It's one of those days when having an Android phone with manufacturer UI feels particularly bad

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
It's one of those days when having an Android phone with manufacturer UI feels particularly bad
Today turned out to be a very happy day for the not-so-many users sporting a Google-experience Android device, and a particularly bad day for the numerous users owning an Android device with some kind of a manufacturer skin on top. As you've probably heard, Google officially introduced Android 4.3, and what's more, it also announced that an update will be rolled out to compatible devices starting today.

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.



1. ZeroCide

Posts: 816; Member since: Jan 09, 2013


16. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2451; Member since: Feb 14, 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: Aug 11, 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: Jul 24, 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: 2451; Member since: Feb 14, 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: Jan 21, 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: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 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 Please enlighten

17. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 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.

49. darkkjedii

Posts: 31313; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Good post. Good points.

59. reddevilv7

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 29, 2011

You read my mind!

29. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Yes, fragmentation.

33. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 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: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

56. darkkjedii

Posts: 31313; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Zeus is that jay cutler

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: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Thank you. You said it BEST! Rooting Android is a choice that EVERYONE should make. The benefits of root are countless. +1

79. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 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: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 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.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Most people don't know how to or are too afraid to root, especially the ones coming from iOS.

44. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 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: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 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: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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: 44; Member since: Jun 13, 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: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

So now you've covered the Nexus line, GA, and the 1% of Android users who root.

23. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 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: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

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

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.