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Google Can't Ignore The Android Update Problem Any Longer (Op Ed)

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thrus

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So all they have to do is get a change pushed into every contract they have and have that change propagated on to each contract that company has with the carriers.

In order for this to go through i would become a very happy person. the reason is that it would basicaly require that all the Samsunng/LG/other crapware be an app, and all the sprint/att/verison crapware be an app. this would mean I could uninstall them.

For added fun I could get a copy of the LG/ATT stuff and it would work on my Samsung/Sprint phone. I say for fun but this would be something LG/ATT would worry about what if I wanted theirs how would they get compensation for it? They can't sell it or their own customers would be pissed about being charged to add back they valuable software.

I know I sound down on this but I would love to have all the crapware that vendors/carriers force on me be removable and have one solid core OS that could be kept up to date. But the roll out of this would be slow as it has to go through layers of contracts not just one and every step would be fought as no one wants to give up control that they currently have with the reason being "for the good of the consumer" to do this Google would need to prove it would increase sales for vendor and carrier for our old phone to be update-able with the latest software, that is not an easy pitch. for Apple every other generation you are up for a new phone but android has a new phone release monthly from some carrier or another it seems. Samsung alone S1 6/2010 to S6 4/2015 with 9-14 months between major version, 28 variation over that time. that is almost a variation every 2 months on average with just 1 line one maker.
 

belardo

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One reason I love Motorola phones is because of the very clean Android OS... which does have a few tweaks above standard Android.

Okay, how about this. Google handles the updates, period. The big 4 companies have their SKIN jobs and Google has 1-2 generic skins for small companies to choose.

The Carriers cause the biggest problems with their crap-apps. Like AT&T Navigation, which is like "Why the F would I want to pay $3 to use a crappy GPS program - that SO few people buy, when I can use Google's?!".

So handle it this way:
Google handles the phone's CORE OS update.

The manufacture that has included a few EXTRA APPS... that is a package or does auto-updates.

The carrier, does the same thing... and DOESN'T touch the OS. Carrier makes money by charging for its services... really, their apps suck ass... But also, as stated, it kind of makes people want to buy NEW phones... but a big chunk of the market is out-dated... but also on lower-end hardware.

I see this with my MotoX phone (almost 2 years old). I'll get notifications if I want to install google apps... Motorola apps and at&t apps. They are not connected.

Why would this be so hard? The pre-installed brand/carrier apps simply try to update themselves... and are REMOVABLE.

Should it be this hard?
 

Renan Renno

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I believe Android OS fragmentation is not as big as a problem as it was when Gingerbread was still around, I mean JellyBean and Kitkat are very robust versions, with much more features than any iOS out there. And also Apple is just getting started on fragmentation as well with more device sizes and models and with so few people upgrading to iOS 8. Fragmentation is a thing. For any platform. Developers need to deal with it.
 

pyro411

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May 22, 2012
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I agree, Android fragmentation is a massive problem that OEMs, Carriers, and Google need to address soon.

Ideally I would love to see all phones receiving major/mid updates for 18-36 months after product launch -- not soft launch or announcement but retail shipment level of launch.

It would also be nice if we got the following levels we could configure in our phones.
Stable + security updates
Milestone + security updates
Cutting edge including security updates

However I agree with Thrus that it has major challenges that need to be addressed as well.
Will Google push generic radio images with the updates & leave it up to the carriers to push radio firmwares separately at a later date with proper fine tuning?
How is bootloader locking/encryption going to be handled, especially between phones purchased outright vs subsidized phones?
Will images be sent out as Google generic allowing you to use the optional skin from the manufacturer so Google doesn't have to wait for LG/Samsung/Etc to update their skins?
Bloatware -- Will we who buy the phone outright get ones with 0 bloat installed where those who subsidize it be required to get it until the phone is paid off?
Phones over x months old that are out of production/sales will they be fully unsupported or will backported security patches become available for x months after official first line support ends?

