Nexus S: Even Google can't do Android updates

Summary:Nexus S owners are still waiting for the ICS update that was promised four months ago. It seems even Google has a hard time doing updates properly.

Remember the Nexus S? It was the Google flagship phone prior to the Galaxy Nexus. It's not that old, it was the official Google phone until late last year and is still available for purchase. As a Google flagship phone, it was promised to get the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) update shortly after it rolled out late last year. Nexus S owners are still waiting for it.

The situation with the Nexus S is not unusual, sadly, and drives home how hard major updates must be to produce for Android devices. Google produces updates directly for flagship phones, and as the platform developer they are obviously the experts. If anybody can produce a quick update it is Google.

Google rolled out an ICS update for the Nexus S last December, but immediately pulled it when upgraders ran into problems. It was clear the update had problems, so down it came. Google stated it would get the update process kicked off again when the update was ready to go.

That was almost four months ago, and Nexus S owners are still wondering where that update is. A week ago Engadget heard from a "trusted source", meaning no one official, that the update would be appearing "in weeks". Unofficial rumors are all we have, as Google has been dead silent on the Nexus S update situation. Who knows when the update may finally be available? The entire fiasco makes it appear that even Google can't get updates out properly.

Some people may feel that getting ICS is not that big a deal, after all Gingerbread isn't bad. Truth is, for those of use who've tasted Ice Cream Sandwich, Gingerbread just tastes so... gingerbread-y. Google isn't helping by making the Chrome Beta run only on ICS, and I want that badly on my Nexus S 4G.

If Google can't do an update quickly, no wonder OEMs don't rush to get their handsets updated. If it takes months to even get an update that will work, that is a huge investment for these companies to make. Don't forget that most U. S. contracts are only two years, so if a big chunk of that period is spent getting major updates out, it isn't going to be very high priority.

Update problems are always part of the Android conversation, but it's not the only platform that's had problems with updates. Who can forget the debacle that was the first major Windows Phone update? Of course, as memory serves that also involved Samsung hardware. Hmm.

The main benefit of buying a Google flagship phone is to go straight to the Android source for support. The Nexus S situation shows that isn't as big an advantage as most people thought. It also shows that the only certain way to get a major Android update in a timely fashion is to buy a new device, and that is just not acceptable to many consumers.

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Topics: Telcos, Google, Hardware, Mobility


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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