So the world of Android has two main problems: apps and the general rubbish that constantly gets into the Play Store (fake Temple Run apps, anyone?) and updates. They’re both problem that exist, and Google need to solve, quickly. Over the next two editorials, I’ll address each of them. Firstly, updates (as I think it is the bigger problem).
Android updates are slow. Let’s face it. The Galaxy S II potentially will have a higher version than any Nexus phone with the official update. That’s a disgrace. Phones are still being launched with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the highest profile case being the Sony Xperia S, which launched in March in the UK with 2.3.7.
The problem with Android updates lie partly with Google, but mostly with OEMs and carriers. Google don’t make the kernel images for phones other than the Nexus phones (so the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus), which causes problems with OEMs. These problems are that the OEMs need to make a brand new kernel image, specially for the phone and the hardware they’re using. This makes waiting times longer for end-users because this processs can take quite a while. This can get quite complicated, so I’ll show you an example: when the Galaxy Nexus launched, Google provided the source code and the kernel images for Ice Cream Sandwich on 14th November 2011. But these were only provided for the Galaxy Nexus’s chipset, the Texas Instruments OMAP 4460. So HTC had to make all new kernel images for their phones, like the HTC Sensation.
- Ways Google can solve this: working closely with the OEMs to provide the source code and kernel images that they need for their phones and chipsets.
The rest of the blame lies with OEMs and carriers. Now, as we all know, the OEMs put skins of Android, like HTC Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz. These definitely slow updates down, as the OEMs need to put these skins on stock Android, which may take a while, especially if almost the whole OS has changed, like it did in Ice Cream Sandwich. OEMs such as Motorola have said that they do this to differentiate their devices from others in the market. While I accept that, they then said that no one would by devices with stock Android. I disagree. I would buy a stock ICS device. I don’t even know if regular, normal users know that isn’t what Google intended Android to look like.
- Ways this could be solved: get rid of your Android skin or make the skin less elaborate. ASUS’s skin is a good example of being less elaborate.
So, the carriers. These guys regulate the updates from OEMs. Verizon are known for delaying updates for a long time: one little known Samsung Android phone, the Continuum (it’s the phone with two screens) just got 2.2. That’s a disgrace. Ugh. If you’re not able to work it out, that’s almost 2 years old.
Ways this could be solved: just simply do not buy a phone on a carrier. Buy it unsubsidised then get a SIM only deal. That’s the way I do it, and it works for me.
So all in all, Google need to do something about Android updates. It’s in a dire situation. According to the recent chart and statistics, there are Android users spread over 7 different versions, Cupcake (1.5) through to ICS (4.0). That just shows how dire the situation is.