Question for when modular phones get released and become popular...
Will there be an upgrade adviser built in so we know when/if a module purchased won't be supported anymore.
-- For example chipset manufacturer A decided to stop writing drivers/firmwares for their graphics card(s) and won't update them for any later kernels while refusing to supply source code to Google/Manufacturers? -- This happened with TI and the Galaxy Nexus which got stuck at 4.4.2 on Verizon
 

marthisdil

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"For years, Apple has made fun of Android and its fragmented update system, and it will continue for years more. Microsoft has recently started doing the same"

Funny how they make fun from second place.
 

ddpruitt

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This isn't a Google problem. The problem is people who buy phones every year, seriously. Every manufacturer has a dozen or so devices out at any one time and new devices come out every 6 months or so. The number of hardware configurations are staggering. Most people replace their devices every two years (or when their contract is up). That means that on average most of the devices out there came out when KitKat came out. It's not worth it for a carrier to try and keep up with so many devices when the vast majority are running an OS that works perfectly fine.

Compare this with computers, it's like arguing Microsoft should force everyone to use Windows 10, we know how well that would work out. It's not necessary as long as the older OS sees the necessary security updates, some even prefer the older OS. Google has already untied most of it's services from the OS thus relying less on the OS to be updated.

If you really want to have phones with the latest OS keep them longer. Carriers don't need to update older phones if the majority of people get sucked in by the bling factor of every new phone that came out. If you kept your phone longer they would have to support their phones for more than a month to keep you a customer.
 

LostAlone

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I agree that there is a wider problem with fragmentation, but I think that most people (the author included) forget about how we've ended up in this situation.

Over the past five years the mobile sector has exploded so fast and technology has progressed so quickly and the result is that many devices get left behind. While last years flagships will generally get an OS update eventually almost no mid end devices do, and neither do more niche devices like tablets. Android is vastly more than just the latest and greatest flagships, and certainly large numbers of devices (again, especially tablets) remain in use long after they have officially end of lifed. That's just how things work. Simply because Android has always been available on lower end devices that more people can afford it's always been more attractive to people who can't afford to upgrade every year. So what's the end result? Lots of mid and low tier devices that people paid for that can't be upgraded that are handed off to kids and teenagers and elderly parents that will run the same version until they fail.

Fragmentation isn't anyone's fault, it's just how the market place works and it's not really a bad thing. Most older devices won't benefit from newer OS version and neither will their users; these are people who are comfortable with what they are familiar with and won't do anything to change because it works and they want to stick with it. Apple's updates have had a very checkered past in making old devices run substantially worse too, and I won't blame anyone for keeping hold of something that fulfills their needs. It's not like the average person is using their phone to ship secret data.

I still have a tablet on Gingerbread because there is literally no reason for me to change. All it exists to do is watch movies, read books and browse the web when I travel. Why bother either buying a new device or upgrading the existing one when those are the only functions I care about.
 

Oleg Vorkunov

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And one more thing, that AT&T locked bootloader and not letting users to install different OS, such as Vanilla Android and get their updates timely.
That practice by AT&T and Verizon should be investigated and taken by the Feds.

 

hannibal

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Why would this be so hard? The pre-installed brand/carrier apps simply try to update themselves... and are REMOVABLE.

Should it be this hard?
Actually because of all that bloatware that phones has, it is very difficult. Those bloatware are hacked to work with specific core os. When the core os would change, the phone (read bloatware) would stop working properly. Also, it would encourage peoples to keep the phone longer...
I keep my phones to 6-10 years, so it is essential that I get updates. At this moment only iPhones and Windows phones, seems to be even near of fulfilling that need... Android phones are not even near in that (Maybe not counting Nexus versions).
To someone who will buy a new phone every year, or every two years, this may not be a big problem.
Those drivers mentioned above are another problem. There need to be a coherent driver support to phone parts, or there will not be regular updates. Somewhat easier with iPhones and Windows phones, where the hardware is very regulated.

But all in all something has to be done to this matter. Most customers, don't care or don't understand the situation, so I am afraid that there is not coming any improvement in this area. Peoples still buy phones that don't get upgrades. So there is not any driving force to make manufacturers to provide program upgrades.
We need a law that would guarantee money back, if the phone does not get the newest os version within 3-5 months after it release for let say 3 to 5 years from the release of the phone. Maybe that would force manufacturers to reduce the bloatware.
But I am not hopeful, that it will ever happen.
 
google just has to put its foot down and tell all the manufacturers that if you want to continue using android you have to use pure android.np HTC sense, no touchwiz crap just pure android. you can pre-load as many apps as you want to cripple your phone when you sell it just as long as you don't mess with the main OS
 

belardo

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I did forget the important difference between iPhone vs Android (and even MS-WP).

