The state of Android updates

The issue of software updates has always been a topic that has raised much discussion among fanboys users and is a stick that iOS lovers have often used to beat their Android counterparts with.

I personally believe that for all of Apple’s faults, one area where they’ve indisputably raised the smartphone game is in their outstanding support for devices long after release. Apple have set the standard for others to follow and so far I can’t think of one Android manufacturer who’s been able to match them.

When I previously wrote of HTC’s poor update support for the Desire I received an interesting response with the main counterargument being that I had been happy to buy the phone as it was and had no right to future updates. While I can totally see the logic to this argument I would argue that there is nowadays a general expectation to receive updates and that this is to the benefit of all consumers.

Regardless of your point of view its always good to have some cold, hard facts to frame the discussion. To this end, there is a great post by Michael Degusta on the history of update support for a sample of 18 Android devices and it doesn’t make pretty reading.

Particular highlights from the post are:

7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
In a few weeks, when Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, every device on here will be another major version behind.
At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

Michael has also constructed the lovely diagram above which may make more sense once you’ve read the article. I’d definitely recommend reading the whole post as it’s very informative and thought provoking.

As ever, we look forward to your comments on the issue.

Thanks to Mark Peters for bringing the original post to my attention.

Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support