Why don't Google force Android updates?

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by Mildredop, Nov 23, 2015.

  1. Mildredop macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    I'm suprised Google don't pass the update to the manufacturers a couple of months before the release date and insist they all release the update to their handsets on the 'launch date'.

    If Google 'own' the software, why can't one of the conditions be that handsets much be updateable to new OS for at least three years and the manufacturers must release their version on the pre-agreed date? Would stop this dripping out of the new OS.
  2. navaira macrumors 68040


    May 28, 2015
    Amsterdam, Netherlands
    It's not that easy. The Google process is actually five steps:
    – Google releases an update
    – The manufacturer puts bloatware on it
    – Then they test it to see if they broke anything (if yes, back to step 2)
    – Then the carrier puts bloatware on it
    – Then they test it to see if they broke anything (if yes, back to step 4).

    Also carriers and manufacturers do not have infinite amount of people working on those things. T-Mobile NL regularly posts that "the update is ready, it will be rolled out in 2-3 weeks". Why? Because if something goes wrong they need to allocate people to fix it. I also have a feeling Samsung gets priority treatment while other brands, like my Sony, are treated a bit like "meh, we'll do it someday".
  3. JaySoul macrumors 68030


    Jan 30, 2008
    Because to misuse the Force leads to the Dark Side.
  4. Abazigal macrumors G3


    Jul 18, 2011
    You ever see those parents who can't control their children and can only watch helplessly as their kids run wild in public and make a nuisance of themselves? That's precisely what Google is. Owning the OS means squat if you are not able to exert control over it in any meaningful fashion.

    Even Apple doesn't get it right out of the gate. Their iOS releases are timed to coincide with the annual iPhone release, and while polished, still come with their share of bugs and problems that very often take many subsequent software updates to fix (for example, iOS 8 didn't come with Apple Pay for the iPhone 6 and had to be enabled in the 8,1 patch). Google, like any software company, is constantly working on their OS and refining it. If they pass an unfinished copy to their OEMs months in advance, what happens later 3 months down the road when they unveil a more polished version of their OS? This will contain features and bug fixes that will have problems reaching the end user.

    As such, I am not sure if it is wise for Google to commit to annual releases like Apple, considering that their OEMs don't really commit to the same release schedule anyways. I feel it makes more sense for Google to focus on larger releases spaced out over a longer period of time (like 2-3 years).
  5. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    Simple. Google doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds it ....

    How many Samsung phones sell compared to how many Nexus phones sell ? Google doesn't want to ***** on its own doorstep and force the power sellers of Android that have actually made its OS base successful down a road where they would walk away because of draconian rules.

    Even the monthly 'updates' they signed up for seem to have come to a pass.
  6. VO2Max macrumors member

    Sep 12, 2014
    I am a current iPhone user considering a switch to android and one of my main concerns about jumping to android is the lack of/timeliness of updates. I know Nexus devices seem to be OK in this area but I'm currently interested the Moto X PE or Droid Turbo 2. Also, I tend to keep my phones for 3 years and if things are still working good, maybe 4 years.

    Not sure if this is a legitimate concern or not?
  7. kasakka macrumors 68020

    Oct 25, 2008
    Updates for non-flagship devices can be few but if it's a popular device the XDA community usually has various ROMs for it. To give you an idea, Android 5.0.1 is the latest official version for my Galaxy S4 but I've been running 5.1.1 using a 3rd party ROM almost since 5.1.1 was released by Google. 3rd party ROMs often update quickly to the latest version but it takes more time for major updates like Android 5 -> 6. Already there are ROMs for various phones running 6.x but none are completely bug free yet.

    While it is more hassle than Apple's updates, you do get more from 3rd party ROMs than most stock ones. More configurability, possibly more speed and battery life as users have bothered to figure out the best settings and/or develop a modded kernel. The great thing about Android is that more often than not if something doesn't work like you'd want it to, there's a 3rd party app, modded ROM or Xposed framework module that gives you the option you need. Just like stock iOS, stock Android in its most basic form is quite limited.

    Basically if you buy an Android phone you can expect it to get at least enough updates to fix any issues it might have but if you want the latest OS version you will eventually have to resort to custom ROMs. It's not really difficult once you get over the initial hurdle of installing a custom recovery.
  8. lazard macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2012
  9. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    Google may "own" Android but because it's open source the individual manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC) "own" the update process since THEY are the ones modifying the OS before it goes on the device. If Google wanted to drop the open source part, then they COULD force updates to all devices but that would make the options pretty boring as every device would have to conform to the same specs.

    Want timely updates (and this time around a pretty awesome phone), get a Nexus.
    Want a pretty interface or a bunch of added apps that you may or may not use, get a Samsung or other "skinned" phone but don't expect timely updates.

    As for the monthly security updates, those seem to be coming in a timely manner, for Android One and Nexus devices. Samsung, HTC, LG may lag a month behind due to their testing.
  10. gkarris macrumors 604


    Dec 31, 2004
    "No escape from Reality..."
    My cheap-o Apex iPad Mini knock-off with Android's been great ($80 last holiday season, same screen as the original iPad Mini but a much faster Intel processor).

    Most these "cheap" tablets have an Android system that has been changed/modified for that system (mine is 4.4.0). You'll see them on the box which system "has it installed".

    There's no way to upgrade the system on these (the update setting doesn't exist). Who cares? For cheap (I guess they're down around $60, and the 7" ones will be around $40 this holiday season) just get a new one when you want to upgrade.

