Technologizer

Will the Android Upgrade Mess Ever Get Fixed?

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Over at CNET, Casey Newton and Roger Cheng have a good story on Google’s Motorola division and its decision to renege on its pledge to update some 2011 phones from Android 2.3 Gingerbread to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Every few months, it seems, we hear a new version of an old story: the maker of an expensive smartphone announces it won’t be upgraded to the latest version of Android, and consumers cry foul.

But this one is different. First, Motorola told customers they would upgrade the phones for 18 months after they came out, a statement that drove sales of the devices. Second, Google owns both Android and Motorola, making it all the more puzzling why the business units didn’t work together to make an upgrade happen.

Finally, there are signs that for some Android devotees, Motorola’s abandonment of its year-old phones is the last straw.

To me, the interesting part of this isn’t Motorola breaking its promise — although I’d be plenty steamed if I’d bought a phone based on it — but the obvious technical difficulty of updating a phone that uses one version of Android to a new version. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have the fragmentation mess.

Google has gone from saying that upgrades didn’t matter much to encouraging phone makers to guarantee them to helping manufacturers to get to work on updates more quickly. But for now, when you buy an Android phone, you shouldn’t assume anything at all about when, or if, you’ll get an upgrade. And most of the time, most new phones aren’t running the latest version of the software. (At the moment, that’s Jelly Bean — if Motorola had gotten its 2011 phones to run Ice Cream Sandwich, they’d still be out of date.)

I understand that getting an operating system to run on hundreds of phones from a bevy of manufacturers is far tougher than making it run only on hardware you build yourself. That’s why iPhone buyers know they’ll get updates the moment a new version of iOS is ready, while Android buyers don’t know what to expect. But as I keep saying, I don’t think that Google and phone makers have the option of ignoring the problem. The longer it festers, the more often it’ll come back to bite them, and their customers.

I mean, it can’t be good for Motorola to tick off customers so badly that they go out of their way to avoid its products in the future, can it?

53 comments
declanconnolly12
declanconnolly12

Google android is planning a new version of android operating for Android Tablet and Smartphones and the name could be Key lime pie...

Terry Lam
Terry Lam

We are requiring motorola release everything including source code, SBK, unlocked bootloader of our devices. You don't update our devices to ICS, it is a fatal mistake. If you release everything regarding our devices, at lest we can develop and customize our own software!!!

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

No thanks to Motorola, I was able to flash Jelly Bean onto my Atrix. I've already decided that when looking for my next phone, "unlocked bootloader" will be one of the things to keep an eye out for.

AdamWill
AdamWill

Of course, that's if you WANT the upgrades.  I have a Nexus S, and since the upgrade to Jellybean, my text messaging is slow, glitchy, and inconsistent, and my caller id (simply identifying contacts from my phone book when they call in) has stopped working 80% of the time.  You'd think Google could do it right on its own devices.

Pic889
Pic889

"if someone needs software like the latest AOSP build they will find their way to a Nexus phone. "

You mean like how the Nexus One got stuck at 2.3, and how the Nexus S took months to receive ICS compared to the Galaxy Nexus?

Things are better with a Nexus that's for sure, but it's not a guarantee.

Essentially Google and OEMs are at the mercy of SoC (system-on-a-chip) manufacturers, that won't always release new drivers for their old SoCs.

Of course, OEMs care much less than Google, and there are those pesky UIs too that are an additional roadblock, so the Nexus line fares a bit better,

Razor Man
Razor Man

I agree it's bad to renege on an express promise, especially if the people you are reneging on are locked in a 2 year contract entered on an already obsolete (ok make that 'older') OS which was marketed with a promise of upgrade. Google throws these out a steady pace of every 3-6 months so can you imagine how dated yours will be at end of contract? Will you then buy another phone from them? I think not.

Lokifish Marz
Lokifish Marz

Clarity.

Keep in mind that the Google take over of Motorola Mobility has already occurred.

