Aren't regular OS updates part of a 'premium' smartphone?

Aren't regular OS updates part of a 'premium' smartphone?

Summary: The arrival of iOS 7 hasn't been easy for iPhone and iPad customers. However, users of other smartphone OSes might like some of those troubles, according to a recent report from a Canadian news site.


Every month or so we read reports of another "iPhone killer" that will knock Apple out of its top spot in the premium segment of the smartphone market. Still, shouldn't the frequency and reliability of operating system updates be counted in the purchasing decision of a smartphone, premium or otherwise?

Apple released iOS 7 in Sept. and has pushed out four maintenance releases since then. The company recently posted on its developer support page for the App Store a chart showing the adoption rate of the new iOS. Almost 80 percent of iOS users (78 percent) are now on iOS 7, 18 percent on iOS 6 and just 4 percent on something earlier (obviously using hardware that can't be updated to something more current. This is important information for developers, both for backwards support in software updates or when developing new titles. It's been a quick transition. 

Aren't regular OS updates part of a 'premium' smartphone?

However, a recent post at the Patently Apple blog pointed to the Anguish of Updates, a report by Daniel Bader at Mobile Syrup, a Canadian mobile news site. It's all about the slow pace of OS updates in the mobile device space. He lauded HTC, Samsung and Sony. But Canadian mobile customers, he complains, are caught up in delays.

Here we are, another year almost gone, and I am weeping into my Cheerios. Not literally, mind, but a proverbial stream of lost opportunities cascades to the ground, one for every unconsummated Android update.

Another Mobile Syrup post observes that carriers appear to be the source of the delays in providing OS updates. However, despite its similar regression testing and certification requirements, Apple manages to hit the mark.

According to HTC, carrier devices go through four more steps than their Google Play Edition equivalents, and three more than the Developer/Unlocked Editions, which lends credence to the notion that wireless providers, though they do ensure the devices work properly on their networks, are the leading cause for update delays. Though iOS updates are subject to the same certification and testing scrutiny, Apple has somehow managed to expedite the process and deliver an update to all devices, in all countries, on the same day.

Somehow? For someone outside the Apple ecosystem, it is a mystery how Apple can update all iOS devices, in all supported countries, and on the very same day.

This reported irregularity of support on the part of manufacturer and carrier is not well understood by most customers of non-Apple smartphones, and certainly, doesn't play into the purchasing decision of consumers or businesses. It isn't included in the ROI calculation.

From my Apple market viewpoint, most PC owners base their mobile purchasing decisions with a PC mentality: the entry price is the most important factor since all phones are the same, cheaper is better, and any significant level of support from the vendor isn't expected. Software updates are something associated with PCs, not with phones.

Instead, customers should evaluate the entire ecosystem of their technology. The platform includes some things evident, and others less-so: the hardware maker, the OS vendor, third-party app developers, the tools available to developers, the OS makers support for developers, the app store and its arrangement with developers, and the security of the platform. These are just a few of the things that create the user experience over the life of a product. They are important, even if that lifespan will be just a couple of years.

Mobile Syrup named Motorola's Moto X as the top phone of 2013. Still, it observed the iPhone 5s "just works."

The iPhone 5s is a probably the best all-round smartphone on the market, hampered somewhat by its underwhelming battery and increasingly-cramped 4-inch display. But the phone offers a great ecosystem of apps and games that continues to overshadow Android in almost every respect, and iOS 7 drastically improves what was already a fast, secure operating system. Control Center alone, which provides easy access to commonly-used system settings, is beautifully integrated, and AirPlay continues to make the argument for a platform over disparate services.

Strangely, that "just works" quality continues to be a mystery to most of the mobile hardware and software vendors.

Topics: Apple, Android, iOS, iPhone, Mobile OS, Operating Systems

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  • It is easy if you think about it...

    14% of the Market is a lot easier to get 70% updated than 82% of the market.

    185 Million devices would mean that roughly 129 Million would be upgraded.

    Now let's say that 800 Million devices for group B get updates on just 25% of those devices... We are still talking 200 Million devices all getting their updates which equates to more than group A updated.

    Sure, Apple does it Alon but, they really aren't supporting that many different models per update and with iOS 7 there was a whole lot broken where some wished they never upgraded.

    Bottom line, percentages mean nothing when real numbers are taken into account and it isn't always a good thin to get that update.
    • Will you apply that same logic to other brands then?

      Let's forget that Apple is controls the majority of the US and Japanese smartphone markets for now and let's just go with that 14% world wide figure.

      Seriously, if a major player like Apple only has 14% of the World Wide Market, does HTC have a larger market share than Apple? Or the same share of that World Wide Market?

      And, if HTC has a comparable marketshare, why doesn't HTC enjoy the same upgrade characteristics (frequent OS upgrades available in all countries on the same day) that has been consistently noted about Apple's OS upgrade deployments.

      Does Nexus devices enjoy 14% of the World Wide Market? If Google has a significantly less world wide market share than, applying your logic, it should be easier for Google to deploy their updates on the same day for all countries involved? Has Google demonstrated that ability in the past?

      David makes the point that other companies with less market share than Apple can't match Apple's OS upgrade deployment history.

      If, as you state, Apple's ability to provide upgrades to their iOS devices worldwide on the same day is easy to accomplish due to a low world wide market share, shouldn't it be MUCH easier for other companies that have even less of a world wide market share than Apple to match Apple's efforts?
    • Quite a stretch there jim

      What makes it easier for Apple is that they are not supporting many models even with the compatible iPads and iPod Touch units counted nor do they have to deal with the carriers every single time they push an update. So yeah in the event that there is an issue with the OS (and most of the issues with iOS7 were subjective and not anything major) Apple can simply push a patch to solve the issue without it going through the carrier committee and being delayed by months.

