Mobile OSs Why does it take so long for Android updates even today?

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by kasakka, Sep 30, 2016.

  1. kasakka macrumors 68000

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    #1
    NOTE: I have seen those old HTC Android upgrade flowchart pics.

    So nowadays Android hardware is probably a lot more homogenous than it used to be. Most use a Qualcomm CPU/GPU and possibly the same sensors, radios and whatnot. So how come it still can take many, many months for an Android update to arrive for a specific model? It took Oneplus almost a year to bring just Marshmallow to the Oneplus X and Samsung had similar issues with their Galaxy A7.

    At the same time we have PCs with much more varied hardware with no issues upgrading to Win10 when it was released. Shouldn't Android phones work much the same, as in the OEM provides compatible drivers and boom, Android runs fine?

    Carriers are often blamed for the slowness, but I'm pretty sure that for example Finnish carriers don't get contacted much regarding Android updates for various devices. Yet devices not even sold in this country work perfectly fine as long as they support the LTE/3G bands used.

    Likewise 3rd party developers often get a custom ROM running the latest Android running on a popular device way faster than the OEM. Ok, they don't have to do much testing and can deliver partially working stuff but it's still a huge difference despite most of these guys probably doing the work in the evening/weekend because it's not their day job. A small team of developers at the OEM should have no trouble getting a new Android version working quite fast.

    So what exactly is the holdup?
     
  2. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #2
    The hardest work to do is the work you've already been paid for.

    There's no gain in paying very expensive programmers time for a device that is already sold.
     
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

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    #3
    It should work that way, but it doesn't. You tend to find that with a lot of OEMs, as soon as they've sold the device, that's all they care about. Longevity, support, drivers - all this goes out of the window the minute you've forked over your cash. Why spend extra time and resources supporting legacy devices?

    'Legacy', in their eyes, being '1 gen old'. HP could write the book on this in the computer world.

    Just one of the reasons I'll stick with Apple unless I really need to jump ship.
     
  4. kasakka thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #4
    There is for brand quality. For example I can't even consider ZTE phones, despite having pretty good hardware and design, simply because their software and developer support is poor. Small investment in either just providing current stock Android version or even cheaper, providing 3rd party developers enough tools to make custom ROMs (which made for example the Oneplus One quite popular and still a good device).
     
  5. hallux macrumors 68020

    hallux

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    #5
    The bottom line, at least for some devices you KNOW the driver support is available, the Nexus devices don't use any different internals from an SoC standpoint than the equivalent devices from other manufacturers. The issue becomes the companies like Samsung that add their own skin on their devices. To go with a new phone or a new OS, they release a new version of their skin, which requires development and testing.

    After that, you then have carrier involvement to test the carrier-specific builds of devices. That takes time.

    Windows can be released and function on computers quickly because there isn't the tight integration between hardware and software that there is on mobile devices.

    Case in point - my dad's desktop took some finagling to get upgraded to 10. Once we got 10 installed we realized why, the video card is not supported with Windows 10 drivers. What happens though, is Windows uses a generic driver so you can see what's going on, we then upgraded to a newer card and things were back to normal. Because of the limited storage capacity of mobile devices and the inability to just swap a part like we did for the computer, that capability/feature just isn't possible on Android.
     
  6. mrex macrumors 68020

    mrex

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    #6
    If the os is working well, there is no reason to upgrade - android core apps are updated from Playstore (vs apple and core apps are updated only with the os). Of course then there are security updates and if the manufacturer thinks that it is needed to update, they usually provide updates. All arent - even apple doesnt fix every issues.

    Some updetes are binded with the hw so the new os wont offer anything new than a higher version number. What is good in android, core apps get threir new functionalities via playstore. With ios, you need to wait always the newest os. It doesnt matter if it is a bug, vulnerability, new feature.. always wait the os.
     
  7. hallux macrumors 68020

    hallux

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    #7
    Yup, some core functionality is tied to the Play Services framework, rather than tightly integrated into the OS. Sure, there are some whiz-bang features like multi-window in Nougat (yes, I know Samsung devices have had this for a while).

