It's one of those days when having an Android phone with manufacturer UI feels particularly bad
Now that's very cool of Google to release an update on the very same day as the announcement of the new platform itself, but there's one little 'but'. By compatible devices, we mean the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Galaxy Nexus and the Google Play Editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Noticing a trend? No Android device that happens to have some sort of a custom, manufacturer-made user interface is going to get the software update today. In fact, it'll probably take months for those devices to start receiving an up-to-date version.
Of course, we would have been unpleasantly surprised by all this... if it wasn't just the normal way things are currently in Android land. It usually goes like this - Google announces a software update - Nexus devices get it right away - others wait for months (if they are lucky enough to get an update at all). So, as we said, this is nothing new, so why the rant? Well, while we were watching Google introduce Android 4.3 at its low-key event today, we simply felt really bad for all the folks out there who won't be able to get the new features anytime soon, simply because the manufacturer of their device has decided to differentiate its product by putting a software layer of doubtful usefulness on top of the Android system.
We do understand that manufacturers need to differentiate from one another in more ways than just physical design and hardware features, but what good is this when it turns out that it's hampering the end-user experience? The mobile industry we have nowadays is unique in that there are companies that develop the software used on other companies' phones and tablets. Due to the fact that this is a pretty new and specific model, we are now witnessing all those hardware companies like Samsung, Motorola, Sony, LG and HTC lagging behind the developer of the software - in this case, Google. Obviously, there are actually zero problems with hardware compatibility, as Google experience devices like the GS4 Google Play Edition and One Google Play Edition are also getting the update right away. What that means is that the biggest challenge that hardware manufacturers encounter on their way to producing a software update for their devices remain their own custom user interfaces, or experience, or whatever they want to call them. Carriers, of course, are yet another stop where software updates need to wait before finally getting approval to continue to users' phones and tablets.
At the end of the day, we simply can't overlook the fact that such powerful and resourceful companies like Samsung, Motorola, LG and HTC have had more than enough time to figure this while thing out, yet they are still struggling to catch up every time Google pushes a new Android build. This situation is hilarious and troubling at the same time. Fact is, this is one of those days when it feels particularly bad to be an owner of a non-stock Android handheld. Another fact is that if the above mentioned manufacturers actually care about their customers, they should try reduce the waiting time as much as possible. It's probably unrealistic to wish for those updates to come as soon as those for Nexus devices, but right now it does look like all these companies care about is to sell as many units of their latest models as they can, and then move on to the next one.
16. Dr.Phil (Posts: 981; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
What people fail to realize is that when you have an open source system there is always going to be some degree of fragmentation. Take for instance Ubuntu for the desktop. While the latest build, 13.04, has been available for some time, there are people who still choose to install the old 12.04 build instead. When the end user has a choice, the possibilities are endless. That is why "rooting a phone" has become so common because it allows the user to customize his or her own experience.
I find it funny that the same person who wrote about his realization of how much better windows phone is and how he didn't like Android after trying it for a few days is able to comment on how Android owners feel about software updates.
26. rusticguy (Posts: 2828; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)
M$ has been known to gift items to bloggers so that "other article" wasn't a surprise at all to me. In past M$ has donated laptops to bloggers to blog good things about M$ ... bloggers/reviewers get sudden and short-lived enlightenment on getting gifts from M$ ... nothing uncommon there.
51. dednikko (Posts: 2; Member since: 24 Jul 2013)
That's not the problem you represent it as. 12.04 is a LTS (Long Term Support) release for enterprise users. The next comes out as 14.04 (April 2014).
Users wanting to effectively beta test all the roadmapped developments between the two LTS releases can use 12.10, 13.04 and 13.10. These releases tend to be more experimental and feature filled, though less polished than the LTS releases.
