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Jeudi, 27 Octobre 2011 22:53

Spotty Software Updates Keep Android Users Stuck in the Past

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Spotty Software Updates Keep Android Users Stuck in the Past

We’ve known the Android platform was fractured for some time. Stop a handful of Android owners on the street, and odds are at least one of them will be running an out-of-date version of the OS.

But we didn’t know it was this bad.

Santa Barbara-area entrepreneur Michael DeGusta created a chart on Thursday detailing the frequency of OS updates across the myriad devices running the Android software. The results are ugly.

Out of the 18 released Android phones DeGusta surveyed, seven of them haven’t ever run a current version of the Android operating system. It’s as if you were stuck perpetually running an old copy of Windows 98 on your desktop. And nobody wants that.

Further, over half of the devices surveyed stopped receiving support updates from manufacturers less than one year after initial release. Eighty three percent of the devices don’t even run Gingerbread, the most up-to-date version of the Android OS for phones. Gingerbread was released almost one year ago.

To create the chart, DeGusta tracked down every U.S. Android device shipped since 2007 to mid-2010, as well as the frequency of the software updates for each device. He took that information and paired it against the current release of Android at the time, showing which phones were up to date, and which ones weren’t. Green squares represent phones running the current version of Android at that point in time. Yellow, orange and red squares represent phones running versions that are one, two or even three or more versions behind the current one.

Spotty Software Updates Keep Android Users Stuck in the Past

The chart details the serious issues device manufacturers face in keeping Android software current on their phones. Chart courtesy of Michael DeGusta

Juxtaposed against that of the iPhone’s version update history, Android’s track record is appalling. All four of the iPhones released in the measured period have been kept up to date on software releases.

Spotty Software Updates Keep Android Users Stuck in the Past

Part of the disparity between the two platforms is a sheer numbers game. Apple had only four phones to worry about updating (now five, after the debut of the 4S), while Google — who licenses its Android software out to multiple manufacturers — must now deal with hundreds. Optimizing software integration with the many different specification sets across available Android hardware is an impossible task.

Not to mention the breakneck pace of Android’s software development cycle. In the four years since Android launched, the software underwent nine different software version launches. iOS has undergone half of that.

Take heart, Android users — there’s hope for change yet. At its I/O conference in March, Google and a host of partner manufacturers introduced an initiative which guarantees manufacturers will provide Android software updates to purchased smartphones for a minimum of 18 months.

“Expectations around phones have changed,” said VP of Android engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer when we spoke last week. “It used to be that phones didn’t get upgrades, and industry players are coming from that ‘non-upgrade’ philosophy. We’re trying to build awareness in the industry that things have changed.”


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