    I have Nougat on my Nexus 6P, I LOVE some of the changes that were made, specifically to notifications. That's one of the benefits to buying a Nexus, you can be on the newest OS within days of release. Not many people realize this or take advantage of it. A Nexus phone may not have some of the flashy features that Samsungs have, but they also cost less and are up to date RIGHT AWAY. Not to mention - some of those features can be added through 3rd-party apps and on the built-in features on the Samsung side have actually been known to cause lag on the device.
     
  8. Michael Goff macrumors G3

    Michael Goff

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    #8
    Win 10 is the same on every computer. Android on an HTC 10 and Galaxy S7 are not really the same OS.
     
  9. Suckfest 9001 macrumors 6502a

    Suckfest 9001

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    #9
    Because the different phone makers have their own modifications on Android.

    So when a new version comes out, they gotta spend a few weeks/months bloating it up and testing and making sure it works before it's sent off to carriers for additional testing and then release.
     
  10. Lloydbm41 macrumors 68040

    Lloydbm41

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    #10
    Pretty accurate assessment. Once the AOSP code is released by Google, Samsung, HTC, and the rest start modifying it. Sometimes pretty extensively.
     
  11. macfacts macrumors 68000

    macfacts

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    #11
    The problem is with each update, the phone manufacturer has to retest with the FCC. That costs money. Works for Apple cause they keep selling old phones 2 years later.
     
  12. v0lume4 macrumors 65816

    v0lume4

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    #12
    Joel is that you? ;)

    Well said.
     
  13. Suckfest 9001 macrumors 6502a

    Suckfest 9001

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    #13
    I highly doubt Joel would browse MacRumors :p
     
  14. Hanson Eigilson macrumors member

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    #14
    Android seems plagued by "me too" marketing types, Google delivers an OS, but it's open so the hardware manufacturers have "me too" marketing types that thinks they are capable of delivering an unique experience of ....whatever.. that their customers will identify with that brand, and then they work with carriers that have their own "me too" marketing people, and they twist it up even more. The end result is a piece of technology that's very hard to debug for anyone but the carriers, but the carriers are not skilled enough to actually do any substantial updating to the mess they helped create. so nobody can really update it with confidence.

    The reason you can do it with PC's is because microsoft is much more strong handed with manufacturers than google, and if nothing else they really do have a solid history of backwards compatibility.

    It would be interesting to see a strong manufacturer try to make only small and very modular "upgrades" to android, and then forbidding carriers to make any changes apart from settings, and then see them market that product.
     
  15. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #15
    AOSP is Open Source the point of Open Source is to do what you want with it but contribute you code back. I do not want any entity to own Android and force it anywhere I want it to remain for the community. There's a reason I don't own Apple or Microsoft, I want things my way even if that means I have to do it myself.
     
  16. kasakka thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #16
    The code for most of the changes and additions OEMs do to the OS exist already though, possibly even with a tool to merge them to whatever AOSP version is there. Then it should just become about removing duplicate options possibly added by a new Android version and making sure that the additions still work with the new version.

    Carriers should not even come to play in many markets but I understand it having to be validated by some bodies like FCC or TENAA takes some time.

    I still have a hard time accepting that it should take more than a few months to get a new Android version out for markets that don't have any extra ******** to deal with.

    I do appreciate SOME of the changes OEMs do to Android if it's just adding options as vanilla Android is still quite plain and has a few annoyances. It's when they try to reinvent how things work where they go wrong and quickly turn me off using a certain phone.
     
  17. mrex macrumors 68020

    mrex

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    #17
    It takes long time. If a manufacturer thinks that it is fine to upgrade the os, it takes several months during qualification processes. (Both google and carriers.) carriers plays a significant role in us for example - rarely in europe if any. That's why they usually get the new version after several months when others have already got it. That is also the price to get phones cheaply - stuffed with carrier bloatware. Then there are other regions like nordic countries (one region) which usually also needs to wait updates after central european markets. However, last time i updated my samsung using the german firmware - the nordic version was released 6months later...