53. Dr.Phil (Posts: 981; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
Yes but my point still stands. I know people who have a device with Android 4.1 and waited a very long time before updating to the next Android build because the applications they used had not yet updated to be used with the latest build. Not to mention they felt there was no real need to upgrade to have the features that were built into Android 4.2. The same goes for people who use any other open-source operating system and decide whether they want the latest and greatest or if they are just fine with the operating system that seems to run the smoothest on their device. I just used Ubuntu as a simple example but there are other Linux based operating systems that people use the older builds of instead of the latest ones because they may not like the way the new one is over the old one. Another example:some people still prefer Windows 7 over Windows 8. Even though Windows 8 has all of these great features, there are people out there that still prefer the old OS over the new one. Again, it goes back to this idea of choice. Some people may be happy with Android 4.1 and others may be clamoring to get the latest and greatest Android 4.3.
I've used devices that had the option of upgrading to the next Android build and for some reason they always seem to have a little bit of problems that weren't there before. The manufacturer then realizes their mistake and tries to send out more updates and more updates to fix the problems, but sometimes it's just easier to stick with the Android build that worked fine to begin with.
69. rdeleonp (Posts: 44; Member since: 21 Jan 2012)
That's just a lousy job by the manufacturer. But hey, they are a business and only care about moving as many units as possible. Screw updates entirely or provide unstable updates. Never again.
74. Mittal (Posts: 491; Member since: 14 Dec 2011)
Regarding your last line Dr.
Firstly, I dont find any relation between Ray's comments in the other article where he justified his personal opinioin (Android did not cut it from him) and in this article where he is highlighting the software delay issues (which are true)
Secondly, for now, there is no inconsistency that i find in the two articles
17. Birds (Posts: 1125; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)
Not really so much fragmentation... More so a very fast market.... I personally find it to be a bit a swift now, considering that android really doesn't need all that quadcore and octacore power. A specs race is ultimately pointless when developers are barely able to catch of for software optimization. That is one area I'll admit that iOS beats android (the only area). Now that android optimization has reached such a significant point, I just want android devices to slow their role and for developers to make already great apps utterly godly.
33. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4620; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)
Why feel bad? I don't because I root. With root you are always on the MOST current Android with ROMs that increase performance, battery life & with WAY more features that STOCK.
Everything that Android 4.3 has features wise I have HAD in Android 4.2.2 & then some more. Really the only new thing Android 4.3 brings to the root community is improved performance & battery life.
Once the developers get their hands on Android 4.3 they will improve on the STOCK Android 4.3. Man my HTC Droid DNA is going to be EVEN more epic than it is once Root-Box ROM gets updated to Android 4.3.
I say in less than a week I will be all over Android 4.3.
People PLEASE root your Android devices.
37. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
I'll root my Android device when the manufacturer tells me it's perfectly acceptable and not an instant warranty void.
45. Zeus.k (unregistered)
If you can root you can also undo it. I mean You unroot a rooted device and get the full warranty. Manufacturer can never figure it out. That's the beauty of android.
57. Zeus.k (unregistered)
Yeah bro. Big fan of him. Would like to see him winning Mr O But that's unlikely to happen lol.
78. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4620; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)
Thank you. You said it BEST!
Rooting Android is a choice that EVERYONE should make. The benefits of root are countless.
79. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4620; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)
You know that root is a benefit & can actually make your device way better that it is out of the box right?
The warranty issue is NOT a good reason not to root.
80. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
I agree that a rooted device *may* be better than the way it is right out of the box, but that doesn't make it "a choice that EVERYONE should make". If it's best for everyone, why are so few manufacturers open to it? Why are they so protective of their custom UIs? They feel it's what's best for the consumer (read: non-power user).
If Android phones are not optimized out of the box, and require a tech-savvy user to "fix", that's an indictment of the ecosystem.
39. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
I don't root and I don't feel bad. I'm honestly fine with JB 4.1.
42. Zeus.k (unregistered)
I don't see the point of complaining. People choose to buy a certain manufacturers product. If you want a stock experience and fastest updates you can buy nexus. You can always root.
43. PAPINYC (banned) (Posts: 2315; Member since: 30 Jul 2011)
Most people don't know how to or are too afraid to root, especially the ones coming from iOS.
44. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
It's not really a matter of not knowing how to; the instructions are there, plain as day. It's a matter of not knowing what rooting is and, more importantly, not caring in the slightest. Why should the average customer care that they don't have the latest and greatest version?
47. McLTE (Posts: 742; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
Lets face it.. the average consumer doesn't know the difference between Android 4.0 and 4.3. They don't know, and don't care.
They want a phone that works and that's about it.
50. Zeus.k (unregistered)
Exactly . Updates are not a problem for majority it's just a choice.
2. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
Hopefully Motorola can start bucking this trend, but seeing how the Droid HD line is still running 4.1, it looks doubtful. Given how light the Moto custom UI is, I don't understand, unless they simply didn't see any end-user advantage to the 4.1 to 4.2 upgrade.
3. hypergreatthing (Posts: 36; Member since: 13 Jun 2012)
Fairly sure the custom roms on xda will be all over this in no time.
Everyday is a good day with a rooted device and a custom rom with features the carrier will never implement .
20. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
So now you've covered the Nexus line, GA, and the 1% of Android users who root.
23. NexusPhan (Posts: 586; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)
Those 1% must buy a whole ton of apps considering 6 of the top 10 paid apps require root. I think a lot more people root than we know.
34. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
Not a lot of top-selling Android apps are paid to begin with. I know about 2 dozen Android users and only one who rooted. We like to believe we here in the comments are the Android end-user, but we're only a tiny fraction.
4. imkyle (Posts: 1043; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)
I sacrificed LTE in order to get the Nexus 4 on AT&T and I couldn't be happier I did.
5. networkdood (Posts: 6329; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
Seriously, phone arena? When Google releases an update, only Google devices get it right away. This is common knowledge and not a big deal, so stop the trolling and attracting the iPhone trolls. Anyone who wants 4.3 on their Android can go to the XDA website, it will be there a lot sooner than waiting for the OEMs/wireless carriers to release the next update. I have been doing this for over three years now, and my little Captivate is running 4.2.2 as well as my Droid RAZR. I do own a Nexus 7.1, though :-)
6. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
I think their point is that it's more visible now than it was a year or two ago. When there was only one rare Nexus phone getting the update, it went practically unnoticed. Now that you can buy a Nexus 7 at any retail chain, consumers (meaning those unaware of rooting and XDA) are more likely to ask "hey, my tablet just got 4.3... why is my phone still running 4.1?"
9. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
I disagree because the differences between Android versions are becoming less and less noticeable. It was at its worst from 2011-2012 when phones were lagging behind on the GB-ICS upgrade, but any phone made within the last year-plus is running at least ICS, which is still a very sophisticated OS despite being three versions old now.
15. StalkinUrMom (Posts: 111; Member since: 16 Apr 2012)
I went back to using my HTC Sensation for a couple hours the other day, it has 4.0 and I can't stand it, to be honest. I've been spoiled by project butter.
19. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
But the consumer doesn't know that. The upgrades from 2.1 to 2.2 were significant. Ditto 2.2 to 2.3. And 2.3 to 4.0 was enormous. I'm still smarting from the fact that my phone never got 4.1, because I know it smacked down lag. Even if the improvements from 4.1 to 4.2 to 4.3 are small, past experience with Android would suggest otherwise, unless the user reads a lot of tech sites.
27. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
I'm not sure if the average customer could even tell you what version of Android they are running, much less be slighted that they aren't running the latest one. Like hypergreatthing mentions below, why should anyone feel the necessity to be upgraded to a higher version in the first place? This is a fairly recent development that doesn't typically exist with PCs.
70. rdeleonp (Posts: 44; Member since: 21 Jan 2012)
ICS vs JB is like Night and Day. No way I'm going back to ICS. JB is just way smoother and more responsive, so much so, it's almost funny. Android keeps evolving for the better. Keep it coming, Google.
10. hypergreatthing (Posts: 36; Member since: 13 Jun 2012)
Ok so if i bought a dell pc from 2 years ago and it was running windows 7, should i be surprised when i buy a new computer and it's running windows 8? WTF Dell, upgrade my old computer!
