It's not your imagination: Ice Cream Sandwich updates really are slow

It's not your imagination: Ice Cream Sandwich updates really are slow
Does it feel like the Android updating process is as slow as molasses? Of course just like waiting for a watched pot to boil, the agony of waiting is exacerbated every time a new update comes to Android; we spend months waiting to see who will get the updates at all, and who will be first. Those who take longer are then subject to critical analysis – is it their custom UI skin that’s holding them back? Do they simply not want to invest as many resources in supporting your phone as company "X"? Does getting early access via the Nexus program help out? (For those wondering, the answers are: sometimes, probably, and most likely).

Pundits often urge patience – it really does take time to adapt new versions of an operating system to a phone. And subjectively it’s never going to feel fast enough, since once you see those shiny new features demoed an update can't come soon enough; you want that taste of Ice Cream Sandwich on your phone RIGHT NOW. So are we all just a bunch of impatient ingrates, or is ICS taking a really, really long time to make its way to handsets?

It turns out that this time it isn’t you: the updates really are taking longer than normal.

To demonstrate that the wait really is taking longer, the team at Android Police put together a graph showing the rate of adoption of each major update, synced to the date that the SDK was made available (i.e. the point where all companies could start working on those updates). Despite claims that OEMs have gotten the message that updates are important, it turns out that the adoption rate of Android 4.0 is dramatically trailing that of previous updates.

In fact it's dramatically slower. Now, to be fair, the rapid adoption rates of Eclair and Froyo were in part due to there being a significant portion of the Android ecosystem made up by the Nexus One and the original Motorola Droid, both of which saw quick updates to Froyo. And the summer's big seller, the Droid X, also caught an update within a couple months of launching (as did the Droid Incredible and the HTC Evo). So in many ways the Gingerbread update is a better comparison with Ice Cream Sandwich, and as you can see the adoption curve is fairly similar between the two. But despite the similar shape of the adoption curve, ICS is still lagging notably behind.

Why is that? It’s easy to pick on OEMs and carriers for not caring enough, or deciding that it just isn’t in their immediate financial interest, but if that were really the case we’d expect to see at least one or two companies that jumped the gun and got the ICS update out to make their phones more appealing.  Instead, it appears that the 4.0 update is really different from past versions of Android, so it’s taking longer to get them out the door.

Some confirmation of that was made last week, when Android AOSP lead Jean-Baptiste Queru made the infamous pronouncement that Sony updating the Tablet S to ICS in 5 months is “very reasonable”. While the news of the day was generally outrage that such a long time table should be considered reasonable, the more important point was actually Queru’s explanation of why that is true:

The added emphasis is ours – but Queru makes it very clear that all of those wonderful features that you get when moving from Gingerbread to ICS, including much improved hardware acceleration of the UI, totally rewritten core apps, and an entirely new design aesthetic, come at the cost of increased complexity for the software engineers tasked with delivering you the updates.

There is some irony here, in that Google released its most challenging update the same year as they announced the Android Update Alliance – a working agreement that was supposed to encourage OEMs and networks to provide updates at a brisker rate than we’d seen in the past. But that shouldn’t negate the challenge of what employees are trying to do at the Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc. Nor is this meant as an attack against Android (though we know many of you will choose to take it that way). After all, it was recently announced that no WP7 phones will be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, and Research in Motion was never known for rapid OS updates.

Instead, it's simply a fact of the platform. You get get more choices and customization, but you're going to wait longer than for Apple (who updates itself). And Windows Phone updates can be faster due to their more uniform hardware requirements, but that can also lead to a uniform lack of an update when system requirements jump between version. So really, you just have to make the decision based on which characteristics are more important to you. And for all you Android users out there, there may be a light at the end of this tunnel – with the massive UI overhaul that started with Honeycomb and culminated with ICS, perhaps the next round of updates will have fewer changes under the hood, and we'll get speedier updates.

Then again, we don’t want to sacrifice the rate of innovation just to see faster updates, do we?

source: Android Police via Electricpig



1. joseg81

Posts: 204; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

i'm loving ICS on my HTC Amaze. i had to do that "unofficial" official update. but i couldn't wait til june :( updates seem to be too slow especially with T-mobile.

13. babyk

Posts: 379; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

have one issue everything works fine on ics update for amaze did this update for a friend but notice the browser lags like when scrolling it takes a second to scroll on most websites wasent happening on gingerbread are you experiencing this? @ joseg81

23. jove39

Posts: 2147; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Go to Settings > Developer Options > Force GPU rendering. Click on checkbox next to this option...hope it'll help

65. babyk

Posts: 379; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

doesnt. But is there a way to revert to gingerbread on stock non rooted?

24. joseg81

Posts: 204; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

no actually i have only experience one problem with my swype beta keyboard, which installed from the swype site. i use dolphin browser or chrome. i rarely use the stock browser. i'll give it a shot later and see if i get that problem.

68. babyk

Posts: 379; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

screen gets very hot and battery runs very fast. screen gets hot even when i dont use the phone

34. joseg81

Posts: 204; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

i just tried it out and experienced only a slight lag from my swipe of the screen to the scrolling of the page. it wasn't anything major but i notice what ur talking about. i tried different sites and even tried it on dolphin hd, it only happened with stock browser no matter what site i went to.

71. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

blah to the stock browser. chrome or Opera. i use opera mostly for the flash ability and its still darn smooth. If its hot and running out fast, then you need to change your CPU clock settings. you have it set to run at full speed all the time. Either that or its not going into sleep mode. It needs to be a range of speeds for the system to play with.. for example, on my SGS1 i have it at minimum 200mhz to 1000mhz. That way when its sleeping or not doing anything it can drop down and save battery. if you have it at 1000/1000 (or whatever your standard clock is), it will never ever slow down. hope that helps.

22. Muhannad

Posts: 455; Member since: Sep 20, 2011

Its at times like these when the beauty of the XDA community is realized.

2. tward291

Posts: 559; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

lol and thats why android is a epic fail

4. Mxyzptlk unregistered

This is the side of Android people tend to ignore.

25. jove39

Posts: 2147; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

iSh33p commenting in frustration from iOS!

29. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Fandroids commenting in denial.

47. matrix_neo

Posts: 334; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Eyesheeps still in denial, they can't accept the truth that their idevices are losing it's magic. Although android has slow in releasing it's updates, still people buy it coz they know they have choices and freedom.

57. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Slow in releasing updates, fast at being outdated and losing what little value they have. Typical things Fandroids seem to overlook much like everything else that is wrong with Android.

69. andydrew2011

Posts: 2; Member since: May 01, 2012

iSheep are pathetic...I bought the 4s and traded it in for an android and couldn't be happier. iOS is nice, don't get me wrong, but it's way too boring. the same 4x4 grid and same icons after 5 years of the phone being out there. with the iPhone there is no variety! My android phone is faster and I guarantee it too. The specs in the iPhone aren't as great as android phones, too. I'm not a fanboy of either, though it sounds that way. I just strongly perfer android after the dullness of the iPhone. For some people, the 4x4 grid is great. But for me, it doesn't cut it. The iPhone and Android phones are both very nice, but if you want variety, choose android. BTW you may not believe this, but 90% of people that own smartphones use android :)

75. Mxyzptlk unregistered

People who use the term "eye sheep" are the ones who're jealous because the device they make fun of is more stable than the device they praise. It's not surprising given that Android tends to be less stable than iOS. You can call iOS boring and bland until the cows come calling, but in the end it only matters if you can use your device and not be held up by a force close or a software reboot. Btw, everyone I know either owns an iPhone or wants to own an iPhone. A lot of people who have Android are not happy with it.

77. andydrew2011

Posts: 2; Member since: May 01, 2012

Actually android force closes less than iOS and applications. Don't believe me? look it up. Everyone that I know that has a high end android phone that competes with the iPhone prefers android. And you shouldn't be talking about use. Android can do so many more things that the iPhone can. Just get used to it. Also, I could say that people who use the term "Fandroid" are the ones who're jealous because the device they make fun of is more innovative, useful, and more fun to use.

33. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

So don't buy Android. I'll wait for updates to get new features instead of receiving timely updates that leave me with the same pathetic grid of icons...

63. reagannism

Posts: 9; Member since: Nov 23, 2011

lol. same icons for 5 years. pathetic pathetic pathetic

76. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Right, wait for those updates while your device continues to be outdated since by the time you get the updates, the next Android version is on the horizon.

46. matrix_neo

Posts: 334; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Are you blind and deaf?? Thousands already activated android phones and growing worldwide market share, still an epic fail??!! If your ios will have same ui and icons this year, that's an epic fail!!

70. Mxyzptlk unregistered

At least that same UI won't freeze and cause my phone to force close my apps or reboot randomly.

3. PackMan

Posts: 277; Member since: Mar 09, 2012

Another link bait.

5. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Looks like Android struck an iceberg here.

45. matrix_neo

Posts: 334; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Looks like eyesheeps struck in a barn for 5 years now. So sad they just roaming around inside it. Are they going to be released this year?? No!! Why? Their "sheperd" will get angry. Lol

58. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Is saying "eye sheep" the only creative insult you can think of, or am I giving fandroids too much credit here?

59. matrix_neo

Posts: 334; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Actually there's a lot of it, just don't want to hurt your eyes of reading it and from stop bleeding of your heart. If you don't like these, please stop trolling, bashing, insulting, or making the android an inferior os. It's so disgusting!! Im not alone here, there are millions of us fandroids. Why we are in millions, we know what the true capabilities and uses of a smartphone, only android can do that. Yours just an app launcher.

61. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Your English and grammar are as broken as the OS you're trying to defend. No one is denying Android's "true" capabilities, capabilities that are the sole reason why updates take so long and why they become outdated so fast. You really think Android fans have it made? Besides getting the table scraps and bottom of the barrel apps that have already seen release on the app store, what else is there to "Play" on the market? Perhaps if OEMs would make a phone that's actually cutting edge and offers an overall better user experience, then I think Android would be a very suitable choice as an OS.

6. chadrick0814 unregistered

Just for comparison, how long did it take for WinMo 6.5 to update to WP 7? How long will it take to update WP7 to WP8?

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.