'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

Summary: Seven of the eighteen Android phones have never run a current version of the Android OS.


Just how behind the times is your Android handset when it comes to operating system updates? If I were a betting man, chances are good that if you have an Android handset then even if it is within its two-year contract period that it's one or more versions behind the times.

According to data pulled together by Michael DeGusta ofthe understatement, millions of Android users still bound by a contract can't get access to the latest version of Android, and as a result 'consumers get screwed' out of getting the full value from their handset.

"The pre-iPhone way of doing things (not pushing updates to handsets) is alive and well outside of Apple." The data compiled represents every Android phone shipped in the United States up through the middle of last year, along with every update released for the handsets. The results are just ugly:

  • 7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
  • 12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
  • 10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
  • 11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
  • 13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
  • 15 of 18 don't run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
  • In a few weeks, when Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, every device on here will be another major version behind.
  • At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

The update history graphic that DeGusta drew up is goes to show just how depressing a state most Android users are left in.

It's simply incredible that some handsets (such as the Motorola Cliq or Samsung Behold II) spent their entire time being two of three versions behind. That's simply appalling.

As DeGusta points out, this is bad for three reasons:

  • Customers are being screwed because they are being denied access to the latest and greatest Android release
  • Developers can't reliably cater for the latest Android release
  • Security risks because a lot of models aren't even getting patched for vulnerabilities, let alone seeing the latest Android release


Compare this to how Apple handles the iPhone ... users see at least two years of updates and support patches.

The problem is pretty obvious, as DeGusta points out:

Obviously a big part of the problem is that Android has to go from Google to the phone manufacturers to the carriers to the devices, whereas iOS just goes from Apple directly to devices.

He also dismisses any notion of this being a hardware issue:

The hacker community (e.g. CyanogenMod, et cetera) has frequently managed to get these phones to run the newer operating systems, so it isn't a hardware issue.

To me, it seems like no one - Google, the OEMs or the carriers - care about whether users get updates. The OEM and carrier have been paid for the handset so there's just no incentive on their part to push upgrades.

The pre-iPhone way of doing things (not pushing updates to handsets) is alive and well outside of Apple.

Topics: Operating Systems, Software

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  • That's an understatement

    Consumers get screwed by Android's lack of updates? You can say that again! Let's not even get started on the fragmentation.

    In real terms, chances are you'll be lucky to get one upgrade before you renew your contract and upgrade your whole phone anyway.

    So glad I switched to Windows Phone 7. Never looked back. ;)
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

      @Tim Acheson I'm happy with my Focus but reading the windows phone blog there are a lot of unhappy international users. It takes quite a while longer for them to get updates or have new features available. I hope as WP7 continues to gain market share they are able to get features to them sooner.
      • This is not true. For both mango and nodo before it international

        users got their updates in the same time frame. If fact most were before AT&T in the US. Look here for a summary of international availability. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/features/update-schedule-world.aspx
        Johnny Vegas
      • Apple updates OS for 2.5 years (not 2 years, by the way); hopefully MS will

        @Bookmark71: ... go in this direction with WP7 devices.
      • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

        You are wrong on one count. The updates (pre Nodo, Nodo, Post Nodo and Mango) are available to International users at the same time and in some cases even before AT&T phones here got updated.
        Ram U
      • <a href="http://www.tran33m.net/vb/">2012</a>

        @Bookmark71 I agree when Google brought Android to the market. I thought it had real promise. Remember the motorola commercial "When there is no limit to what droid gets" There is no limit to what droid does"

        Fast forward a few years and WOW... android is falling apart this article proves it along with countless others. I upgraded my phone here a few months ago and went with another android device. However i wished i had not. My next phone will be either WP or iphone.
    • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

      @Tim Acheson
      I've gotten several on my droid x; I actually would prefer them not to come, or at least only if the phone is going to suffer nuclear meltdown or something without it. If the phone works fine as is, I'm kinda on the "don't poke it" side of the fence.

      I know a lot of people like to be on the bleeding edge of versions and capabilities with these devices; myself, I got tired of bleeding a while back.
      • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

        @rwwff Wow, does that mean that when updates are available, you can't choose whether or not you want them? Where's the vaunted "choice" and "openness" of the Android community? Looks pretty closed and limited in choice, once you get your phone.
  • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

    Getting a pure Google phone (Nexus) is about the only way to keep the Carrier crap and interference off your phone. That or hope for good support and ROOT your phone. But it's sad that the Cellphone Carriers are pretty blatant in demonstrating that they don't give a damn about their customers.
    • And yet the "future proof" Nexus One...


      Is not getting the ICS update. A phone that was sold as short as 14 months ago is, upgrade wise, obsolete.
      • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates


        Nexus One released in Jan 5th, 2010
        Galaxy Prime (1st phone with ICS) release in Nov, 2011?

        It's been 22-23 months... Almost 2 years.

