Android is such a complex robot. You know, I still find it funny when trolls use the phrase “Android is open” without really understanding what’s really open and who really gets benefited from this in the Android ecosystem. I’ll tell you this much, the last person to get anything out of it is you as a customer, and that’s rather shameful considering that you’re paying for the phone or tablet.
I’ll give you a quick example: If you wanted to buy an HTC One right now, it won’t be cheaper than a Nokia Lumia 920, and I’m even considering the date that the Lumia 920 was launched. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Nokia pays licensing fees to Microsoft for the use of Windows Phone, but HTC doesn’t pay anything for the use of Android. Nokia offers me a device that’s running the latest version of Windows Phone 8, and the HTC One that most of you are unboxing right now is still running last-summer’s version of Android. Some may debate that this is not really a problem because the changes between one and the other are minimal, and still, my biggest question is why do I have to pay more for a slower ecosystem?
How many of you are already running Android 4.2, raise your hand? Those of you that were lucky enough to land a Nexus 4 when you could, or that stuck with a legacy Galaxy Nexus are in luck, and yes, even those of you who just bought a Galaxy S 4 are shown some love, but the rest of the Android ecosystem isn’t, and the number is quite staggering.
And here comes the funny part: Are we to blame Google? The answer to that is no sadly. They actually built the Nexus program around the concept that they wanted to offer the pure experience of Android since OEMs began just using it as a back-end. Sadly for you and me, Google is just the creator, but they are not the governing party that decides what happens with the money you spent on your new phone.
OEMs are responsible. HTC, Sony, Samsung, Motorola, all these companies adopt Android, tweak it, sell it to you (even if they got it for free), and then make you wait. Carriers are responsible as well, since even thought hey don’t build the phones, they call the shots on these updates before they hit their networks, and they can be really slow.
So the question is, do you feel it’s fair? Why is it that iPhones don’t have this problem, nor Windows Phones, but Android does. Is it really free and open if you require skills to do as you please with your device? Here are my thoughts.
OEMs and Carriers are slowing Android down
Android 4.2 was launched almost six months ago, and my flagship Galaxy Note II (T-Mobile) and Galaxy S III (AT&T) are still stuck on Android 4.1.2. By contrast, my flagship HTC One X which is carrier unlocked, and even the 2013 Sony Xperia ZL that I just reviewed are also stuck the same versions of Android.
I still try to understand why that is? Surely there are more parties involved with Android since Google just builds the OS, but then the OEM adds their own customizations along with the carrier’s bloat ware. I’m sure there’s a logical and time-based explanation as to why this is, but do we really have to put up with it as a customer? I’ve heard of people that have sued Burger King over the coffee being too hot, but then nobody has ever sued a carrier or OEM for being late in what they sell.
Why is it that OEMs and Carriers don’t allow Google to do their job, but Apple can? Think about it, users of the 4-year-old iPhone 3GS can get updates to their phone immediately, but users of the recently unboxed HTC One can’t?
Android is single-handedly pushing mobile into new levels of growth, and it’s just sad to see that customers can’t enjoy everything in the same way that others can in other platforms.
Google should take over
I’ve debated this for the longest time. Think about this: What separates a Nexus 4 from an LG Optimus G? The launcher and the bloat ware. Yes, I know, there are different drivers here and there, but wouldn’t it be cool if all these things were separate from the core experience of the Operating System? Wouldn’t it be cool if you bought your phone with stock Android and then received a free HTC launcher that you can choose to either enjoy or trash.
I think the first attempt towards this is the HTC First. The principle is still not complete since again, it’s running an old version of Android, but you can disable Facebook Home at any time and keep it that way. AT&T is ok with it, HTC is ok with it and even Facebook is ok with it. If only Google took over the process of updating Jelly Bean on this phone and leaving the software customizations to Facebook and HTC as separate packages, this problem would be solved.
The bottom line
This goes out to OEMs and Carriers – Users are changing and you aren’t. Smartphone competitions have taught us to be pickier of our gadget choices, and I’m sure each carrier has their own story of grief when they remembered customers leaving their network just because the iPhone was exclusive to AT&T at first. The solution is to not give customers an excuse to leave, and if Android is the new crowned jewel for carriers to sell smartphones, it’s important that the process finds a way to improve.
My biggest wish list for Android 5.0 starts with the dream that that Google finally takes full responsibility of their operating system. That customizations remain separate, but that users retain their “free” ability to chose what they’ll run when they buy the phone they want. Android can’t continue being marketed as open and free, if the only ones that benefit from that openness and freedom are OEMs and carriers. I’ll sound like Tron right now, but Android really needs to figure out a way to empower the user. Before you respond with your custom ROM stories, remember that 90% of Android users have no clue what a boot loader is, and for Android to grow, hacking is not the solution.
Leave us a comment down bellow. Tell us what phone do you have and how has your software update experience been ever since you bought it?