Many of the affected devices were purchased while the ICS update was posted publicly on the Motorola up chart. The update to ICS was made a selling point for a number of these devices. In good faith many purched there phone expecting that they would receive this update. On September 28th that update status was to "remain on Gingerbread".

There is a JB or $100 credit program that, as I write this, Motorola has no plans in place for non-Verizon customers in the U.S. If you live outside the U.S. then tough luck no matter what carrier you have.

For more information visit supportmymoto.com

Gene Guarin
Gene Guarin

So I guess you haven't heard the latest rumors about Android 4.2 and the Nexus Program.

"The new Nexus program has Google dictating certain hardware requirements for devices wishing to be Nexus-certified. The devices won’t need to carry the Nexus title in their name, rather it will be a stamp of approval from Google. The rumored requirements will force new smartphones to ship with stock Android and pack sufficient power to run mobile games made specifically for the Nexus brand. In addition, each Google-approved device will need to support Google Wallet through built-in NFC.

"The alleged new Customization Center provides a central place where users can change languages, backgrounds, launchers, ringtones, etc. The options can be expanded via Google Play as well, but this announcement alone is nothing more than a convenience for users who frequently play with these settings. However, there are two unique features rumored to be included: filters that modify the entire look of the UI and templates that change the appearance of all icons."But the truly drool-worthy feature is the ability to switch from custom skins like TouchWiz and Sense into stock Android through the Customization Center. If the manufacturer doesn’t provide a compatible version of its modified UI then the device defaults to stock Android. To make it crystal clear, we will no longer have to wait on manufacturers to upgrade to the latest version of Android."

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/m...

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

Will the Android Upgrade Mess Ever Get Fixed? No this was manufactured by the carriers to get people to buy newer devices.

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

Not the carriers, but the manufacturers. ATamp;T and Sprint would rather you were happily running ICS on your Atrix or Photon; remember that they get the same monthly fees no matter what generation phone you're using. Buying a subsidized new phone costs THEM money. Motorola, on the other hand, very much wants you to buy a new phone.

Ol_Jethro
Ol_Jethro

Its not just based on an OS upgrade, but the money invested into these devices and their accessories.. #motofail locked our bootloaders with a sneaky update. Unacceptable. My Atrix 4G can run any current OS from now until 2 years from now. It was one of the first dual core devices out. The fed us 18 months of empty promises to fix our buggy bloatware then suddenly slapped us in the face and said "good luck" I along with others helped Casey at C-Net with his story as i am outraged at this. Had i know prior to me buying this device i would have went with the HTC so i could root it and slap ICS or JB on it. There is nothing similiar to our situation than it was with anyone else. We got screwed and we're getting a worthless piece of paper in return #motofail

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

I wouldn't say "worthless." Excellent instructions exist online for unlocking your bootloader, installing a new recovery partition, and then flashing Jelly Bean on it. Trust me, it works; my Atrix runs Jelly Bean (MIUI version) like a frakking dream.

Lokifish Marz
Lokifish Marz

 You forgot to mention that it's not just one or two phones but eight. And about investments, try owning multiple phones,  lapdocks and hd dock. That's a lot of money lost by being pushed into yet another phone.

Ol_Jethro
Ol_Jethro

People dont quite understand ITS NOT JUST BASED ON AN OS, but rather THE MONEY INVESTED into the device and its accessories. I can understand if the devices were older or not as powerful, but that is not the case with us #motofail consumers who have been loyal to them and taking their word. my Atrix 4G which plenty capable of running any current version of Android is being left to die, after they told us for 18 months that the upgrade will fix the majority of the bugs in it. then they locked our bootloaders. without us knowing. that is unacceptable.

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

Take a look online. There are ways of unlocking the bootloaders.

Anthony Tarantino
Anthony Tarantino

How come Microsoft doesn't have any problem updating Windows PC's and Windows Phones, which also come from various manufacturers?

What's holding Google back with their updates?

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

Because Microsoft is pushing the updates out themselves: via Windows Update for your computer and via the Zune software for your Windows Phone. Google is relying on the manufacturers and carriers to do it for them. Bad idea.

