Fragmentation is alive and well: Samsung's new, 2016 edition Galaxy A phones - depressingly - run on a year-old version of Android

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

You know that something is seriously wrong in the world of Android phones when the largest Android phone maker with a global footprint, Samsung, unveils three new devices that are supposed to represent the mainstream of its lineup and all of them run on a year-old version of the Android platform.

The new, 2016 edition of the Galaxy A series - starting with the most affordable 4.7” Galaxy A3, and going through the 5.2” Galaxy A5 and 5.5” A7 - all ship with Android 5.1 Lollipop and not a single marshmallow in sight.

And that’s absurd.

It’s been nearly two months since Android 6.0 Marshmallow factory images have been released to the world (the exact date was October 5th, 2015), and it’s been half a year since Google officially unveiled Marshmallow at I/O 2015.

One might argue that if these were some dirt cheap offerings, the lack of the latest version of Android might be excusable, but that’s not the case. While we don’t have official prices just yet, it’s safe to assume that the new Galaxy A phones won’t be priced drastically different than last year’s A series. And those were not cheap devices: the A7, in particular, would be nearing the price of a flagship phone, and the A5 is likely to be more expensive than your average mid-ranger.

You could tell that these are not dirt cheap phones by the looks as well: Samsung seems to have finally gotten design right and the new phones come with a stylish glass body and a metal frame. They are good looking and fairly powerful.

Yet all of that good impression falls in shambles once you look at the dated version of Android they ship with.

Sure, there aren’t many Android 6.0 phones out there just yet, but there are some: the Nexus series are of course treated specially, but then there is the ailing HTC with its One A9. The One A9 is by no means a ‘patrician’ special class citizen, yet HTC has managed to ship it with Android 6.0 Marshmallow nearly a month ago.

The three new Galaxy A phones are expected to arrive in China in the middle of December, while their international debut will likely happen in January (exactly a year after the release of the 2015 A series). By then, it would have been more than three months since the arrival of Android 6.

So what is keeping Samsung from releasing the 2016 Galaxy A series with Android 6.0 Marshmallow? Is it some immense effort for adapting TouchWiz to the new version of the platform? Or is it some kind of an attempt to keep the very best for the up and coming Galaxy S7? Whatever it is, one thing remains certain: it speaks no good for the Android platform that year after year the same story repeats itself with buyers getting all new phones with outdated software and dubious prospects for future updates.



1. kick413

Posts: 162; Member since: Sep 16, 2012

NO OEM should be allowed to do this. If a new version comes out the devices that follow should be on it.

7. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Why OEMs shouldn't be allowed to? Even Google does not fund these OEMs for building thier own UI, nor helping them in the sales of thier flagships, which are devices that pivotaly deserve to run the latest and greatest Android OS!! Every OEM does release Android updates according to thier own marketing strategies and targets. Not just according to the latest version of the Android OS available!

36. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

It been done because with android 6.0 you have to encrypt the phone out of the box and that will damage it speed, that's why

46. sgodsell

Posts: 7451; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The author should learn about Android history before posting his crap. Version 5.1 of Android came out the end of March of 2015. Version 5.1.1 came out the end of April 2015. So in reality April will be a year.

44. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

^^ well said. Just having the latest version doesn't make it better. We all knew what a mess 5.0/5.0.1 was. People tend to forget that it's open source, OEMs can take the source code and modify that to whatever they want. There is no compulsion to have latest version. And frankly, if it works good and is optimized, who cares what version they are installed?

48. AntiFanBoyz unregistered

This has been my thinking since I bought my first Android device... I buy a device for its current capabilities. If it never is updated, I'm fine with that. If it is updated, that's just a bonus. I also buy a new phone every 18-24 months, so that works for me. Of I kept a phone for 4 or 5 years, I'd have a different opinion.

65. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

What? And miss out on having my phone crippled via quick iOS style update? Please, some people have money to waste and if Apple doesn't push then, then who will.

68. AlikMalix unregistered

Because security patches are the least of our concerns.

75. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Security patches are not dependent on Android version, you can push them without upgrading the OS version. It's nothing new, and has been in practice for long time for various systems. Here's some proof that security patches is independent of the OS updates.

69. WPX00

Posts: 511; Member since: Aug 15, 2015

There is no compulsion if you are not using Play Services. If you want the Play Store and all that, there is a lockout date - after then, you can no longer receive TA (technical acceptance) from Google if it's shipping with that software.

77. Cicero

Posts: 1137; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

You are totally right. Like the recent last update of S4 I9505 which brings some goodies from last Sammy software developments like Smart Manager and security fixes. I don't care if Android is 5.0.1 but I will be ok if Samsung still give me some updates and improvements.

59. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

Most people wouldn't care of what software they're running to as long as the pricing is competitive. It's a budget phone with premium built, some parts need to be sacrifice for that price

61. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

...and as long as runs the apps that user wants. As it is, the majority of apps run perfectly from Jelly Bean upto Marshmallow. Only a handful of camera apps require Android 5.x due to its support for RAW-files. So indeed I couldn't care less.

60. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Why? What does 6.0 offer that is REALLY of benefit for consumers? I think that a lot of people are fed up with this "accelerated development cycle" that these corporations do. Have you forgotten the disaster with 5.0 (memory leak)? It's very good that Samsung is getting a bit more cautious with these new Android versions. In fact I'm still using Kitkat on my S5 myself despite the fact that newer versions have been released for that device. Why? Because not only do I find the new versions FUgly they also make battery life worse with all that white particularly on an AMOLed equipped device which actually benefits from BLACK instead of white. Then there's the primary reason of 5.0 is 64-bit support which is useless on a 32-bit SoC. Then there's aforementioned memory leak-problem in 5.0. And on top of it all there's Samsung crippled variant on the S5 which lacks many features that the S6-version has like themes. Themes which can circumvent the battery draining white of 5.x or 6.x. So, thanks but no thanks. I'll keep using my phone the way it is. And I'll think twice before updating the OS or my phone. As I've written before. 2015 was a disaster for smartphones, memory leaks overheating and generally bad SoC's, bad devices with less features (no more user-replaceable batteries or SD-card-slots) and higher prices. I'll wait for the Cortex A72 devices and see how these do. IF they don't impress me then I'll stick with my SD801-device for a a little longer and wait for the Cortex A91 or whatever it'll be called.

73. Elfmonster unregistered

My expensive tabpro 8.4 2014 still runs kitkat! This is one reason the tablet market died. Just offer free vanilla latest android pure on Google Play Store, already, Google! Idiots! No wonder Apple is galloping away with Android abandoners. My Note is 5.0 with Drive data hole! Google! Stop ignoring your angry fing customers!

80. Shocky unregistered

Unless the devices are completely stock that can't happen right away so they use the version that's ready which is 5.1.1 (which was actually released this year) We are only now seeing beta firmware's using marshmallow from Samsung so clearly it's not ready. Why can't you understand that?

2. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Where does it make more sense to launch your new device with the latest Android version along with the latest version of your proprietary skin? On some throwaway mid-range devices that get launched with little fanfare or on your flagship device that everyone is waiting to see that will get launched at a major event with tons of press and all the glitz and glamour? It would be foolish for Samsung to release these devices with Marshmallow. I'm no huge Samsung fan, but even I can see that they picked the right route here...

5. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

So these are supposed to be "throwaway mid-range devices"? I'd love to see you try explaining that to customers, if you were Samsung :)

8. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Aren't they though? Obviously Samsung won't market them that way (well, I certainly hope not) but historically that's been Samsung's M.O. The S and Note lines are the cream of the crop, and then there's... everything else. When the latest version of the OS coupled with your skin is one of the big selling points for your flagship, popping it first on mid-range devices is going to kill a lot of the momentum you want on your flagship. Does it suck for customers wanting an A device? Absolutely. And price is going to play a huge part in how this all plays out.

12. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Couldn't agree less. +1

9. manojmcn

Posts: 634; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

The reason is they do not want the customers of flagship phones S6/edge/Note5/Edgeplus to feel bad because of the latest version getting released early for the comparitively lower range A phones. Also it makes it difficult to sell the flagships during the holiday season when the A5 & A7 that nearly matches the flagships & more updated software is kept near them.

10. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

They're midrangers, hence compared to the heavy-hitting Sammy flagships, they well qualify as throw-away devices!

26. Guaire

Posts: 890; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Seems like Samsung flagship customers liked that move, but that's not good for A line. Why people should have pay near premium price for a throwaway midranger? On the other hand comparing it with HTC A9 seems wrong because it's a flat out expensive device outside US. It's more expensive than the S6 even you don't count end of the year discounts.

62. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

the only Samsung devices noteworthy or the S-series and Note's. These are also the only ones targetted for new Android releases. So yes, the rest is forgettable. "...I'd love to see you try explaining that to customers, if you were Samsung" Samsung sells the A-series as luxury variants of midrange J-, Core-, Neo or whatever they call it. Samsung (who is as clueless as anyone else these days) just give a midrange phone some metal and glass, increase its price and believe it's a luxury product. The people with real money don't buy Samsung or Apple. They buy other stuff.

39. Ajlal3

Posts: 23; Member since: Aug 03, 2012

This is a lagdroid. By an iPhone mate

42. NFSHesham

Posts: 297; Member since: Feb 04, 2014

Troling won't get you anywhere l

45. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I have no issues with the iPhone. My wife has one and she loves it. What I do have issue with is spending $1000+ (here in Canada for a 64GB iPhone 6s) for a mobile device.

50. tedkord

Posts: 17415; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Why would he want to downgrade?

81. Shocky unregistered

They are just mid ranged devices targeted is specific markets. I can understand a £20 dumb phone being refereed to as throwaway but not mid ranged smartphone, that's just silly.

3. Mxyzptlk unregistered

The question is why are you wasting money on a mediocre device that Samsung will forget about in a few months? Why not just spend that money on something more cost friendly and still has relevance like the Note 4?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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