Every time Google released an update or upgrade to their smartphone OS, Android, the race is on for who can get it on their existing handsets the quickest. Invariably the first to have it installed and running is the dev community over on XDA and there’s a simple reason for this. People who build the custom ROMs know exactly what they want – functionality – and how it needs to look – functional. Compared to this the manuacturers are bound by their own chains. More specifically, each manufacturer has their own user interface overlays which need to be perfect or close to it to avoid damaging their carefully branded image. Not only does the OS have to work properly on each of their devices. It also has to integrate with a UI overlay which will have been designed for older but not necessarily less powerful hardware. It’s because of this shoehorning effect that users receive their updates within handset-defined groups.
Google has been hard at work for some time on their fourth version of Android called IceCream Sandwich. As with every other version released thus far, many new handsets are shipping with ICS installed while users of existing handsets wait for the manufacturers to roll it out across their range of existing devices. JR Raphael over at ComputerWorld Blog has just published his scorecard for the various manufacturers.
B-minus –> HTC
C –> Google
C-minus –> Samsung
D –> Motorola
F –> Huawei, Notion Ink
In explaining why Google was given a grade of C, Raphael wrote:
While Google doesn’t tend to promise explicit upgrade dates for its devices, the company has trained us to know that its Nexus and “Google experience” labels come with certain benefits, and early-and-often upgrades are at the top of that list. On the one hand, the number of devices Google directly supports has grown considerably over the last year, particularly when you factor in all the unique region/carrier-based variants. On the other hand, it’s still Google’s job to support those devices — regardless of what it takes. When it comes to ICS rollouts this quarter, there’s no question Google has left a lot of people feeling let down.
There is a third party in this process that also affects when users receive updates. That 3rd party is the carriers themselves. After waiting while their handset manufacturers perfect the interface and optimise the OS for their devices, a subsequent delay is incurred by each carrier wanting to sell handsets that want its own suite of software, skin overlays and apps included in the UI. Fortunately, both unbranded handsets and those branded but running the manufacturer’s generic ROMs installed are kept out of this process. For users wanting to limit their exposure to delays in OS upgrades to Google and the manufacturer only, online retailers like MobiCity are a great port of call.