Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

Summary: Samsung is raising the ire of some existing customers with word that Android 4.0 won't be ported to older handsets. In spite of the official reason, I believe it's all about the money.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Android, Google
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Android is a giant mobile platform that evolves at a fast pace, and along with each new major version comes confirmation from the OEMs that not every product in existence will be getting that shiny new OS update. Most recently is the word that Samsung will not be bringing Android 4.0 to the Galaxy S nor the Galaxy Tab. What really has folks irked is that the reason Samsung is throwing out there is that the new version of Android won't fit alongside the company's TouchWiz customizations. That may be the official party line from Samsung but I believe it is really all about the money.

Companies like the goodwill they get from existing customers when they support products for a while, but in the end it doesn't get them much. Fact is, if OEMs keep updating older devices with new versions of Android it is more likely those customers won't buy another gadget any time soon. That's the churn that OEMs depend on to keep sales hopping.

Another side of the update coin for OEMs is the support costs. It is not cheap to get the new version of Android ready to put on an existing handset, nor to start supporting that version going forward. It is like taking on an entirely new support system for each version of the OS, and that is surely expensive.

Like all customers I want my gadgets to have the latest and greatest version of Android, to feel like I am getting my money's worth. I own a Galaxy Tab and I certainly wish it was getting Android 4.0, but Samsung says that is not going to happen. I don't like the decision, but I understand it from a cost standpoint.

Many mainstream consumers don't follow this stuff, and probably aren't even aware of the new version of Android, much less want to get it. For those more tech-savvy, don't overlook the outstanding homebrew community that probably has Android 4.0 coming to a device near you. My Nexus S 4G is slated to get Android 4.0 at some point, but I have already put a custom ROM on my handset from the homebrew crew. Not that I recommend that avenue for everyone, but if it's a big deal to you, wink, wink.

Image credit: Flickr user abulhussain

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google

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  • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

    Good write up JK.
    Return_of_the_jedi
  • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

    Another of the many reasons to avoid all things Google.
    cantbeme
    • Should be: Samsung updates: It's all about the money

      @cantbeme - It's not Google, it's Samsung. Samsung has a long history of abandoning their products. I bought a absurdly overpriced Samsung PDA a decade ago, and the Windows OS updated 6 weeks later. Samsung refused to update, despite a rather large petition effort that made the press. Other manufacturers do this too, but most would respond to a sufficiently large movement. Find out which manufacturers/carriers support their products the best, and go with them even if the device isn't quite the best. A product is never top of the line more than a few months, but you'll probably be stuck with it for at least 2 years. The updates become the big deal as soon as the phone is no longer the hottest, so it's the updates that will make you happy in the long run.
      dunmerbob
      • It's both

        @dunmerbob Samsung wants to push new hardware and Google doesnt make it easy to update. Perhaps Google could take the time to make Android more modular so that pieces could be left out and then make updates available on its own, bypassing the carriers and OEM's.
        otaddy
      • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

        @otaddy<br><br>Not getting you.. Modular? Google make Android easier?<br>Huh? Even if there is no guarantee these were not modded.<br>I can root and load a bare ICS and the Samsung phone still works on AT&T just great.<br>This is all about the OEM and Carrier mods, not Google and the Android design.
        rhonin
      • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

        @dunmerbob

        Simply saying that it is not the fault of Google denies a problem. This is a continuing problem with Android. Too often, the only way to upgrade an Android device is to buy a new one. Sure, this is not google's fault, but it remains a problem with Droid devices.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • Habiloso, now that Google is owner of Motorola

        @Habiloso
        [i]the only way to upgrade an Android device is to buy a new one[/i]

        I imagine the idea of how they update could, and very well may change. Theoreticly, Google could allow other devices the ability to update, while Motorola devices would not. In this sense users would continue to upgrade current HTC hardware, while purchasing new Motorola hardware.

        Timing the release of any update along the timeline of new releases of Motorola handset, as opposed to when the release is actually deployable could help in this scenerio.

        :|
        Tim Cook
      • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

        @otaddy: Android is modular. It's Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense that take up all the room. They've both got access to the source code, it can't be more modular than that.
        bradavon
      • Its not Google? Wrongo.

        @dunmerbob

        Wake up dude. Google supplies the OS. I've seen plenty of people blame Microsoft for the fact that PC manufacturers charge for Windows even for those who are going to install Linux. Now your going to try and say that Googles not to blame where they have entered into deals where manufacturers simply shut out updates because it will cost them?