        Of course 3gs, a phone released in june 19th 2009 can be upgraded to iOS 5. So yes perhaps nexus one did become obsolete too fast.
  • That's what I've been saying all along

    Instead of comparing it to other mobile operating systems, lets compare Android to other Linux distributions. With Ubuntu or OpenSUSE or any other distro I've tried, at the very least I get security patches every couple of weeks, and most don't require reboots. With the Samsung Moment (which I am still in contract with, since I bought it in April '10) I was lucky to get it updated from 1.6 to 2.1 and that summer, and then get one other minor update later that fall, but that's been it, over a year... I won't buy another Android phone, but lament the state all other mobile OS's are in, there is nothing on the market that makes me want to have anything other than a feature phone
    • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

      @enkh855 I think it's wrong to compare it to desktop operating systems (and nothing compares to OpenSUSE, period :-) ). A phone is more like a server... you shouldn't really be expecting updates; what you see is what you get. Other than security updates, your router, your MP3 player, your watch, your GPS, your camera aren't getting free upgrades with new features, so users really shouldn't be expecting it from phones either. Heck, if you bought your PC from a company like Dell or HP, they're not going to send up a free update to the latest version of Windows, either. There's precisely zero reason for an OEM to incur the cost of sending you a free windows update, and the same goes for phone vendors to give you a new version of Android for free.
      Remember in America the customer of the phone manufacturer is generally the carrier, not the consumer, anyway.
      • @jgm

        At least with Dell & HP you have the option to update or even change your OS if you so desire...............
  • Simple math...

    What us important to carriers and OEM's? If they get paid then it is obvious they are done with you, and anything else is lip service. Now what is important to Apple? A couple things at least I think. First is it's reputation. Second is return business. So Apple does not see you the customer as a one and out type deal. Apple see's a happy customer as a potential revenue stream and does it's best to keep you as such.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Not so simple, actually. What's with the Apple sales pitch?

      @James Quinn
      You know everything you just said is twisted half truths.

      That first line was a laugh. Apple gets paid and then they're done with you, too. Oh wait- they want you as a repeate customer, yet Verizon doesn'tm is that what you're saying?

      So, Verizon doesn't want you to be a repeat customer, and they don't want people to reconmend them, so they'll screw you after the check has cleared?

      The only reason the iPhone updates are handled by Apple is that they have 3 models running the same OS (and even then they have issues after upgrades.) so they can do it thru their mechanism, iTunes

      The Android manufactures (HTC, Motorola, LG, Sony, ect) have different models with different versions, and no "itunes" delivery system to speak of, so it's handled by the carriers as it's not an iOS "one upgrade fits all".

      But you knew that. Instead you felt that a sales pitch was a better argument.

      What's the mood inside Apple like at the moment? ;)
      William Farrell
    • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

      @James Quinn

      That math is indeed simple, but it doesn't actually make sense.

      Deliberately selling second rate phones and refusing to update them only leads to angry, unsatisfied customers and increased churn. HOW is unhappiness with your current phone an argument in favor of getting another phone from the same carrier? It isn't, it's an argument for going to another carrier.

      It is NOT in the carrier's interests to not update phones.

      Whatever the reason might be for why Android phones aren't getting updated it is NOT because carriers think they profit from it, they can't.
      Doctor Demento
  • Sometimes it's the handset manufacturers as well!

    My wife's Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro phone which she got a month after I got my 3GS in Feb 2010 only runs 2.1. This was an update to what the phone shipped with (1.6). She got it right after they released it - it was updated to 2.1 in OCTOBER 2010.

    This was released with considerable fanfare, SE trumpets the fact it won the European Mobile Phone 2010-2011 award, yet they have stated it will not get any further updates, despite considerable outcry from customers. The reasoning is that the hardware can't take it, yet as noted in AKH's article, groups such as CyanogenMod have managed to get 2.3 running on this phone. The only thing is due to its diminutive size, it needs the custom SE interface on top - no biggie from a coding point of view, it just needs to be rebuilt for the 2.3 OS version. Except SE won't do it. They point blank refuse, to the point of telling customers to "stop asking - it's not going to happen". (That's on the SE Product Blog).

    My 3GS on the other hand is on iOS5 now, and will probably take all the point updates, stopping short of iOS6. It's a little sluggish on the latest release (to be expected with an initial release, 4.0 was slightly problematic but subsequent updates restored the speed, and it's nowhere near as sluggish on iOS5.0 as it was on 4.0) but that will probably be fixed soon enough.

    The thing is, I KNOW I will get those updates. My wife's phone hasn't been updated now in over 10 months. That sucks. Support effectively ended for it after 8 months of release. And this isn't carrier support, it's the handset manufacturer who are to blame - they released it and then promptly orphaned it.

    I can see why, new product lines etc. but it's STILL ON SALE!!! You can still get it from several UK phone companies (Virgin, Orange etc.)!

    So it's sometimes the carrier, sometimes the manufacturer. The consumer is screwed.

    This will be the single most fanboy thing I have ever said, but: Apple got things dead right here, and Android/WP7 (as there are software to carrier concerns there as well) are living in the past. Apple made it about the customer, not about the carrier. This is how it should be and this is why they rank so highly in all customer satisfaction surveys.

    Rant over!
    • Mango rolled out smoothly

      @Ben_E It's a bit unfair to lump Windows Phone in with Android. Although they had some problems with the NoDo update, they learnt from the experience and Mango is available for all manufacturers, devices and carriers, albeit in a staged rollout over several weeks rather than the iOS-style big bang.
      • RE: 'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

        @MarkXA Accepted. I was in rant mode....

        Having said that, I do find it odd, as one thing MS definitely has over Android handsets is a minimum specification that must be adhered to. Plus, MS has a history on the desktop side of putting out updates and service packs directly to the consumer, no matter where they originally purchased their PC from. After seeing the Nokia phones on the news, I am tempted by one, but it will be hard breaking out of the Apple ecosystem!