      As for the market share theory - I believe kenosha hit that one squarely on the head.
  • The difference

    is that Apple control the market for iOS devices. The service providers know that they have to have the iPhone in their repetouir. Allegedly Apple forces the providers to buy a minimum number of phones, even if the provider can't sell them (some reports say that the provider can specify how many they plan to sell, but if they don't reach that number, they still have to buy that number as a minimum).

    If that is true, I would think that they are also in a position to force the provider to accept their OS update policy.

    That said, our iPhone is stuck on iOS 6 and has been abandoned by Apple. It will be replaced when it stops working, but we will have to accept that any security holes will not be patched. At least with my Android phone I can always take matters into my own hands and install a newer version.
    • Seriously

      Help me to update my Android please..
      • Cyanogen Mod

        I downloaded the App from the Play store, it worked a treat. Although it has since been pulled.

        I also installed it on my old Sensation, the process is relatively straight forward and very well documented.
    • Do you have any sort of

      proof of this minimum purchase thing?
      • @athynz - here's two links

        Appears Cricket mobile was having trouble meeting the minimum...
    • Seriously...

      What are all these Apple haters doing with Apple products! It boggles the mind! Oh wait, let me guess, it is the wife's phone.

      Ok, the forcing providers to carry stock sounds like BS. And I'm not sure about everywhere, but my provider doesn't have anything to do iOS upgrades. It is all handled by and through Apple.
      • Which is exactly the point

        Apple has the clout to cut the providers out of the update loop.

        As to minimum quantities, that was reported here, on this site a few months back.
  • Model would need to change

    Apple has special terms in their carrier contracts. No other mobile vendor has the ability to push firmware upgrades like this. The carriers do not want to become dumb pipes - they want to provide the service and "value". They also prefer to install their own Apps and services onto devices - which they do with every other vendor (Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone)

    Google needs to take back the core OS and manage it. They can then push OS updates. This will likely never happen as each OEM has a fork of Android, as well each carrier has their own add-on junk.

    Blackberry had the ability to do this as they can push OS updates much like Apple but the process is now tied to the carrier approval process which we know adds months of testing and certification. Microsoft is in a similar boat.

    Unless you have an actual bug that prevents the device from working - I don't expect firmware updates, at least beyond a standard 2 year support window, which has now shrunk to 12-18 months. Devices are being replaced too quickly and are now disposable. Apple does a good job with planned obsolescence and with each iOS update drops support for an older model. Considering the amount of Android devices on the market - this would be impossible to support.

    I wish there was an answer. One is the mention Cyanogen ROM. It's obvious the carriers do not want to change their model.
  • premium phone should already have premium features

    It's nice that Apple is trying to play catch up by pushing out new bits and pieces, some of which don't even break their target devices. Meanwhile my Galaxy Note is still running Android 4.0.4, the same version it shipped with. Oddly enough, it still does everything it did when I bought it, despite the lack of "upgrades". Are there really any useful features that I am missing out on that an "upgrade" to KitKat would deliver? If somebody is complaining that "my phone won't do something I need, but it would if it was running the next version of the O/S", then they might have a point. If the whole issue is "there's a new version and I don't have it", come back when you have an actual reason for upgrading.
    • Dear John

      How long did it take you to reason out that excuse? In had to giggle.
      • @CowLauncher

        okay, that makes one with no useful new features to mention. Glad you got a giggle out of it :)
  • Why not "brand x"?

    I read the posts above.
    "Carriers have to have the iPhone ..."
    "Apple has a special contract ...."

    So why do the carriers do this for Apple? They make $

    Why does the other "brand x's" not do this same behavior (as Apple)?

    The root is that the carriers would tell them to go jump. Why give up that revenue and not offer up the same terms? Because they do not have too to maintain the relationship. Apple comes from a position of power, other handset providers do not. The market has spoken. Regardless of "share" nonsense, the teleco's know where they make their $.

    Does anyone think that if Samsung demanded the same terms for their product placement, as does Apple, that at&t would meekly reply "...ok, whatever you say dear..." .? I think the evidence is that if Samsung or any other "brand x" could do it...they would.

    They have not and that says volumes about where the truth is in this picture.
    • @Jim888

      Or, another possibility is that the carriers, realizing that consumers want to buy iPhones that are going to NEED a lot of updates, have asked Apple to handle the updates. You say "Apple comes from a position of power", and there is some truth in that. But how many iPhones would Apple sell if none of the carriers were reselling them?
      • Carriers aren't competing with Apple

        They are competing with each other. That certainly mutes any collective muscle from the carriers.
  • Cyanogen is a great, but it is a workaround

    one that voids the warranty. Android phone makers need to get better about version control, there's no question, and Android users need to start insisting the makers get on the ball. Perhaps Google can use its muscle to improve the situation with some makers, but Samsung is probably immune to any muscling from Google.
  • Enough already, this conversation is not valid anymore.

    The incremental Android updates no longer bundle many of the essential and new Android apps. Which makes the fact that your handset may not be updated to the latest version, easier to swallow. Instead Google send updates and new core apps apps directly to the Playstore making most new apps updates available to everyone. The system updates with a new version don't necessarily make of break the Android experience if you don't get it. Apple let's you update most phone models, which makes older phones sluggish and strips back the latest features which are reserved for the newest models, so where's the benefit? Apple's upgrade number are just number.. IMHO both android and Apple still have a way to go, but at least android gives you a chance at getting the new features.