Number of companies who make iPhone = 1
To Apple: the latest OS only supports iPhone4s and up and ipad2 and newer. So its easy to make their latest iOS8 (13 devices over the past 4 years with no major changes).

MS-WP 8 = only works on phones made the past year or so from only Nokia/MS Lumia... WP10, should work fine.... I heard HTC and Samsung makes/made WP8 devices... but those are more rare than anyone with a Lumia. In all reality, I've only seen two people with WP7 devices... years ago. They are Android today.

Android is for dozens, if not hundreds of brands with many many model numbers. Thus, how is Google supposed to authorize what will work with an Update - especially on smaller company products.

So to this degree... it really can't be Google... can it?
 

thundervore

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I agree with this article. It is 100% bull what we have now in the Android market and it is all due to the OEM and Carriers putting in their custom crap.

At best each phone released by the OEM only sees one upgrade then its forgotten and the only way to get an upgrade is to either buy a new phone or take chances with custom roms. Buying new phones every 2 years is not a solution either due to the fact that the phones keep getting bigger and bigger and not all customers want to walk around with a huge Galaxy Note sized phone.

OEMS and Carriers should just stick to creating custom launchers and leave it as that. anything else is just an annoyance.
 

Quixit

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Honestly, if you target Android 4.1 for your apps you can get almost everyone and still have access to almost everything you'd ever need, especially with the way Google Play Services steps in to provide new features on older OSes.

I haven't really had a problem programming for Android since the older Gingerbread devices started to drop off.
 

hausjam

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Now that consumers know what fragmentation is, it is pushing more of them to iphone. Sadly, google is apple's best salesman.
 

AndrewJackson

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I have 5.0 and 5.1 on two different phones. I like version 5 very much. Except for the restrict access to background data does not work. Apps continue to ping their motherships when WiFi is off. Using the limited data on my cell plan.
 

Kostas Kritsilas

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To Belardo:

True, iOS8 only supports iPhone 4S and newer, and Ipad 2 and newer. What is the issue with this? iPhone 4S is 4 years old, iPad 2 at least that old. How many 4 year old Android devices support Lollipop? How many 3 year old Android devices do? How many 2 year old devices won't be upgraded by their vendors? How many Windows 8 phones won't be upgraded to Windows 10?

There is some sort of vendor mind set that by not upgrading Android versions, it will make for more devices sales because people will buy new devices to get the new version of Android. Whick, as an opinion, is blatantly WRONG. There is nothing that prevents somebody who has and Android device, out of frustration, going to iOS. iPhones are fine with pulling in contacts, calenders and using Gmail as well as any Android phone. You would have to buy new apps, but most non-technical users don't have that many apps, and wit a lot of non-technical users a lot of them are using free apps.

The problem is Google. They did not instill discipline into the Android eco-system from day one, and now they are having problems regaining control. The device manufacturers should only be writing device drivers, not skins, or messing with the base OS at all. Anything added by the carriers should be removable, as any other app would be. I have had Android phones were carrier software could not be removed. As for the "differentiation" possible due to the custom skins, that really isn't a factor. Does anybody know somebody who has purchased an Android phone specfically because it runs "Sense" or "Touchwiz"? I certainly don't.

Google's adoption rate is at 10% for Lollipop. Apples is over 70% for iOS 8 on iPad and iPhone, almost 75% for the iPhone. It is over 95% for iOS 7.X and iOS 8.X. (source: http://david-smith.org/iosversionstats/). Android adoption rate for 4.4.x and 5.x is about 50%, with KitKat making up most of that.Part of the issue with Android is that some apps won't run on 5.X; others will only run on 5.X. Same happens with Apple at times, but seems less prevalent there, and in many cases, it is an issue with the hardware (screen size/aspect ratio changes or RAM limitations), not really OS revisions.

My daily driver phone is a Nexus 5. I do get updates directly from Google. So somebody please explain to me why I an unable to get 5.1 yet. It is out for the Nexus 7s (which I also have), but not for the Nexus 5. This is Google themselves being the roadblock, not the device manufacturers or the carriers (there is no carrier, my Nexus 7 is wi-fi only).