        Sorry pal, read a little and you will soon see its time to migrate to Windows phone 7.
        Cayble
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      Hardly.<br><br>Apple may do things different with iOS but iOS is the exception. Mac OS X upgrades aren't free and in any other field we don't get upgrades at all. My PVR (except bug fixes) has never got an update, certainly not to the software being run on the companies latest PVR.<br><br>The Galaxy S is now old and crucially Samsung can't equip a smartphone with more storage space if it hasn't got enough. The Galaxy S got Froyo and Gingerbread remember, which is more than many 2010 smartphones got.

      Techies may prefer Samsung ditch TouchWiz in favour of ICS but that would make it look very different and something the average user wouldn't want. HTC had the same problem with Gingerbread on the Desire. They managed to make it work with Sense just about but only because of the uproar.
      bradavon
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      @cantbeme I guess I should avoid all things Apple as well. I have an original iPhone and I cannot get the latest iOS on it, the last version for it was 3.x. I also have an iPhone 4, but can I get Siri? No. Apple has the same update problems that Android has, there are just a lot more phone makers and users for Android so the problem seems bigger.

      This is a problem that has plagued all electronics from the beginning of time. No one is immune.
      ryanmc
      • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

        @ryanmc no, this is not a problem on the iOS platform. The original iPhone is from 2007, so after 4 years most users probably upgraded.

        The iPhone 4 still has the latest iOS version, but only with missing one feature. This is entirely different from the Android platform where most phones are two to three versions behind the latest version.

        BTW, the iPhone 3GS launched in 2009 still has the latest iOS version. I wonder how many Android phones from 2009 can say the same...
        Ashm1r
      • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

        @ryanmc

        There's absolutely no way you can compare an original iPhone not getting iOS 5 with an Android phone you got 6 months ago not getting ICS. Apple makes their upgrades available to end users with compatible hardware, allowing the user to install without jailbreaking. Google leaves it up to the OEMs/carriers, who more often than not, ignore it because it would deter phone (hardware upgrades), plain and simple, meaning users more often than not have to root to get the latest and greatest, even if their hardware is compatible with the latest and greatest.

        It still blows my mind that Android fans criticize the iOS5/4S/Siri as a ploy to spur hardware upgrades even though iOS5 is compatible with older hardware and Siri's final compatibility is still undertermined (beta), when at the same time, most Android OEMs abandon their users in terms of OS upgrades the second the customer walks out the door with his/her shiny new Android.
        TroyMcClure
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      @cantbeme http://www.zdnet.com/photos/nokia-lumia-710-t-mobile-hands-on/6333430#comments
      sreeseche
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      @cantbeme Google runs Samsung now? Oh they don't? You're trolling? Thought so.
      Nathan A Smith
  • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

    That simply confirmed that my next Android device will not be a Samsung... Android is a decent OS but if the Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate is an example of how Samsung makes their devices then I'll be getting an HTC or Motorola device next time.
    athynz
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      @Pete "athynz" Athens
      Maybe try a Nexus S. They run 150 dollars on eBay and ics flies on them.
      Nathan A Smith
  • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

    Android users have options, such as rooting our phones and installing whatever OS we want with the caveat that we accept the risks and resulting incompatibilities, etc.

    Of course it's about the money. Everything is. It's called business. Those who don't make money are typically called "out of business". I bought an HTC phone with an Android 2.x installed. I don't feel entitled to have HTC provide and support 3.x or 4.x on my device at no cost anymore than I feel M$ should upgrade me from XP to Win 7 at no cost. (Vista however, well maybe we could debate that one ;)
    predmond
    • RE: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money

      @predmond I agree with most of what you say. The difference in my mind is that HTC does not lock down their devices and overlay as much as Samsung (the two nexus phones not included). I had a Galaxy S but I went back to HTC. I was finding that custom ROMs for the galaxy s 4G were basically just the stock touchwiz rom with stuff added in or taken out. For my HTC phone, I can go with the stock rom which has Sense 2.0 on it or I can update to sense 3 or run vanilla android or even run MIUI.

      I would really like it if OEMs would leave their devices completely open or at least charge a premium for a completely open device. It seems like users either don't care about having the latest version or know enough about the devices to root it and install what they want.
      redhaven
      • With Android, it seems like there's a new phone every minute

        @redhaven You buy one and 5min later, a new phone is out. Motorola released so many mediocre devices in 2011. And instead of fixing issues--or better yet, releasing a polished product--they just push out a new device and hope everyone will forget the last turd.
        otaddy