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Android Cellphones

Android Update Alliance Already Struggling 364

Posted by Soulskill
from the actions-speak-louder-than-words dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Earlier this year many Android phone vendors and U.S. wireless carriers made a long-awaited promise, which was to push timely OS updates to all new Android phones. Seven months in and especially with the release of Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), PCMag decided to reach out to all those vendors and wireless carriers to see how things were coming along. Brace yourselves Android fans, you're not going to like the responses."
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Android Update Alliance Already Struggling

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  • "Pledges" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DanTheStone (1212500) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:14PM (#38401530)
    Why is anyone surprised? A pledge, not backed up by, say, a money-back guarantee, is meaningless. If these people could get a refund for their phones if they weren't updated, the "pledge" would have teeth. This is why nobody trusts companies who pledge not to sue over patents. This is why people didn't trust AT&T about their merger pledges. Pledges are just for PR and they mean nothing.
  • Fragmentation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:15PM (#38401544)

    Android is more like a collection of related but not entirely compatible operating systems. The inability to have a consistent version of the operating system across current smartphones is really surprising for something that's supposed to be an open source project, but one of the big drawbacks of Android is how much control Google gives the carriers over your phone.

  • Re:"Pledges" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:17PM (#38401588)
    If Google actually did something regarding Android things would be much better. This is exactly the reason why you cannot just throw something out and expect companies to do what you intended. Google needs to set certain rules regarding using Android on mobiles, and that includes updating your phones. Manufacturers aren't going to that otherwise because it means lost profits. But Google is incompetent, so they will not do that. You can even leave the source open, just demand that companies respect those rules if they want to use the trademark Android.
  • by pdxer (2520686) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:18PM (#38401598)

    It seems to me that phone vendors have not changed their mindset from the pre-smartphone era. Back then, no one cared about OS or version. You got an integrated product and it never changed. Today, it feels like phone makers still think "we put it together and ship it - this idea of later changing or upgrading the software is kind of weird to us."

    To them, a phone is complete and unchangeable one it leaves the factory. Alas for their mindset, consumers see phones as customizable, upgradeable devices. If they were $50 each, sure, just replace it, but at $500+ (even if it's stretched over two years), people are making a more significant investment and don't want to be left behind.

  • Re:"Pledges" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:23PM (#38401656)

    Yeah, except then Android would just be another proprietary cell phone OS.

    That's not an actual argument; it's just a label you're attaching to the idea of quality control. Platforms need leadership or they descend into chaos. Look at desktop Linux.

  • Another iPhone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RogerWilco (99615) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:24PM (#38401680) Homepage Journal

    And this is the main reason why my next smartphone will be another iPhone. I have a bit of lock-in because of my existing apps, but that's less than $100, so I would not mind switching to something more free. Currently I'm still on my 2.5 years old iPhone 3GS, for as least as long as it still gets updates and the battery is good.

    Stories like this give me very little in Android, Google might lose to Microsoft what it gained the last couple of years very quickly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:28PM (#38401722)

    Irrelevant. The kernel isn't the issue, the applications require a certain level of hardware to work effectively. If that wasn't enough, all these companies are in the business of selling new units, not keeping old tech going on the latest OS and applications.

    Apple do the same, they just have a tiny selection of devices and only churn a single model (storage options vary) once a year, or thereabouts. These other companies have a shotgun approach and have to compete on function/price between themselves, not on whether it has a fruit badge on the back. No mobile device company wants their current gen tech to last longer than the next incarnation. Just look the the home PC market to see where that leads. Sooner of later the tech is sufficient for the vast majority of people. We're a way off this with mobile tech, but it can't be far away. Quad core CPUs out in a few months, 1GB RAM in a fucking phone, plenty of storage for most people, screen of all sizes from the tiny iphone's up to near slate sizes. Two years, three? Not long that's for sure.

  • Re:Fragmentation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RogerWilco (99615) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:30PM (#38401742) Homepage Journal

    The same is true for Linux isn't it?

    From a software vendor point, it's one of the main reasons not to develop for such a platform. Supporting multiple Windows versions is already a pain for a smaller software developer.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:39PM (#38401884)
    The solution to that is not "let Google control things instead!" The solution is to start freeing cell phones from restrictions, so that people can upgrade the OS themselves. People should not be forbidden from upgrading their phone's software any more than they should be forced to do so -- just like nobody is forced to upgrade the software on their PC if they do not want to (and plenty of people have reasons for not wanting to upgrade). Instead of talking about how to give Google control over everyone's Android phone, we should be talking about ways to give the users themselves control.
  • Re:Another iPhone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrops (927562) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:39PM (#38401888)

    People are stupid. They compare any android device to iPhone. If you really want an alternative, stick to the Nexus series. I have had Nexus one and just upgraded to Galaxy Nexus. Carriers have no control, they are not even allowed to lock it. Google is in complete control. Don't go with any other Android phone, stick to Nexus.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:39PM (#38401896)
    Yes. Thats why Apple release Siri for older phones. Its because they dont want you to buy the latest iProduct.

