other major problem is the customized UI. This is where Google shares some responsibility with the manufacturers. As Google modernizes/improves Android and its programming interfaces and UI, the manufacturers have additional work to do to add their customized UI on top of it and make sure everything works as before. I would imagine that these improvements by Google are why Moto appears to be whittling the UI "bells and whistles" of Moto Blur down to the truly useful improvements and features they add to the base ICS/JB UI (as noted with the Razr M, and soon to be Razr HD/HD MAXX). I really DO understand the desire for manufacturers to put their own imprint on their phones and the underlying Android UI. Customer lock in through "look and feel" (once a customer gets used to a particular "look and feel", they are far less likely to change) is an established method of keeping a customer base loyal. In many ways, the differentiation actually helps Android grow as most customers can find a device that works best for them. However, it can be managed better than it currently is. I would dare say that one of the main problems is that most firms have let go their experienced programmers/project managers to save money. Now it is coming back to bite them in the rear as their younger/cheaper replacements have to go through the same learning curve that the PC industry went through 20-30 years ago. "Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Google and the manufacturers should pay attention to this. Anyway, these practices are well established, but I've worked with younger programmers who just don't understand the implications of their programming/design decisions. They don't look at their work as part of a SYSTEM, but rather their part as the whole and it shows in the amount of extra work that has to be done with each update to integrate all of these disparate pieces. For that matter, it isn't just in this industry, but in many diverse industries from aerospace to the military to automobiles to other areas of tech. Ironically, systems like Six Sigma (among others), which were developed to address many of these same issues originated with firms like Motorola. I find it tremendously ironic that Moto also suffers from the same issues as other manufacturers in the Android space. Talk about a firm that should know better! Anyway, enough of my rant. I'm just trying to say that I think @icebike has hit the nail on the head in the broad strokes of the problem... and I agree with them! Even if we do differ in the details... ;^D Scott
  • You have to remember, also, that your home PC doesn't have the kind of radios that make it subject to things like FCC approval, which is (potentially) a large part of the update process as well. Not to mention that the carriers have to make sure the phone isn't going to do something crazy and crash their network.
  • Actually Google didn't invent Android, a different company developed Android and Google bought it from them.
  • Nexus is the only solution.. But Samsung screwed up the Galaxy Nexus. I hope Google doesn't allow Samsung, Sony & LG to do anything with updates this time. The main problem is manufacturers & carriers. They want you to buy new phones. But updating their old devices will give them even more respect/love from existing customers. Seems like Samsung actually realized it (making Jelly Bean for mid-end phones like Galaxy Ace) etc.. All the high-end phones are safe for 2 updates atleast.
  • I agree on the Nexus as the only solution. And I still don't understand how come all these people that keep complaining about software updates don't go out and get themselves a Nexus device. I am sure price is not the reason because $300 for the latest, unlocked Nexus device its practically a steal. I just have a problem with you using the words "Nexus" and "Carriers" in the same sentence. You are clearly referring to a Verizon, Sprint or some other device here. What people mean when they say Nexus is a Sim-free, unlocked phone directly from Google running Takju, and getting immediate updates. If this is what everyone wants they should all go out and get the damn Nexus instead of complaining why they can't flash Jelly Bean on their Samsungs, HTCs and other Android-based devices...
  • The problem is that the expectation was with Verizon (whether the assumption was correct or not) that it would be a Google (not Android-based) device complete with all the advantages of having a Nexus device. I understand that this article is speaking to all carriers and manufacturers, but with a non-Nexus device that is to be expected. But Verizon has royally screwed this up with some help from Google. They might as well have dropped the Nexus name and just went with some stock-Android Google phone name. Why shouldn't we be able to have a true Nexus device on the US's main major network with the best LTE, and still have it get current updates like all the iDevices on that network, too? There's a place for unlocking and hacking, but sometimes you want the keep-up-to-date experience without having to mess with that, on the carrier of your choice.