Upgrade my old pc to windows 8 if i so desired?
I'm fairly sure that's where xda comes into play. A community based free upgrade to any phone.
14. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
The difference between the smartphone OS and the PC OS is that the upgrades between versions of smartphone OS's are typically much more extensive (from a pure user-experience standpoint) than the differences between PC OS's. This makes it hard to directly compare an Android upgrade to a Windows upgrade, because while the Android OS is still in a state of feature-growth (although this growth is slowing down from the days of Froyo-GB-ICS, etc.) Windows has largely matured, and its features have stayed largely the same for the last decade.
18. roldefol (Posts: 3260; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
Agreed. For one thing, I buy a PC expecting to keep it for 5 years. Windows versions only come around every few years, unlike Android versions, so there's no urgency there. Throw in missteps like Vista and Windows 8 and the analogy goes right out the window. And with Windows, if I choose to upgrade my OS, yes the expense is on me, but I am free to do so. I don't have that freedom with a phone unless I want to void my warranty. You can't compare rooting/XDA with a retail Windows upgrade.
40. Hallucinator (Posts: 344; Member since: 24 May 2010)
Horrible analogy. People who buy a phone that is a week old will end up waiting months to get 4.3.
7. muhsen (Posts: 275; Member since: 07 Jun 2012)
I think android should go the windows phone way ...all android phones get stock android and phone manufacturers differentiate by exclusive apps and features (like nokia) but not a complete customized launcher..this will really speed up the update cycle like in wp ( Microsoft announces GDR2..new devices running it get to the market(925 ,1020) right away .a couple of weeks later , htc and Samsung devices get pure GDR2...a couple of weeks later lumia devices get nokia amber(GDR2 with nokia added features))
currently plus nexus devices, iphones and windows phones r the best in terms of speed of updates and the length of update cycle too (iPhones =3 years, wp7 from 2010 till 2013 and maybe more (7.1 ,7.5, 7.5 refresh and 7.8) and Microsoft officially increased the update life cycle of wp8 to 36 months )
8. PapaSmurf (Posts: 9719; Member since: 14 May 2012)
XDA has everyone covered if you want the latest and greatest. Just saying.
11. Commentator (Posts: 2784; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
"This situation is hilarious..." -Ray S.
I don't get it actually, can someone explain please?
32. ZeroCide (Posts: 712; Member since: 09 Jan 2013)
This probably has to do with TROLL's stupid rants he come in spewing all the time.
12. AdamLeonard (Posts: 45; Member since: 24 Aug 2011)
Pretty sure that it's not available for the Google Editions of the HTC One and Samsung S4, only the Nexus products today. Releases for Google Editions releases for those products are managed by the manufacturers and not Google. So it's up to these manufacturers. While you might hope that they would push the releases to the Google Editions quickly, I don't know that they would. Think about it. Samsung has sold tens of millions of regular S4s and is unlikely to sell even a million Google Edition S4s. Why not put your efforts where they can have the biggest impact first. Google Editions sounded great but unless the manufacturers really commit to prioritizing them for updates, they represent nothing more than a stock but SNAPSHOT experience - they do not give you the benefit of instant updates like Nexus products do.
13. StalkinUrMom (Posts: 111; Member since: 16 Apr 2012)
The whole point of me getting a Nexus back in March was for the fast updates from Google. I don't really care now that I have a custom ROM, lol. It's just 4.3, big whoop.
25. HildyJ (Posts: 216; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)
4:55 EST, Galaxy Nexus, USA, 4.3 is available OTA for me as soon as I can get to a WiFi connection.
28. Shatter (Posts: 2036; Member since: 29 May 2013)
The fix is simple.
Google needs to update their android licencing to say the phone manufactorers will have to update all of their devices made within like the past 12 months to the newest version of android.
30. livyatan (Posts: 862; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)
This is a distorted perception article.
Full of such a poor understanding of what android really is and how it works.
Ray, you are going by the automatically generated assumption that stock Android in its latest form is THE BEST SOFTWARE AVAILABLE WITHOUT QUESTION.
