Up above here you have the graphic heading around the Internet today made by Michael DeGusta at the Understatement.com. While some of it is unfair/sloppy – He says the Nexus One was hanging back because it didn’t have Android 2.2 when it was announced, but that was a beta period before the final version was released – that’s like saying no iPhones had iOS 5 for 4 months back when iOS 5 was announced in June, Also the Samsung behold isn’t the most expensive Android phone offered ever on T-Mobile – the point is still valid
Overall it does serve to demonstrate the major problem with the Android ecosystem. The motivations of the carriers and manufacturers are short term gains and keeping customers by locking them into proprietary overlays. As DeGusta says:
It appears to be a widely held viewpoint3 that there’s no incentive for smartphone manufacturers to update the OS: because manufacturers don’t make any money after the hardware sale, they want you to buy another phone as soon as possible. If that’s really the case, the phone manufacturers are spectacularly dumb: ignoring the 2 year contract cycle & abandoning your users isn’t going to engender much loyalty when they do buy a new phone. Further, it’s been fairly well established that Apple also really only makes money from hardware sales, and yet their long term update support is excellent (see chart).
In other words, Apple’s way of getting you to buy a new phone is to make you really happy with your current one, whereas apparently Android phone makers think they can get you to buy a new phone by making you really unhappy with your current one. Then again, all of this may be ascribing motives and intent where none exist – it’s entirely possible that the root cause of the problem is just flat-out bad management (and/or the aforementioned spectacular dumbness).
It is true. I’ve spoken to Mobile reps who have said that they don’t think their customers want to go through the trouble of updating (most wouldn’t even notice). I’ve talked to hardware manufacturers who’ve said that their overlays are better than getting Android updates. I can’t tell if they believe what thy are saying because this is coming from a PR rep that is being paid to say what the company line is. But the point is it is a big problem.
This lagging of updates leads to all kinds of problems, especially for new apps and features which can’t be made to work with the small percentage of users on the latest OS.
But what can Google do to solve this? Originally, the Nexus phones were supposed to show everyone how it was done by having a clean experience and quick updated. But carriers and amnufacturers couldn’t subsidze the price with Bloatware or put their own apps on the devices so they don’t get promoted at retail stores where most Americans pick up their phones.
So, I think Google took the next step — they bought a manufacturer, Motorola (who incidentally was one of the worst at bloatware and failing to keep their phones up to date).
There are already signs that things are getting better. Sony, once notorious for being way behind the curve started selling its high end devices with the latest OS earlier this year. Asus, Motorola and Samsung were all quick to note that their devices would get Android 4.0 ICS updates by the end of the year. Being up to date has become important.
IT remains to be seen how up to date these devices get, but the only way you are safe is getting a Nexus device – and even then you aren’t entirely safe- Google announced that the original Nexus One wouldn’t be eligible for ICS earlier this week.