At 5.30pm on Wednesday night I settled myself down to watch the keynote speech at Google I/o – Google’s developers conference (their very own version of WWDC.) There had been plenty of rumours about an upcoming OS release, a new tablet and Google TV.
I watched as Android Jellybean was announced, Project Butter was trumpeted, a new Nexus 7 tablet was launched, The Nexus Q was demonstrated and then a massive finale showing off the amazing technology that is Google Glasses (Project Glass).
Now it was a very good show and there were comments circulating on Twitter such as “trump that Apple!” and “Tim Cook must be racking his brains to try to better that show” and so on. Away from the Apple baiting there was some excitement about the improvements in Jellybean and the new Nexus Tablet. Very little was mentioned about the Nexus Q and people were amazed by the Glasses demonstration.
Undoubtedly there was a lot of good that came out of the keynote but for me there was one major thing missing.
I have written before on the subject of Android Updates but yet again Google have missed an opportunity and are plodding along as before letting manufacturers implement the update if and when they please.
My day to day handset is a Nexus S. It’s now rather old and due to be upgraded rather soon. It is however a nice handset that does pretty much everything that I need but there are better available on the market with bigger screens, better processors and so on.
So why haven’t I upgraded? Well, my little Nexus S runs Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). It has done almost since the launch of the SDK last year. In a couple of weeks time (maybe sooner) it will be running Jellybean.
How many owners of a non Nexus Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony or LG handset can say the same? Of 400 million Android handsets currently in circulation only around 28.4 million have ICS. That’s 7.1% – and they are Google’s official figures.
The biggest selling Android handset to date is the Samsung Galaxy SII and it has only just recieved the latest OS update in the last month or so. The SIII shipped with ICS but with a lead time of around 8 months, how long before it too is updated and gets Jellybean?
If it really is another 8 months, guess what? Google will probably have released another update (rumoured to be Key Lime Pie) and all handsets will be behind once more (except the Nexus devices of course!).
The same goes for other manufacturers. HTC have released dates of availability for their updates, Sony have released ICS for their 2011 Xperia range but actively urged caution in updating, Motorola are in the process of upgrading their RAZR range as we speak. So realistically, the manufacturers are one step behind all the time.
The issue is a complex one. There are not just handset manufacturers to contend with but the carriers too. Here in the UK the carriers have branded software on their handsets all of which has to be customised before the OS can be released. This after the manufacturer has weaved their magic which all adds to the delays.
Many different solutions to the problems have been touted from adding a Virtual layer into Android to making the OEM’s own interfaces work as apps instead of integrating them into the OS to .
Google is a mult-billion dollar company with near infinite resources with which to address the issue. People want the latest and greatest and consumers are getting more tech savvy, they want the newest.
It is one of the many reasons that Apple is so popular. If you buy an iPhone today you know that in 6 months time it won’t be out of date with a last generation OS.
Windows Phone 8 is due for release soon and a new iPhone is on the way. iPhones will be on iOS6 and Windows Phones will be running 7.8 or 8 depending on age but Microsoft have been honest and said “Old handsets won’t run the new version”.
Android users are stuck in a “Will we, Won’t we” limbo and are usually left waiting for nearly a year for an update. It could all be so much better – Google, you have the power, when are you going to use it and get a better experience for ALL of your customers, not just those that opt for a Nexus?.
Do you agree, are Google failing with their update process? Discuss and add your comments on our forums.