Android has long been plagued by a lack of timely operating system and security updates. According to Bloomberg, Google may finally be cracking down on the problem through a variety of methods, including a publication of a list that ranks OEMs.
The report delves into why the update process is so complicated. Announced last August, not all OEMs are pushing monthly security patches. While large partners like LG and Samsung have committed to the monthly patches, even they have trouble maintaining the schedule for all phones. Smaller, struggling OEMs like HTC have called the monthly time frame “unrealistic” while Motorola is now targeting quarterly updates instead of twice a year patches.
Even if OEMs get on board, carriers are a bottleneck to the process. Testing these updates, even minor security ones, “can cost several hundred thousand dollars for each model”. Bloomberg reports that it takes Verizon months and Sprint 12 weeks to make sure updates don’t disrupt cellular networking. As a result of prodding from Google and customers, Verizon has reduced the process by a matter of weeks while Sprint is now aiming for a few weeks.
Google is trying to convince carriers to not run security patches through the full suite of tests. In addition to making new features apps versus system-level functionality, the company created a list that ranks OEMs based on timely security patches and operating system versions. The list is already circulated internally to partners, but Google might also make it public to add more pressure and to reward good device vendors.