    Oh wait...
  • Re:"Pledges" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:41PM (#38401918) Homepage Journal

    Google needs to set certain rules regarding using Android on mobiles, and that includes updating your phones.

    They do. If you want a phone like that, buy a Nexus.

  • by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:42PM (#38401952)

    Are you seriously trying to push the argument that the iPhone is not locked down? Really?

    Um, the very sentence you quoted specifically states that Steve Jobs pushed for "full control over the OS," so obviously, he was talking about wresting control away from the carriers so that you're not going through a chain of phones all the time to catch up with the new OS. In fact, it's a credit to Apple that they push out updates for older phones; the two-year-old iPhone 3GS is still selling well.

    How do you even pronounce "fanboism?"

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:44PM (#38401972)

    Owning 30% of the market while only selling two generation models at any one time is hardly a failure for Apple. Considering that there are dozens upon dozens of different Android models it's only natural they'd have more market share.

  • by somersault (912633) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:45PM (#38401984) Homepage Journal

    This has little to do with Google, the exception being for hand sets that Google made themselves. Would you blame MS if HP didn't release Win7 drivers for old printers for example?

  • Re:Fragmentation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:52PM (#38402076)

    I've always loved that argument. It's like saying McDonald's shouldn't improve its food because it's the most popular restaurant, or that Justin Bieber is a better artist than Mozart because he sells more music per year.

  • Re:"Pledges" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:54PM (#38402114)

    You cannot have a good OS if there isn't someone who organizes and runs things, and that includes providing updates to older phones.

    So who is pushing out the updates for GNU/Linux then? You know, the OS that is widely used (at least in servers, supercomputers, and other demanding computing environments) and whose core components are maintained by dozens of different organizations? Yeah, you can have a good OS without having one entity controlling everything; there are numerous Linux distros out that there help keep packages up-to-date on their users' systems, and they each have different ideas on how to do that.

    In the real world no one actually cares if the mobile OS is open source or not

    They certainly do, they just do not use the terms "open source" or "free software." People do generally care about the fact that their phones will not allow them to do the things they want to do, just not enough to become experts on how to hack a phone and avoid the restriction systems.

    for majority of people using a proprietary OS isn't "taking a step backward".

    Probably because the majority of people are already using a locked-down cell phone that restricts what they are able to do. Go take someone's jailbroken phone and exchange it for one that is locked down and cannot be jailbroken, and I am pretty sure you will hear them complaining about it.

  • Re:Another iPhone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:56PM (#38402148) Homepage Journal

    I don't know... the lousy Apple III bug with the chips popping out is why I don't buy Apple stuff like the iPhone. I mean, I always judge a buying decision on the worst example within a large class of products, just like you.

    Psst... Android isn't a phone, it's an OS available on many products from many companies. Plenty of Android phones are regularly updated and have good hardware. This is about the market of all Android phones, and as you tend to buy *one* phone, rather than the entire market, it doesn't actually apply to any specific individual, but rather the marketplace as a whole.

  • by rivaldufus (634820) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:21PM (#38402530)
    So my iphone 3G will be updated to iOS 5?
  • by Microlith (54737) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:29PM (#38402654)

    The lack of a stable ABI *is* a major problem

    Only for driver vendors that refuse to cooperate with the kernel community. They want to take advantage of Linux as a platform but not contribute to its success. The Kernel should be forced into a static ABI set for the sake of uncooperative, unhelpful vendors.

    As far as I know, not even the Nexus S 4G has buildable driver source available for its wimax interface, which is why every guerrilla ICS ROM for it has broken 4G. It's even worse for HTC phones, because they don't even release their drivers as proper loadable kernel modules -- they just compile them straight into a monolithic binary blob, then rip out the proprietary bits and dump the unbuildable kernel source on the curb.

    Sounds like a pile of shitty hardware vendors and shitty handset vendors. Pointing at the kernel ABIs is incorrect.

    Or maybe just force the phone makers to blindly compile and release new unsupported proprietary .ko files for drivers with the latest kernel within 5 days of Google's official source drop, with the usual disclaimers that the new .ko files are untested, unwarranted, will cause birth defects, and might make you hunting for chocolate at 3am.

