Sometimes you just have to know when to throw in the towel.
Although I have flirted with a number of different types of tablets running different operating systems over the past few years and continue to examine all the different options that exist in the mobile space, since November of 2009, I've been exclusively an Android smartphone user.
In that time I've gone from the original Motorola Droid to the Droid Bionic, and now the Galaxy Nexus. I've seen the Android OS improve considerably and continue to be impressed by the innovations that each successive version brings to the table.
I have always liked the fundamental concept of Android -- an Open Source smartphone and tablet operating system that could be used on a variety of manufacturers devices with varying feature sets that gives consumers the added benefit of choosing exactly what product suits their specific needs.
Android also provides for the additional openness of having 3rd-party App Stores that suit the needs of different types of customers if the Google Android Market (Now Google Play) doesn't fit the bill.
And of course, there is also the ability for the base OS itself to be modified as well as the ability to side-load applications of your own design for use in vertical markets.
But at the same time, my tolerance for how Google loosely manages its ecosystem and has allowed the platform to mutate and fragment and permit its OEMs and Carriers to abandon its users by not providing timely updates to their handsets and tablets has made my blood boil.
Back in October of last year, I wrote a impassioned response to James Kendrick's piece "After iPhone 4S, Android Just Feels Wrong."
In that article I cited many of the strengths of Android -- the openness, the flexibility, the relative independence the user has from otherwise highly controlled ecosystems of its competitors. But I also addressed the flaws, ones I thought were eventually going to be ironed out with future OS releases and improved management of the Android ecosystem.
And at the time, I thought the strengths of Android vastly outweighed the flaws.
I've come to the conclusion that in an ideal world, the idea of an Android OS, application and manufacturer ecosystem that is perfectly managed would indeed make it the strongest of all the mobile OS offerings.
However, the reality is that we're not living in an ideal world, and the flaws are seriously hampering qualitative advancements such as OS stability, overall platform standardization and maintenance, all of which ultimately have a negative impact on Android's users and application developers.
When it came time for my two phone contracts to renew on Verizon, I had decided within a span of a few months to purchase the Motorola Droid Bionic and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
I had believed both of these devices would be well-supported by Google and would be most resistant to the fragmentation and carrier bloatware issues, as the first device was being made by a company that was about to be acquired by Google, and the second being the flagship Google Experience handset device for Ice Cream Sandwich.
In both cases, I turned out to be wrong. Motorola has promised for months to update the balance of its 2011 and 2012 handset lineup to Ice Cream Sandwich, but has of yet failed to deliver any such updates except for on the Motorola Xoom tablet, which is a Google Experience and developer reference device.
And in the case of Samsung, there have been a number of bugfix iterations released for Ice Cream Sandwich by Google, none of which have been deployed to the Verizon Galaxy Nexus so far.
Samsung's update record across their entire handset and tablet product line has been almost as abysmal as Motorola's. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has yet to be updated to the latest Android release, and in the case of the Nexus S, the previous flagship Google Experience handset, the Ice Cream Sandwich update was rolled out and then backed out due to technical problems, and owners have been waiting for months for it to resume again.
These are representative of the conditions from just the two top Android handset and tablet manufacturers that produce the highest profile devices which should be getting priority updates. At the second and third tier manufacturers, things are considerably worse in terms of existing device support.
[UPDATE, March 28, 6:30PM EST: Google has begun rolling out Android 4.0.4 updates for selected Nexus and Wi-Fi Motorola XOOM hardware, but not the Verizon LTE Galaxy Nexus yet.]
So the bottom line is, as a consumer, how much is one willing to tolerate this? If someone like me who is an astute observer of the industry has to do such intense research on which Android device to buy based on the potential for ongoing support and then ends up getting burned in the process, what is the average consumer to do?
So I've decided that unless major improvements occur in the management of the Android ecosystem by Google in the next year, and if conditions for supporting handsets by the Tier 1 OEMs and main US wireless carriers do not improve dramatically, the Galaxy Nexus and the Droid Bionic are going to be my last Android smartphones.
And I've also decided that until the support situation substantially improves, I am no longer going to recommend Android-based products to my friends, family and colleagues. I'll point them towards Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone instead. At least with these platforms, you're guaranteed core OS updates and bugfixes for the length of your contract.
I'm simply sick to death of putting up with all of these issues that seem to have no end in sight.
What I end up migrating to personally after my current contact is up I have no idea at this point, because it is some 20 months away. But I'm awfully tempted to put my Galaxy Nexus up for sale, bite the bullet, and pay full price for an iPhone 4S and a MiFi to handle my LTE 4G tethering needs when I travel. That's just how frustrated I am at this point with the entire situation.
Are you also sick to death of Android's problems and considering moving to iOS or Windows Phone? Talk Back and Let Me Know.