Russell Hippert
Russell Hippert

"obvious technical difficulty"

I need to disagree here. A number of unpaid developers, working in their spare time, have a functional version of Jellybean running on most of the eight Motorola phones in question.

In some cases, unpaid developers have a functional version of the latest Android release weeks, and sometimes months, before the manufacturers do. Many times this is done without proper sourcecode. So if one unpaid developer can do this why can't a multinational corperation?

The developers behind the Support My Moto campaign has already put it out there. Give us the code, unlock the phones and we will fix it for you. They are still waiting for response.

Truelitistnot
Truelitistnot

Forget updating gingerbread to ICS. how about getting Froyo devices updated!

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

MIUI, Cyanogenmod or AOKP are your best bets. Research ROM-flashing.

Webstats Art
Webstats Art

I hate smartphones. I just bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII but have not even opened the box. I like the old technology devices without cameras and all the internet crap

Richard
Richard

Well I know I won't buy another moto phone The one I have has gotten zero updates is buggy as hell why should i buy another crappy phone that wont get updates?

draobtrad
draobtrad

Buy a Nexus device... and prosper?

draobtrad
draobtrad

Buy a Nexus phone.... profit.

Matthew Burgos
Matthew Burgos

This article neglects to touch on the fact that Carriers also have a big say in releasing OS upgrades. It's not in their best interest to upgrade their older models to the newest OS.

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

On the contrary, it's precisely in their interest to do so. Your monthly fees are the same either way and most US phones can only be operated on one other carrier's network. Your purchase of a subsidized brand-new phone costs the carrier money (which they recoup with the standard two-year contract). Bottom line is that if you have an Atrix and it gets updated to ICS, you're going to happily keep using it on ATamp;T's network.

Steve DiPaola
Steve DiPaola

So unlike Apple and most companies. Google writes the new OS quickly and gives the code for free to the world. At which time communities of open source developers like XDA  tailor it to a phone or community either in pure form, or many community specific variants ( like sparse and quick with good battery life, or full of extra featured).  I have a Galaxy Note and have always had the newest OS right away. currently  Jelly Bean with a community created kernel that makes is quick and strong battery life. It is not Google that is the problem but the evil Carriers ( especially in the US). So if you want the newest OS all the time, get an unlocked international version of any popular phone and get on a community forum. Done.

Cory
Cory

 That's true.  As a Photon 4G owner our international phones WERE unlocked until Motorola issued the 2.3.5 OTA "update".  That locked down our bootloaders without any prior notice.  This was all during the announced Q3 release of ICS.  They then cancelled at last minute and screwed over many of us (not just Photon owners).  If we could unlock our bootloaders and the developers has the source files/drivers etc.  They could make everyone a version much better than any crap Motorola put out on its own.  When is where a lot of the outrage is coming from.

morphoyle
morphoyle

You know why they aren't doing much about the issue? Most consumers don't know or care about the OS updates. Only people that follow tech blogs and news know about new version releases. Average consumers are pretty clueless when it comes to such things, on iOS and Android.

Updates have been an issue since Android came out, yet it still rose to become the most used mobile OS. The handset makers probably figure that they have better places to use their resources.

Raghavendra Nagaraja
Raghavendra Nagaraja

This article is really sloppy... General public is not bothered about each update and their features. Geeks who are bothered know how to upgrade their phones by rooting them.. All this is hype.

Richard
Richard

Thats not true People like there phones to work right and when phones don't get updates the bugs really start to show.  Geeks may root and put custom roms on but they are normally with problems too because they don't have source code 

Rachel
Rachel

Ditto - I came from the iPhone world.  My iPhone4 died and I simply did not want to pay $300 for Siri.  I'm used to having the latest and greatest.  I got lucky that I found a really cheap Android phone with ICS which was the latest at the time.  I am a bit of a nerd and I'm a lot more technical than the general public. However, I'm not a full on geek. I'm not about to go out and root my phone.  That looks like its too complicated and time consuming for me.  I don't speak back end or software engineering.

