AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson recently responded to a question about why it takes so very long for Android phones on its network to receive updates to the latest versions of the operating system. While we always chalked this up to the lengthy two-phase process by which both manufacturers and then carriers test the effects the new code will have on phones before certifying the updates for distribution, Stephenson pointed to Google having a much more direct role in the process, which has caused a very confused Google to speak up and ask just what the heck he’s talking about.
Stephenson responded to the question about updates by saying, “Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard.”
As far as which Android branches are being actively worked on, we suppose that bit about platforms could be seen as true, but Stephenson seems to be implying here that Google is acting like a gatekeeper, only giving individual phones access to the latest Android when it chooses to. If that’s not how you thought Android worked, you’re not alone.
A Google spokesperson has now responded to Stephenson’s claims, and it’s as confused as we are. The company denies having any of the sort of influence described here, saying, “frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to”. Google reiterates that once it publishes the latest code to the AOSP, it’s all in the hands of manufacturers and carriers to get it out onto their devices.
We wonder what’s really going on here. Is AT&T just looking to pass the buck and deflect some blame from itself? Could its execs really be as out-of-touch with how Android works as this incident suggests?