Tag Archive | "google update alliance"

What Happened to the Android Update Alliance? Less Than 1% of Devices Running Latest Version of Android!

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At last year’s Google I/O, a great new program was announced — Google was working with a group of equipment manufacturers to create a sort of ‘update guarentee’ which would explicitly inform customers how long they could expect their shiny new Android device to receive updates, and how quickly they could expect those updates from carriers or manufacturers. Google never named the program as far as I can tell, so I gave it one (after all, it needs a name if we’re to talk about it); the Android Update Alliance.

I was very excited to hear this news initially out of Google I/O. We’ve all heard the horror stories of companies quickly dropping software support for nearly-new devices, or leaving customers waiting months with no news about when (or if) they would receive the latest vital updates — updates which could improve both the performance of their device and the security. I thought we’d finally see companies and carriers taking responsibility and offering guaranteed and reasonably long-term support for the latest Android gadgets. After all, no one wants their brand new phone or tablet to be completely unsupported 6 months after launch.

In July, I encouraged Google and its partners to market the Android Update Alliance smartly to benefit themselves and consumers. Some suggestions included attaching a catchy name to the program, and using an exclusive logo on device boxes and in advertising so customers would know at a glance if the device they are considering is backed by the Alliance.

The Android Update Alliance announcement was made 9 months ago, and contained many of the major industry players, including Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, HTC, Spring, LG, Motorola, and others. How much progress has been made in implementing the program? Well, just about none at all as far as I can tell. I haven’t heard a single bit of news about the program since Google I/O 2011 in May, and I’ve reached out to Google for comment on several occasions and heard nothing back, except to say that there is no official webpage for information about the program and that Google has nothing further to share about it at this time.

What’s the deal Google? You didn’t even manage to name the program! The original announcement said that the initial partners agreed to support devices with updates for 18 months, but the group was apparently still deciding how quickly they could guarantee that users receive those updates. Google asked us to “stayed tuned” for more on the program, but there’s been no information at all from the company. None of the companies announced in the partnership have yet implemented any of the suggested support guarantees. It seems that the Android Update Alliance was just conceptual in nature.

Sadly, in terms of devices running the latest software, things might have gotten even worse then before the Android Update Alliance announcement. To date, less than 1% of Android devices are running the latest version of Android — and that’s being generous and grouping everything above Android 4.0 together. If you want to talk about devices running the honest to goodness “latest” version of Android (4.0.3), then we’re talking just 0.3%. Android 2.3 is currently the most widely installed version of Google’s mobile operating system, by a wide margin, being found on 54% of all Android devices to have accessed the Android Marketplace over a 14 day period. The next largest install-base is not the next version after Android 2.3, but actually the one below it; Android 2.2 with 30.4%. This means that many devices are still transitioning from Android 2.2 to Android 2.3 the exodus from Android 2.3 to the next version up has scarcely begun.

Official Data From Google

It amazes me that Google makes a big deal about Ice Cream Sandwich when such a tiny, minute, fraction of Android users even have access to it.

So, Google, my question stands: what the heck happened to the Android Update Alliance?

Update: I wanted to point out this excellent piece from Michael DeGusta which paints a stark picture of how Android and Apple after-sale software support compares. Of all 18 Android smartphones released since the beginning of Android through Q2 2010, Michael found the following (note that this was written before the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, which means most phones on the list are one more major version behind):

  • 7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
  • 12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
  • 10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
  • 11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
  • 13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
  • 15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
  • At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

Google Working with Partners to Ensure Android Update Speed and Longevity… It’s About Time

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update partnersAndroid is a wonderful phone OS, but Google’s choice to leave the pushing of updates in the hands of OEMs or carriers is a real sour-point for the otherwise praised mobile OS. Hopefully, that’s about to change.

Time and time again we’ve heard stories of devices that have been waiting to get major Android updates for months after Google officially releases the update. In many cases, promises are made by carriers or OEMs and then broken, leaving users clueless as to when (or if) they’ll be seeing the latest Android version on their device.

At Google I/O 2011, Google has announced that it is now working with a group of partners to “create new guidelines for how quickly devices will get updated after new Android platform releases.” Google also says that they’ll be agreeing on, not only how quickly devices get updated, but also for how long they’ll be guaranteed to see Android updates. At the present, Google and the partners are announcing that devices will receive Android updates for 18 months after launch. This is great news with one caveat: Google mentions that the 18 month update-guarantee only holds water “if the hardware allows.” It’s unclear exactly who will determine whether or not the hardware will “allow” the update. Surely there will be situations where you might not want a particular build of Android to be pushed through to a certain piece of hardware for performance considerations. But it its up to carriers and OEMs, they may pull the “we aren’t updating this device because performance is not optimal” card, even when it might perform well enough for those who want it.

It sounds as though the group has yet to agree on how long they’ll be expected to push the latest Android version after it is released, and Google is asking us to “stay tuned” for more information about.

The partner-list is impressive so far and hopefully we’ll see more companies getting onboard. Here are the founding members:

  • Verizon
  • HTC
  • Samsung
  • Sprint
  • Sony Ericsson
  • LG
  • T-Mobile
  • Vodaphone
  • Motorola
  • AT&T
  • (and of course) Google

This is great news for users and developers. Presently the most popular Android version is Android 2.2 with 65.9% of devices accessing the Android Market over a 14-day period. Version 2.1 still holds a strong portion of the version market with 24.5%, with the remaining 9.6% of devices being spread across five other versions of Android.

android version graph

For a developer, this is a nightmare. Optimally you’d like to have every device using the same firmware so that you know that every device has the same capabilities on the software level. You’d also like to have all of the devices on the latest version of any given software, but it turns out that only 4.3% of Android devices are running 2.3+.

For the user, guaranteed update speed and longevity is an obvious bonus because it means that you won’t get left in the update-dust after six months of owning a new device. You also won’t be left waiting months to get the latest speed enhancements and innovations that other devices enjoy from the day that a new version is released.

I hope Google is smart enough to come up with a nifty name for the group that’s agreeing to these guidelines, and a shiny logo that they can slap on the box of participating devices so that customers can easily identify which devices are guaranteed to get this special update treatment.

Here’s to hoping that this greatly changes the Android update-landscape as we know it today.

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