    Or maybe these hardware vendors could actually start upstreaming their shit. Google too, since their shit infects so many drivers so deeply that many have to be rewritten to be pushed upstream.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:36PM (#38402762) Homepage Journal

    Screw their pledge, just let us root our phones easily.

    This.

    What burns my ass is how phone makers continually work to "secure" the devices they make against not criminals, but the people who actually purchase and own said devices.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:01PM (#38403124) Journal

    Source Code isn't usually the problem. The bigger problems are locked boot loaders. AND for things like Drivers which they think hold all sorts of "proprietary" secrets they don't want to give away.

    Here is a suggestion, since my phone is no longer supported by you Verizon/Motorola, please release everything we need to support our own damn phones. My phone is exactly one year old, and won't get ICS because ... well they can't be bothered.

  • by bananaquackmoo (1204116) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:09PM (#38403226)
    The problem is that very few people actually want that software, and the quicker the manufacturers get this through their thick skulls the better. Sadly they've had years to do that already and it looks like its not going to happen.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:21PM (#38403346)

    The solution is to start freeing cell phones from restrictions, so that people can upgrade the OS themselves.

    Spot the geek. Suggest a solution that isn't a suitable solution for 99.9% of the population.

    A real solution promptly offers to upgrade a phone's software when a new version comes out. Rather like iOS.

  • Re:Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:54PM (#38403876) Homepage Journal

    an Android phone is almost certainly going to be out of date very quickly and will almost certainly never be upgraded to the latest OS

    if you're writing for a general audience, yes. If you're writing for Slashdotters, Cyanogenmod seems like a better recommendation.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:55PM (#38403884)

    > Sounds like a pile of shitty hardware vendors and shitty handset vendors. Pointing at the kernel ABIs is incorrect.

    Great strategy. It worked brilliantly as a way to bring open-source winmodem drivers to Linux. Oh, wait... it didn't, did it? We basically had proprietary binary drivers for Lucent winmodems that worked under a few specific distros, and IBM eventually did the same for THEIR audio/modem chipset for Thinkpads.

    Yeah, someone finally did develop a true open-source HSP driver for his college thesis a couple of years ago and released it to the community, but for all intents and purposes, there were never open-source Linux winmodem drivers until almost a decade after they ceased to actually *matter* to anybody. It won't do us much good to get true open-source wimax drivers for a phone like the Nexus S 7 years after Sprint has switched to LTE.

    This IS the #1 fundamental problem of American Android users, because it's the one problem we can't fix ourselves. Bootloaders get cracked, and just about any phone can be JTAG-reflashed if you're really determined. But without a way to use a radio modem (or camera, or GPS, or ???) .ko compiled for 3.x under a 3.y kernel, we'll be forever running into brick walls every time a new version of Android gets released, and forced to choose between ${new-version} and fast data/gps/camera/etc.

  • by peppepz (1311345) on Friday December 16, 2011 @06:46PM (#38404480)
    Well said.

    My personal experience: HTC never released any update for my phone, which was running (a very buggy implementation of) Android 1.6. For half a year after the phone was released, they told us users that they were trying to port Eclair to the phone, and then they dropped any effort, saying that the phone hardware couldn't support it - coincidentally, they launched a new equivalent phone model natively running Froyo.

    Then I decided to void my warranty and I installed CyanogeMod on my phone: now I'm running the latest version of Gingerbread, and it runs acceptably well, certainly much better than the buggy Donut rom that HTC had originally put on the phone.

    A few hackers, in their spare time, with no documentation about the hardware, and without the software keys theoretically required to obtain full access to it, managed to do what the multinational corporation that designed the phone said was impossible to do. To me, this means that manufacturers do not want you to be able to upgrade your phone's software without buying new hardware for them. Hardware fragmentation, kernel drivers, processing power are just excuses they adduce. If Cyanogen can do it, so HTC/Samsung/Motorola could.

  • by peragrin (659227) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:09PM (#38404664)

    It is the shotgun approach that is the problem.

    If HTC only released 2-3 models a year(plus localized variants for CDMA, GSM , etc) they would sell more overall units which means they could buy more product in bulk, which would lower the costs and increase their revenue. Apple is making money on the iphones because they are buying parts for cheap in bulk bulk quanties.

    a smaller selection makes software modifications faster and easier too, and allows you to update them more easily.

    Someday one of the android companies will realize quanity applies to more than just end products but also product units sold too.

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