My work phone is an iPhone 6. I like it as well, and will be moving to it when contract renewal time rolls around to at the end of the year.
 

Bob Becker

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Android is the biggest <mode edit> OS that permeated from the minds of man,,i got 3 devices,,none of have the same version of Android,,thats <mod edit>,,you know iOS come out with an upgrade and its available to all Apple device users,,even Windows has many versions but new versions are available to all,,,i am tiring of Android,,considering going to iOS,its seems like only a select few get access to new Android versions,i got 2 devices that look like they may never get Lollipop,i dont think this is right,,i am no different than anyone else,i would love to have the newest and best available to me,but with Android that seems to be a dream,it wont happen,,seems like 25 yrs from now i may still have 4,2 or 4,4 on a device,,so no more Android for me,my next device will be APPLE, good bye Android,,it wasnt fun,and i dont see myself ever going back,ever if they fix this current broken system of getting new versions,i have wasted enough money on Android devices that seem to be forgotten as fr as OS upgrades go,,money wasted
 

PaulBags

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All firmware & stock roms should be avalible publicly, security off should be a publically avalible option (heavily discouraged to average users), and all phones should come with a proper and full factory reset (on an otg flash maybe).

As it stands I can't return to stock and follow the offical upgrade path even if I wanted to. Foolishly trusting cnet rooting instructions left me without a firmware & stock backup, and the factory reset option have me false confidence that it was actually a factory reset.

With my desktop I can freely flash bios & change settings, and root is freely avalible from the os. With my smartphone, marketed like a computer, it's much more like praying to the elder go Cthulhu.
 

Renan Renno

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Honestly, if you target Android 4.1 for your apps you can get almost everyone and still have access to almost everything you'd ever need, especially with the way Google Play Services steps in to provide new features on older OSes.

I haven't really had a problem programming for Android since the older Gingerbread devices started to drop off.
Honestly, if you target Android 4.1 for your apps you can get almost everyone and still have access to almost everything you'd ever need, especially with the way Google Play Services steps in to provide new features on older OSes.

I haven't really had a problem programming for Android since the older Gingerbread devices started to drop off.
Honestly, if you target Android 4.1 for your apps you can get almost everyone and still have access to almost everything you'd ever need, especially with the way Google Play Services steps in to provide new features on older OSes.

I haven't really had a problem programming for Android since the older Gingerbread devices started to drop off.
Yep, I guess you can even material design your app and still target for JB and KK.
The only feature I can think of, which is KK, is the immersive full screen, which is great for games. But only for devices without capacitive buttons anyway not that big of a deal.
But you can do pretty anything that you can on any iOS version and much more, like real widgets and talk with other apps.
 

hotice

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Here are some points that I think are valid to consider as part of your conversation.

1. Most Apple updates only give the best features to the newest devices. How is that not fragmentation?

2. More than once older Apple devices have become slow or unusable with the latest updates installed. Is that what we need on Android?

3. Google has been separating OS components so they can be updated from the Play Store, just like an app, so OS updates are needed less and more updates can be pushed more easily. This is one, though not the only, that Google is not "[leaving] the responsibility to OEMs and carriers".

4. An argument could be made that Apple has been playing catch-up to Google from the start. Some features that Android had first, years ahead of iOS, are copy & paste, better notifications, widgets, folders, OTA updates, 3rd party keyboards, and OTA syncing of contacts.

To me, having more current versions does not mean they have a better or more mature product. I had an iPhone 5S for work for more than a year. I'd much rather have an Android phone with Android 4.4 than that.
 

grdh20

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I 100% agree with this article and anyone who doesn't just has their head in the sand period. It's the one and only reason I would consider going back to an iphone. Google needs to toughen up and take a play from the Apple play book. Cal me crazy, but it has worked out pretty well for Apple.......
 

targetdrone

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Still rocking 4.3 on my Galaxy Note II because T-Mobile is too lazy to release 4.4.
I do not know what the answer is but I can tell you, me shelling out $700+ for a Note 4 for an updated OS is not the answer. Switching Carriers is also not the answer because still requires shelling out $700+ for a new device and over paying for crappy service.
 
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