'Consumers get screwed' by lack of Android updates

Seven of the eighteen Android phones have never run a current version of the Android OS.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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