Are updates for Android really that terrible?

There's this article that I've seen a while back, and it's just stuck with me.  I don't know why.

Maybe because it really is the achilles heel of Android.  Whenever tech heads get together and try to compete on mobile OS it always comes down to "Well, Android updates are so slow and behind the times compared to ....".

Here's the article I read the other day that has stuck with me:
Android vs iOS: State of Software Updates

Immediately my hackles were up when reading it.  I had that guilty sensation that somewhere we were going to be called on it.  Like the poor timelines for updates were our own fault.

The article didn't disappoint.  What for me was really especially hurtful was the chart they showed.  I mean, I love charts.  I keep my own databases, and this one got right to the heart of the matter.

http://www.fidlee.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/AndroidHistoryOfSupport1.png
Ouch.  Read the original post from Fidlee and it's really scathing.  Check out my database on updates.

Okay, first I'm jealous of the data... I love data.  Second, there's a lot of 'red' in our ledger.  So is there a way we can rationalize this?  Not that I've found... but here's something that I come up with.

Every June Apple creates a new version of their OS.... or that's when it's announced to the world, and then it usually hits devices around September... 3 months later.  So, should there be some leeway given for Android updates, as they don't have that 3 month 'wait time'?  Take off 3 of those boxes on any of the Android device and it will likely  still not matter.

Android on the other hand pumps out 'major' releases every 6 months, and the firmware is available immediately (pretty well).

Every 6 months vs. 1 year.  Android OEMs are plentiful... iOS has one.  They take an entire year to ensure it'll work on all their devices (which are not many).

To me, that's the power of Android.  There are MANY updates available, so many that it's hard for the OEMs to keep up with.  In terms of iOS, the devices have not significantly altered over the course of time, so it's a little easier.  With Android we have lots of different OEMs doing some really inventive things.  Not to mention the changes within each version.  Grab someone's iOS device that hasn't been updated to iOS 7 and you wouldn't be able to tell if it was 6 or 5 or...  Whereas there's great deals of changes between ICS, JB, KK...

The other amazing part of about Android, and we've said this thousands of times already, is choice.  An OEM chooses to use Android, but there's no obligation to provide updates. There's the analogy that HP doesn't provide your updates to your PC... Windows does.  There's something to that, but I still think it's a cop out.  Although, I would love for Android to be able to provide the updates directly -- but there's just too many devices, hardwares, radios, essentially variables to ensure.  A variety you just don't get in other platforms.

The other 'choice' for Android is to take the udpates scenario into our own hands.  The update are AVAILABLE as they're announced.  Our developer community is strong.  When Kitkat was released, it hasn't taken long for developers like +CyanogenMod or +OmniROM etc... to release 4.4 custom ROMs.

What's not shown on that grid is my Transformer TF101... long ago relegated to outdated updates and just getting slower and slower as time marches on.  Yet, thanks to developers like  Katkiss there's at least a 4.3 ROM that's optimized and runs better than 4.0.4 ever did.

So yeah, our side doesn't always get the latest and greatest... officially.  But if you wanted it, it's available.  If you don't want it, you probably don't notice.  And I'm assuming there's a great majority of people who shrug their shoulders and go 'meh'... as I've seen a bunch of S4 and Note 2 devices lately who haven't got the latest update.  When trying to tell them to get the update they usually respond with a "oh, there was something... i dismissed it tho".

Now here's where hopefully 2014 will start helping us turn the tide.  Android's answerto the iPhone with it's direct updates is the Nexus program.  Now it's not perfect.  Seeing as even they get left in the dust as well.  But a new option with the Google Edition devices.

In May the HTC turned their One into a quasi Nexus.  Same with Samsung's S4.  Recently we saw the LG G Pad and Sony's Z Ultra.  More devices allowed to allow itself a longer life in the update cycle.

It's my hopes that this option of getting 1 device or its Google Edition counterpart will become more commonplace in 2014.  Who knows, maybe even selling outside of the Play Store (something we here in Canada can't do as we're excluded from buying Google Editions ... at the moment).

With more options like this, potentially by the end of next year the next chart might be more forgiving.

Sources:
http://www.iphonehacks.com/2013/12/android-ios-updates-chart.html
http://www.fidlee.com/android-support-vs-ios-support/




Previous
Next Post »