What I want to know is if I will have the same OS for 2 years or if it will be upgraded by the carrier. I doubt the headset manufacturer (not Motorola) will not want to make the upgrade available to force me to buy a new phone which based on their newer model would not be with them anyway. I like the one I have now but the newer one is too iPhoney (no SD slot and no removable battery).

Cory James Weston
Cory James Weston

You are a fool. The average customer doesn't even know or care about updates to the OS as far as most know their phone has the latest OS. And also problems because they don't have the source code? Wrong. Google releases the source code. Anyone can get the source code from Google for free. And 9\times out of 10 a custom rom works better

V Kain
V Kain

So your saying because you never heard of it people don't care?  I mention it because its a valid point of interest.  

I posted Cyanogen Mod as an example.  It's journalism like this, people like you that just throw aside a good idea and say "who cares".  People do care because they might read this and say "hey, you mean there is some real alternative to all of this supposed mess ignorant journalism is declaring?  "

People are uninformed, and ignorant of what is out there.  No one knows everything.  Frankly, with as much information is available out there, it helps for someone to say hey, you should google this word or google search that name.  If someone doesn't want to deal with outdated somewhere, I say, Google search android rooting.  Google search cyanogen.  

Lastly and very obviously, it's in every business' interest to market and sell.  

It is unfortunately  not in a business best interest for customers to be informed.  People do not get informed of what is out there.  "Oh there's no updates for your phone, here's a brand new phone that isn't much better but has the latest update and its yours for some cash and another contract!"

It's in an average consumers interest to get interested and to learn.  The reality is you do NOT need to buy a new device for some petty feature that can be found elsewhere.

I ask my friends these questions, and they do end up caring for what I tell them. 

Are you buying a new phone for the new, latest and greatest The Operating System?  Pre-loaded software?  Gimicky features? Why? Why?  There are free alternatives.  Ask yourself, why do I need a new phone over an old.  Can my old phone do the same thing a new phone can?  Maybe, maybe not.  A google search will answer that.

The only reasons I can see that would justify buying a new phone is if there is some HARDWARE feature that you can only get going for a new phone.  Better camera, screen, more memory, better processor.

So yes, people do care if.   People do care if I chime and possibly save them $200 and a contract nightmare.  My friends are grateful   I keep them from wasting cash and I nudge them to buy me a drink with the money they now saved.

Rachel
Rachel

V Cain assumes people know what Cyanogen Mod 9 is or care.  S/he also has to tell us to "GOOGLE Search".  As a recent refugee from the iPhone and the world of fanboy sheep, I find the bleating as amusing on the Google side of it.  It's in Google's interest to have us buy Nexuses - phones and now tablets.  

TishTash
TishTash

Richard, don't you find it amazing that the first thing both responders to your valid question each began with a childish personal insult? I guess we know the mean age of the average android user!

V Kain
V Kain

I think you are without a clue.  If your phone doesn't work right and its buggy, it's because of the bloatware thrown on the phones.  There's not a problem with android.  It's up to the carriers to provide updates to the average joe.  The tech geeks just gave up already and moved on.

I have a Samsung Galaxy S1, Sprint Epic.  It launched with Eclair, but Froyo was out.  6 months later, we started to see Froyo rolled out over the air updates.  Sprint declared the latest supported OS for the Epic would be Gingerbread 2.3 as it lacks the hardware RAM to support TouchWiz (their bloatware/UI) along side of Ice Cream Sandwhich...

I'm using Cyanogen Mod 9.  I'm running Ice Cream Sandwhich just fine thank you.

You only havean upgrade mess if you wait on your carrier.  That's not Google's fault.  Your phone is buggy?  Option 1) Cry to your carrier.  

Option 2) Deal with it.

Option 3) Google Search and learn about the various online Android communities and find out what better options there are for your phone.  

This article is just trash, the "journalist" probably has a busted phone, crying over the bugs and the lack of updates.

Richard
Richard

I was talking about the source code for the phones themselves,  not android source code.  and if non-geeks don't care about updates how come so many people updated to the new ios once it became available?