    The more the manufacturer has highend phones the more it takes time. Samsung is known about this.

    But like i said earlier - even samsung releases security fixes if needed - and it is not necessary to get the latest and greatest. Android isnt ios and android isnt always depending the os update.
     
  18. spinedoc77 macrumors G3

    spinedoc77

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    #18
    This is the issue I've always had with Android, and really any other mobile OS. I wish we were free to install whatever OS we wanted to on a phone, just like a PC (well besides Apple). I never understood why the phone I just paid almost 1k for is locked down and I can't do what I want with it. But then again I never understood why I paid almost 1k for a phone to have the manufacturers' name plastered on the front and why I'm advertising for them.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 1, 2016 ---
    I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum, I wish Google would take back Android and keep it in house, producing hardware like Apple does. Of course this isn't feasible and would be a terrible move for Google, but I still wish it would happen in an alternate reality. Google can still do this if they hold back their google apps/services from the oem's unless they follow their rules, which may include faster updates, no bloatware, no modifications to the UI, etc. Risky as there is always the chance of a revolt, but a revolt will happen sooner or later anyway looking at something like Tizen and Samsung.

    The entire delayed updates is a complete and utter joke in the US. 8-9 months to get Marshmallow on my Note 5 is a complete and utter joke, and I should not be subjected to crap like that when paying full price on the phone and paying a carrier for overpriced data every month. This is a real issue and it's been getting lots of press this past year, but nothing will be done unless Google steps in and lays down the law to the oems, and then google in conjunction with the oems can lay down the law to the carriers.
     
  19. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #19
    Then Samsung will tell Google to pound sand fork Android and leave GMS out. Duplicate apps are because if you want one Google app you have to take them all.

    I run without gapps on my '12 Nexus 7 and it fly's as soon as I flash gapps its a laggy mess. Google is seemingly making no effort to make its framework more efficient where the opposite seems to be true of AOSP.

    A couple years ago One Plus wanted to wrest control of Android from Google and that didn't happen at least yet I think its time someone created a GMS alternative. F-droid is great for people like me who enjoy being different but it'll never fly scaled out.
     
  20. spinedoc77 macrumors G3

    spinedoc77

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    #20
    Sure that's a risk, as is Samsung putting its weight behind Tizen. But I don't see any other way for the pitiful update schedule to be fixed. No I don't think it's going to happen, but I also don't think Samsung will suddenly grow a set of cojones and tell the carriers to fall in line either. Basically nothing is going to change, ever. So get used to those 8 month wait times for OS updates, or be willing to sacrifice quality for a google branded phone.
     
  21. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #21
    I will continue to buy anything that will let me unlock the bootloader and has dev support. For now that's Nexus I have a feeling it won't be after the 4th.
     
  22. spinedoc77 macrumors G3

    spinedoc77

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    #22
    Signs point to Nougat 7.1 and the pixel as very difficult to root. While there will always be ways around, I see these freedoms becoming tougher and tougher to achieve. They also take away the advantage of fast updates, as you won't be able to update and keep root. I don't think bootloaders will remain unlocked for long in the google world either with security required for things like Android pay.
     
  23. Hanson Eigilson macrumors member

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    #23
    They do not make modifications with the objective to serve the user or make an ultimately better product, but with their individual objectives, and they have enough money to burn on it that it's between unappealing and impossible to make substantial updates to the OS. Open source development in and of itself is absolutely no guarantee that any project is maintainable, user centric or even reasonably transparent.

    Right now google wants it's hooks in your data to sell it to advertisers, constantly, manufacturers wants their hooks in your usage patterns to make it annoying for you to switch brands and carriers wants their hooks into whatever crevice is left to poke something in, and it's a mess, it's costing a lot of battery, a lot of bad UI, and a lot of tiredness with the whole ecosystem for most casual people and many developers.

    What i'm proposing is not that someone locks it all down like Apple does, it is that some individual manufacturer commits to provide pure upmarket product to customers and that people can THEN do what they want with it.
     

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