This is a question that I find is being asked all the time by Android users. I’m in a position working in the telecoms industry where I get asked this about 20 times a day. It’s something that I have become fairly blase about. The honest truth is that I don’t have all the answers (shh.. don’t tell anyone)!
I do however have some personal views on this and I will go into these during the course of this article. First though, I want to state that these are my own personal views and are open for interpretation. I will be highlighting three reasons as to why I feel the industry is behind the curve releasing updates. I’m also aware that there are indeed exceptions to the rules and that some manufacturers are very good on this front.
1- Incompatibility of Apps
This is a biggy and I think this is one of the reasons that manufacturers do lag behind Google. As we know Android is a very much Open OS and getting an App onto the Play Store doesn’t require any accreditation process. Whilst this system does have some fairly major plus points it also has one big negative. There are lots of Apps out there which will just not work with the most recent iteration of Android – they weren’t built to do so. A prime example of this is BBC iPlayer which does not work on anything above 2.3 which, quite frankly, is a shambles. The manufacturers are aware of this and they do not want their customers having a poor experience due to App incompatibility.
2- Hardware limitations
This one is a little less clear cut than the title itself suggests. You’d think that if a device isn’t running the latest hardware then it probably won’t run the latest software. While this is indeed the official stance from Google, we all know that it is not entirely accurate. If it’s possible to run Gingerbread on a G1 then you can run ICS on GTab 7 surely. We’ve seen lots of unofficial ICS ROMs for handsets that don’t have official ROMs or are billed as supporting Android 4.0.
But why would the manufacturers want to do that when they can make another device and sell it on the software compatibility with slightly tweaked hardware? At the end of the day these companies are in business to make money and that is how they do it. It does however leave a slightly sour taste in your mouth.
I know that some of you will have read the above text and thought “Wait, surely the UX would be terrible on old hardware”.
If you did then you have answered your own question because you are right, it would be a worse experience. Anyone who has owned an iPhone 3Gs can attest to this. So, believe it or not, one of the reasons that a manufacturer will not offer an update is to keep your expectations of the device and its useabilty up to standard.
So, I ask you next time you get annoyed about the phone you have not being eligible for an update – think about the above reasons first before you go and have a moan at Johnny mobile in Anynetwork R Us.
Thank you reading and as usual any comments are welcome.