  • They don't go out and get themselves a Nexus device because even when the Galaxy Nexus was released, it wasn't the latest and greatest hardware. Regardless of software updates, old hardware is a tough sell when going up against exotic materials (instead of plastic), dense/bright IPS displays (instead of Pentile Amoled), quad core cortex-A15 processors (instead of dual core A9), on-chip LTE that sips the battery (instead of a separate chip that destroys it), larger batteries, MicroSD support, etc.. etc... Hopefully all that will change this Fall, but right now the best Nexus device is just too far behind the hardware curve to tempt me. Software updates can't fix poor reception and battery life.
  • That's why I only buy the Nexus line... I've bought the Nexus One, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 7... Always the latest version first. Love it! :D
  • "Its the ECONOMY,stupid".....As a fan of Android I always want the latest and greatest. I would think that applies to most of us on this site however we must understand we are a minority of the overall market. The main determining factor is whether a product makes the consumer's life easier. Say what you want about Apple but this is where their genius lies. or at least the genius of their marketing dept. Right now the Android ecosystem is a geek's paradise, as was WinMo prior.
  • "Right now the Android ecosystem is a geek's paradise, AS WAS WinMO prior." +1 for the As was WinMo prior fun fact!
  • I don't buy the carrier and manufacturer excuses. Here's why: CyanogenMod can (and they do!) get AOSP working on phones faster and usually with builds that are more stable and have less bugs than 'approved' firmware. I have run Cyanogen on 3 phones from 2 manufacturers, and in *each* case Cyanagon ran faster and had better battery life and less/no software bugs when compared to the 'approved' carrier firmware. And they manage to do it as part time hobby coders with little/no budget and support from manufacturers. Sorry, if a bunch of hobbyists can do it faster and better that means we (the phone buying public) are just getting screwed by the Carriers and handset makers.
  • CM doesn't have to go through carrier or regulatory certification. That's a big part of what delays updates. Check back over the section on carriers and certification.
  • I'll give you the Regulatory certification, however Carrier certification is controlled by the Carrier, and they can make it go as fast or as slow as they want it. That still doesn't explain how CM manages to get ROMS out that (in my experience) are more stable, faster, and easier on the battery than the MFGR and Carrier approved firmware is. The only explanation would be the 'value added' (that's a joke) changes to the baseline software that Manufacturer and Carriers try to force on the public. Months later on releases and less stable software so a Carrier can force software and features on the firmware that cannot be removed and the vast majority of us will not want and or use? That's not good for consumers, it's only good for the Carrier's additional bottom line when they manage to trick someone for example into using their subscription turn by turn navigation software even though it comes free with Google Maps.
  • CM manages to get ROMS out fast, but to be honest, there is a lot of broken stuff in these roms that you would be throwing rocks thru carriers store windows if they delivered something like that. Because you are a geek, and understand that CM is a perpetual work in progress, you put up with that.
  • I am not sure what you are talking about when you say a lot of broken stuff in there in CM. I have run CM7 and CM9 on the Captivate and CM9 and CM10 on the Galaxy Note. Even during the nightly phase, the Cyanogenmod ROMs were daily drivers. The Touchwiz ROMs they replaced also had broken stuff in there. The GPS on the Note was screwed up when they updated the stock ROM to ICS, and there is yet to be a fix released. Many international Notes were bricked, when Samsung updated them OTA to ICS. There were lag issues with stock ROMs on the Captivate due to the proprietary and buggy RFS they used. Compared to the issues the stock ROMS had, the issues on the CM ROMs were less bothersome. Not to mention all the new apps that became compatible with the latest version of the OS, and the security fixes , and code patches that made it into the newer AOSP code base (and thus into CM), but never made it into the stock ROMs forked from the older code base. It took me a year after getting the Captivate to move away from stock onto CM7. It took me less than 6 months to move the note on to CM9 from stock. I am not going back unless it is for warranty repairs.
  • Sent from my Epic Touch 4G running JELLY BEAN (CM10)! I understand that CM is only relevant to the small minority (ok, all of us on this Site). BUT, my wife's Evo SHIFT has had bug after bug after bug & would be so much more stable with CM or a host of other ROMs. Not all manufacturer ROMS are good. By the way, CM10 is smooth & completely usable on the Touch. I have zero complaints &