Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

Summary: Only one company can save Android users from years more of update hell ... Google.

TOPICS: Android, Google

There's no doubt that when it comes to updates, the Android platform is in a mess. While this mess doesn't seem to be throwing the brakes on activations, it does mean that existing Android users are being screwed out of the ability to run the latest version of Google's mobile OS.

Why? Well, my ZDNet colleagues have differing views. James Kendrick believes that it's all about the money, while Ed Bott sees it as a business model problem. I tend to think that it's a mixture of both issues. Money, of course, comes into the equation, but the business model factors of binding contracts and subsidized handsets compounds the problem.

But who can solve this update problem?

Only one company can save Android users from years more of update hell ... Google.

So, how can Google fix this mess? Is it by tightly controlling the handset hardware like Microsoft and Apple currently does? Or is it by adopting virtualization, like my colleague Jason Perlow suggests? No, it's far simpler than that.

Far, far simpler.

Google needs to market OS updatability as a key selling feature of its Nexus line of handsets. Furthermore, Google needs to guarantee that all Nexus handsets will be upgradable to the next major Android release.

Doing this would accomplish two things;

  • It would give people who want an easy route to upgrading an easy choice when it came to choosing an Android handset.
  • This move would put pressure on other hardware manufacturers to follow suit.

To make this work Google would need to do several things:

Come on Google, help make updating Android handsets easier for owners! Only you can do that!


Topics: Android, Google

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  • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

    If Zdnet says it's a mess, it's a mess.
    • Thanks for the insight

      I don't know where we'd be without such keen analysis from the community.
      • Thank zdnet for the insight

        @macadam <br><br>The community won't take credit<br>[/sarcasm]<br>
    • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

      @Return_of_the_jedi It really isn't a mess. People just need to assume that, like everything else they own, what they see is what they get. You buy a phone running Android version whatever, that's what it is. There's no inherent guarantee that you're going to be getting new features for free at some point in the future. That's how it works with cars, mp3 players, watches, routers, DVRs and probably every other device they have that runs software, including their phones before the smartphone began taking off a few years ago.
      • They did assume that and were living with it until apple showed them they

        didnt have to. And then WP pushed the envelope further and showed even with mulitple oems you dont have to live with that any longer. There is a new higher bar now for smartphone expectations and android doesnt meet it.
        Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

        @jgm@... <br><br>The more powerful and the more capable these "smart" devices get (pc in your pocket), the more likelihood something will break and require updates. <br><br>Apple set the update standard years ago with their iPods and continued with the iPhone in 2007. Took many of the controls away from the carriers and dropped it on their users lap. Updates came directly from Apple not the carriers. Yet ever since 2007, Google and Android fanatics have walked us a few steps backwards, handing control back to carriers. Now I am hearing users are not to expect updates when they have a device that's more powerful than a full blown PC a few years ago in their pockets. Sigh!
      • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess


        I agree, there's no guarantee, but don't you find it a little ironic that the platform that touts itself as "open" and criticizes (or at least it's fanbase does) others of being closed is itself so closed when it comes to getting the latest and greatest version?

        We don't expect that from other products because the software on those devices isn't front and center, which is the polar opposite of a smart phone. Without software, there would be no "smart" in smart phone. When I'm installing a apps left and right and getting notifications that there are free updates available to these apps, it's perfectly reasonable for me to expect that when I hear about an Android OS upgrade, I might actually get it, compatibility permitting of course. I mean, Google, the OEMs, the carriers and the fanbase are all touting how "open" Android is, aren't they?
      • "Open" is for "Open Source License"


        People need to get over the quoted open ("open") critique of Android. Open means: Distributed under an open-source license. For a detailsed description read the Open Source Definition:
        Android is distributed under the Apache license for the most part (considered an open-source licence by the Open Source Initiaive:, and GPL for the kernel, inherited from the Linux kernel (thanks to Linus Torvalds). Google always publishes the Android kernel (even Honeycomb) because they are bound by the GPL to do so. They may choose not to publish the userspace software source because the Apache license allows them to do so; so far Google only exercised that privilege with Honeycomb, yet all of Honeycomb became public as part of the ICS release, so little was lost by the Open Source community.
        So there you have it, the "open" or "not open" discussion may be put to rest. [/wishful thinking]
      • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

        @jgm@... Is that why my wife's old iPhone 3GS is running iOS 5 and my friends 1st gen iPad runs iOS 5? Face it, in the mobile market, Apple still sets the bar and the standard. I love Android and I've been an Android customer since the G1 and have had about 4 other Android phones up to my current Evo 3D. However, I also think the software upgrade path with Android and our devices is crap compared to Apple and even (from what I understand) Microsoft. Geez, even WebOS updates better across their few devices.
    • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

      @Return_of_the_jedi Yep, that's the way it is... ZDNET often makes claims that aren't true regarding Androind and to show just how small they've become in the Tech World, Android continues to grow in ever increasing measure!
    • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

      Where's the Nexus One ICS update? Google can't even update their own hardware.

      As to the so called crapware, it's always deliberately ignored that plenty love TouchWiz and Sense, Sense especially.
    • It can get messy.

      @Return_of_the_jedi <br><br> [b] 700,000 Android activations a day can get messy [/b]
    • Duplicate, Deleted

      Duplicate, Deleted
    • Duplicate, Deleted

      Duplicate, Deleted
  • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

    So what I'm reading in posts from ZDNet writers (yourself, Perlow, Bott, and Kendrick) is that perhaps Apple and Microsoft have it right by enforcing their business model onto the carriers and the hardware manufacturers. This not because they have a much better product but because they have much better control over what the underlying system is, and that makes it easier to continue to develop the system. To me, I'll give up the freedom of Android to have a seemless experience and not have to purchase a new total cost $500 device every two years. I hope that Apple and Microsoft continue to make it easier for the consumer even if it irritates the carriers and handset manufacturers.
    • Wanna bet?

      You'll still get a new device every two years most likely.
      • Maybe but "most likely" means you the consumer has a choice

        @rhonin ... Any other term would point to a distinctive lack of choice.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

        @rhonin Ha,ha,you're right.
  • Android was designed with keeping carriers in control.

    If you watch the original videos when Android was released, significant parts were spent on "providing handset makers and carriers a platform to add value". This really means:

    "Android is being provided as a platform to shovel on skins and crapware."

    This goes back to: Google has no reason to fix this mess. It is in their interest to keep it that way.
    • RE: Only Google can sort out the Android update mess

      @Bruizer <br><br>Andy Rubin:<br><br>[i]"If I were to release an operating system that I claimed was open and that forced everybody to make [phones] all look the same and all support very narrow features and functionality, the platform wouldnt win. It wouldnt win because the OEMs have a lot of value to bring and the carriers have a lot of value to bring, and they need a vehicle by which to put their interesting differentiating features on these things."<br><br>"As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices. This enables device makers to support the unique and differentiating functionality of their products."[/i]<br><br>It was clear from the beginning who's priority for Google, the OEMs and Carriers.</i>