And this is where we have to ask ourselves - wait, but IS IT?
WHY NO ONE IS FEELING BAD FOR NEXUS OWNERS WHEN SAMSUNG, FOR EXAMPLE, RELEASES THEIR LATEST CUSTOM SOFTWARE?
Wouldn't it be cool if stock Android had a multi window feature, or Samsung's awesome stock browser.. or it's superior media player..or app-to sd card without rooting, like samsung does?
What about those LG owners who LOVE their unique LG android tweaks, or the absolutely awesome camera app in the latest HTC's Sense?
Does Android 4.3 have any of this?
The second assumption is- custom android is bloated, with ruined performance.
No one ever thinks that manufacturers could actually do their own improvements and optimizations on the software.
Well, in the GSMArena's review of stock galaxy S4, the stock software turned having worse benchmark performance and was beaten in battery life, by the touch wiz version!
It just makes no sense to expect the newest Android version being immediately available on every Android phone out there.
You are asking from something that is made to be an open source and thus freely evolving, to stop being what it is!
36. ZeroCide (Posts: 712; Member since: 09 Jan 2013)
Most of those should all be apps independant of the OS so the OS can be easily upgraded. If the OS is optimized by the manufacturer then this is a delay to the user. In the end it may be a better experience but still a delay. The main reason for this is that there is no uniform way to build a cell phone. They all have different configurations all the way down to the CPU level.
38. zennacko (Posts: 236; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)
Skins should be available as a separate download on Google Play, limited to brand and model of the phone... that way everyone would get the vanilla android, and IF they wanted, they could just install their brand skin with their exclusive features and live happily ever after. And when it was time to update, they'd just need to disable the skin, reboot, get the update for their vanilla android, wait for an updated skin (which would be a small patch, not a full system update!) and voila, works again!
But no, the manufacturers have to wait until google releases a STABLE version of Android so they can rebuild it with their skin applied, THEN push it to the bought-unlocked phone users, after that comes the carrier bloated versions that take even more time... it's too much bureaucracy for an update!
41. waterninja21 (Posts: 22; Member since: 03 May 2013)
The only people that really care will be power users but the majority of android phones out there are owned by the general public and have no clue what the hell any of this means to them. So it is not a big deal for them but the bloggers and tech media will try to make it a big deal to the average people.
46. Jason2k13 (Posts: 771; Member since: 28 Mar 2013)
buy a sumsung high end phone, you get more features provided than what google offers, and samsung updates are generally quicker then other manufacturers.
Remember fast updates is mostly aimed to the geeks and tech savvy people, so fast updates only plays a minor part in peoples life.
48. McLTE (Posts: 742; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
What the article fails to mention is that it doesn't really matter how fast the OEM updates their overlay for the update, though that always takes time.. it's the carrier that really F things up.
It blows my mind that it takes carriers as long as it does to get these out to customers.
I'd like for Google to mandate that the overlays that OEMs develop are installable Applications that can be updated through the app store. This way Google could push updates to phones and the OEMs could update their overlays whenever.
One thing that Apple does RIGHT, is they can update phone software anytime. They aren't cockblocked by the carriers.
52. KashAli (Posts: 105; Member since: 01 Apr 2013)
I totally regret buying Very First Android phone (which is the best of Android Samsung Galaxy S4) cost me whopping £600 Cash !!! convert that to american dollars you will find out! the worse part is it crashes and goes red hot. FOR GOD SAKE! :@
54. belovedson (Posts: 832; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)
ray s why do you guys continue to slam android and fragmentation.
do you not realize at this point that one android os has matured to the point its stable.
second if anyone needs 4.3 now and carry one the popular line of android devices they can always wait within a month for a stable daily build in the root scene.
the only people who keep talking about this crap is obvious apple users.
manufacturers have been imporving by introducing one devices. which in turn helps the rootings scene because the likelihood of the sources being released.
i doubt you or the ios nuggets knew this. but anyways continue to troll it appeases the ios pundats who cotinue with the same argument about android devices.