Nexus S: Even Google can't do Android updates

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, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobility

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  • gingerbread of android is the XP of windows

    this should end well.
    • Give it another 10 weeks

      When Samsung rolls out the ICS update starting this month there will be close to 40 million devices(Galaxy SII and the like) that will instantly be eligible.

      I would compare this more to Windows RTM and then the OEM's got to work on it. However, its the carriers that are the actual villains here.

      Google wants to get it out to lessen the fragmentation. OEM's would would to get it out or they run the risk of losing to competitors that do. In the case of the Carriers, what's in to for them?
      • Samsung aren't giving it to all phones

        It would be nice if the Samsung galaxy ace that my dad got 3 weeks ago got the upgade but sadly no
  • Google phone support

    Yep, this issue is finally convinced me to get an Iphone next year, tired of hearing about wonderful software updates while I sit here with a google nexus not knowing when I will get an upgrade. Such a fragmented platform.
    • Wonderful software updates?

      You mean like the update that ruined battery life on the iPhone and didn't get fixed for several months?
      • What battey problems

        Never seen any battery problems, which iPhone and iOS versions do they affect?

        Also atleast you get the choice as to whether to update or not
      • I never had a batter issue with iOS 5...

        on my 4S. The battery is not great, but it's no worse than the Windows Phones or the Android phones around the office. But Apple did send out a new version to millions of users and then updates for the "battery" issue. Google does not seem to be able to do that...
      • What battery problems?

        aka batterygate? iPhone 4S battery problems? Seriously?
        The ones that have been all over the media. Google it. All you have to do Is use the word "batterygate". Welcome to planet Earth, btw.

        And with Android, you have the choice to upgrade or not as well.
        However, unlike with iOS, newer versions of Android require lesser hardware to run, not more horsepower. I was running 2.2 on a 3 year old MyTouch 3G with a 512mhz processor and 192meg RAM, and it ran smoother than the 1.5 it came with did.
        Compare that to user experiences running iOS4 on 3GS (our former work phones across the corporation here - we now run Android devices partially in response to that), or god help you if you tried to do that with an iPhone 3 (as my friend did).
        But Apple's code is hidden, behind a curtain (or Berlin Wall, with razor wire at the top), where Android's is open, and openly scrutinized, with an entire open source community making efficiency improvements, among other things.
      • What battery problems?

        Haven't seen a single person with battery problems, which was apparently iOS 5 related by the way not 4S related, I combined google, the ability to read and it was "all over the media" with the exception of media outlets not dedicated to tech
      • And what issues would those be?

        As I have not any issues with battery life on my iPhone but I've seen some overblown posts about the battery life on the 4S not being as good as the iPhone 4 but still being much better than any Android device. Nice try with the FUD though.
      • I DID have a 4S battery issue

        My battery life dropped sharply for a couple of days until I figured out which app was the problem and trashed it. The phone has been perfect otherwise and I am currently getting about two days per charge. I'd probably do better, but there's this Sudoku app...
      • My iPhone4S still has battery problems with iOS 5.1.

        Apple just can't get their updates right 6 months after the release of iOS5. I'm ready to throw this battery sucking iPhone4S to the wall...
    • Same here

      Ive got the new Galaxy Nexus and it is the worst phone I ever owned.

      ICS isnt that much of an improvement and then there's the hardware issues. This phone cant seem to hold a 4G signal ever--even though my LTE USB stick works fine.

      This reminds me of those premium Windows boxes sold awhile back...a lot of money for very little.
    • Haha

      Whining on the Internet is fun.
    • Google Nexus ?

      Isn't the Galaxy Nexus the latest Android device??
      What update are you waiting for ? ICS 4.03 is already on this
      device ..
      Dude, you are being sucked into the apple hype ecosphere ... pull your head out of your a$$ and come back to reality ...
  • Let me say it before anyone else does

    "There's no problems with the way that they upgrade things. You're just making it up."

    I think it's a shame, but that's what people are going to say.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • Look at the Evil Apple, which updates iPhone 3G from June of 2009 ...

      ... simultaneously with two newer models [b]on the same day[/b]. Soon it will be 3 year old device. And even iOS 5.1 works as smooth as iOS 3 (version that premiered with the phone in June of 2009).
      • Perhaps now but when 5.0 was released it screwed a lot of users with the

        battery issue. My first gen iPhone was hammered pretty badly with two of the iOS updates. Still running though.

        You on vacation for a bit? Didn't see your 'smoothing over Apple issues' posts for a while.
      • iPhone3G DOES NOT runn iOS4 or iOS5

        Apple support sucks. Even my iPhone4S, 5 months after the release of iOS5, Apple can't get the battery problem fixed.
    • No, not everybody, just toddbottom3 (or whatever alias he's using today),

      and then of course there's Peter perry who constantly purchases Apple products, (or he says he does) and then complains how terrible they are and how much better Android is..Certainly doesn't make sense to me, but whatever...