    Mine still works great...
  11. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    I don't understand why a major manufacturer like Samsung doesn't cut out step 4. They'd have greater control over their product, would reduce their ongoing maintenance costs of their products, would have uniform customer experiences on each model, would provide better/faster service to their customers etc. Carriers would be crazy to turn away Samsung customers.

    TLDR - I wish Samsung would use their market clout on the Android side to break the carrier-branded business model.
  12. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    If Samsung wants to sell their phones through the carrier as subsidized devices, this is GOING to be a step in the process. Samsung could always go the Motorola route and only sell direct so as to avoid carrier involvement in OS update approval but then they wouldn't sell many devices as they cost considerably more at full retail than Motorola's devices.
  13. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    Or they could go the Apple route, sell direct AND through carriers while maintaining control over their devices. If mutually desired, subsidy pricing schemes can be implemented w/o carrier brand/bloat + carriers are moving away from this model anyway.
  14. gotluck, Nov 23, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015

    gotluck macrumors 603


    Dec 8, 2011
    East Central Florida
    I wish samsung would sell their international variants in the US instead of having to import them & get no warranty. This is the single biggest reason I dont buy samsung. I bitch about touchwiz all the time, but it is this carrier involvement that keeps me from considering samsung.

    The other problem with the international variants though is no samsung pay, VOLTE, or wifi calling in the USA. Apple kicks the carriers to the curb and still maintains VOLTE, WIFI calling, & Apple pay.

    Concerning the android monthly security patches, has any samsung device received the november patches? I think the GS4 Google Play edition is the only device that has received them
  15. jamezr macrumors G4


    Aug 7, 2011
    I wish Google would open the GPE program again! They could let the OEMs make their apps or skins available as a secondary download!
  16. navaira macrumors 68040


    May 28, 2015
    Amsterdam, Netherlands
    This is the one and only thing I hate about Android. Sony put out three software updates. First fixed Stagefright. Second fixed something else but somehow left phones completely vulnerable to Stagefright. A week later they patched that. T-Mobile Netherlands only rolled out the second update (after polluting it with their bloatware in addition to Sony bloatware). My phone has been vulnerable to Stagefright for weeks and T-Mobile forum mods won't respond to any questions about the fix. And if I update it by myself I lose warranty.
  17. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    But they don't "own" Android, its open source. They release the source code to the handset makers and/or carriers.

    The business model Google embraced led to quick marketshare, but the downside is that they do not directly control updates, like Apple does.
  18. nj-morris macrumors 68000


    Nov 30, 2014
    The question is though, when do Google release the updates to OEMs? Because releasing it to them earlier could be a good solution for updates.
    I would also like other OEMs to put out previews for updates just as Google and Apple do with Nexus phones and iPhones, respectively. Preferably release them to the public as well like Apple does.
  19. AustinIllini macrumors G3


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Right. There are a couple of ways to work around this, of course, but none of them are very appetizing if you're Google.

    Google could market "pure" phones as "Android Silver" or running "Pure Android" and advertize against its OEMs.

    Google could rename internal Android to Google OS and attempt to outmarket itself.

    Google could reel in ownership of AOSP and close the OS.

    None of these are any better than what Android has going on right now. There would need to be some kind of differentiator from OEMs, but if the Nexus line has taught us anything, Google probably can't win when competing with its own OEMs.
  20. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    If the update is ready for release to OEMs it's also ready for Nexus users. Why should Nexus users have to wait?
  21. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Because even though Samsung carries the largest market share of Android devices, they aren't the only Android OEM and carriers would have other options if push came to shove. Once upon a time Motorola and HTC were the dominant Android OEMs and look at them now.

    Samsung's market share in the US isn't growing and nearly every single device that makes up the share is sold through a carrier. The fact that it's never been possible to purchase a completely unlocked, carrier free flagship in the US directly from Samsung is proof that they have no desire to go the direct to customer route. Samsung has very little retail presence and would never see the level of sales they get through carriers.

    And let's be honest, I don't think Samsung cares one lick about a streamlined software update process, and barely about updates at all. I'd also wager that outside of tech enthusiasts, most of their customers couldn't care less either. Software doesn't make them any money.
  22. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    That was pretty much the point of my post. I wish they would change their stance and lead on this.

    Where I disagree is you seem to think the only alternative distribution model is direct sales. That's not true. Apple sells through carriers while maintaining control. Even unlocked phones like Nexus and some Moto options are sold through third-party retailers (Amazon, B&H etc). There's simply no reason distribution/sales agreements couldn't be struck with carriers, especially since Samsung can bring significant co-marketing advert money to the table.

    Finally, if the major Android players - led by their market leader - moved away from carrier branded variants what are the carriers going to do? Stop selling the devices required for their service? Manufacture their own devices?
  23. Mildredop thread starter macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    So does that mean someone else could choose to announce and launch Android Nutella...?
  24. dark_knight177 macrumors regular


    Aug 22, 2010
    1. OS updates is a completely different concept in Android. In Android google CAN and DOES regularly update the most important apps, such as Chrome, Gmail and a few others regardless of the Android version you are running.
    2. OS updates are not that important in Android as they are in iOS. Apple obviously can't update Safari independently of iOS and that means you will have to wait longer to have it patched, if security vulnerability is detected.
    3. I trust Google more to code things correctly when Google does release a new OS, because Google's new updates don't slow your devices down.
    4. For all intents and purposes Google updates every old Android phones by updating the most important parts independently of OS version.
    5. Don't believe what Apple's PR machine have you believe about updates. Read this article about how Apple shapes public opinion by controlling tech blogs and news sites. http://valleywag.gawker.com/how-apple-owns-the-media-1630628325
  25. AustinIllini macrumors G3


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    My comments in bold.

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