Thomas Mc
Thomas Mc

I'm PO'd that Samsung doesn't appear to have any plans to upgrade my phone from Gingerbread, even though they are still selling it. This has convinced me not to buy another Samsung phone in the future.

Estienne Lewies
Estienne Lewies

Although I agree that this is a sloppy article I have to agree with the basic premise.  I really hate the fact that Android upgrades aren't guaranteed ASAP for my Samsung devices.  

Its the only thing that keeps me from getting the new Note 2.  I just feel like the hardware of Apple and Samsung are similar (at the very least comparable), and that I care more for novelty software. 

If it weren't for this software uncertainty I wouldn't even consider the iPhone5, but I am due for an upgrade and want to be sure that the next phone I have will be relevant for the next 24 months. And to me latest software = relevant

Cory James Weston
Cory James Weston

Get a nexus phone. Nexus phones get the latest OS as soon as it is available.

Stocklone
Stocklone

The Note 2 is my top pick for Android phones as well. Since nothing is guaranteed with updates I am also considering BB10 and WP8 too.

My only hope is that Android has finally hit the revise (versus reinvent) stage of development with JB so future updates aren't critical but rather nice to have.

jnffarrell1
jnffarrell1

Only when every OEM has a Nexus version of every every device. Then OEMs will know exactly which features their skins interfer with.

Let's hope Google has enough senior talent to make 5 or 6 Nexi happen in any given quarter.

Daner Doodle
Daner Doodle

How has this come back to bite Google, ever? It can only 'bite' manufacturers who discount the value of upgrades, and if someone needs software like the latest AOSP build they will find their way to a Nexus phone. 

Maybe you should write a new article, not another 'Fragmentation: It's Bad!" piece but instead one about how much Google has worked to get software meant for any item under the sun to work like it has. You could show nuance amp; insight by focusing on each individual OEM's ability to deliver updates, or keep hoping people want to read, again, about how many versions of Android their 2 year old phone can't run.

Raider Duck
Raider Duck

It will come back to bite Google because people who are dithering between platforms for their next phone will see how Android phones are rarely updated and iPhones (and to a lesser extent, Windows Phones) are ALWAYS updated. As an Android user and fan myself, I think Google's handling of this situation is terrible.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken

I'm impressed that Android works as well as it does on as many devices as it does. How's it biting Google? Surely it's embarrassing that Motorola, which is now part of Google, said it would offer Ice Cream Sandwich and then failed to do so.

I write about this a lot for one simple reason: I find it interesting, and am surprised that the situation has festered as long as it has.

Hacker For Hire
Hacker For Hire

Harry, we both know the Motorola phones that are not being upgraded or the recent phones announced that were already in the Motorola pipleline are not Google's fault. They were the fault of a mismanaged Motorola company.  If you're going to criticize the new Google Motorola then do it based on the phones designed and developed with Google at the helm.

Don Turnbull
Don Turnbull

 What I don't understand is why the media isn't screaming about the insane way we handle the sales and marketing of these devices.   The fact is that it makes about as much sense letting the phone companies sell us phones as it would letting road construction companies sell us cars.

Someday (hopefully soon), we will buy our phones on the open market and contract with cell providers for service on those phones.   This will make the phones stronger, cheaper, and more responsive to the end user.   This would also force the cell companies to concentrate on providing services and value to their customers based on the features and capabilities of their networks and not on renaming a phone that all their competitors offer under their own names.

In ANY other country in the world, you can buy a SIM card, plug it into a compatible phone, and get a wide range of services.   The phone can be one you've had for years or the best smartphone on the market.  Stop buying our "cars" form the "road crews" and we'll be a lot happier with them.

hot_pants
hot_pants

I'm going to have to call you an idiot if you're really going to write a long winded comment that compares something as universal and straightforward as building flat roads and streets to incredibly complicated wireless phone networks and the infrastructure/coordination they entail.

Benjamin Han
Benjamin Han

I agree. This article screams of lazy journalism.