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Android software updates pinned on hardware issues


legion125
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Here's something I didn't know about how difficult it can be for the OEM's to update software for mobile phones. This article discusses the challenges Motorola faces when trying to upgrade multiple devices and carrier involvement. I also read a related article about when Android is release, it first goes to the chip maker to get it working on the chip, then to then OEM's to make it work on the hardware and finally to the carriers who may want to add their bloatware.All of this so compatibility issues can be worked out.

 

The process can take 3-6 months, so I lean on the six month side. Since ICS first came out in November, the first ICS phone or upgrade besides the GN, should out between February or May. With rumors that the GSll will be updated with ICS next month, that puts it at the early end of the time frame. Here I am thinking it was perhaps a bit more involved than deleting Windows XP off your computer to install Windows 7.

 

http://www.fiercewir...sues/2012-02-09

 

 

Motorola's Wyatt pins Android software update delays on hardware issues

 

 

Hardware differentiation and software skinning is a key cause of the delays behind Android smartphones receiving the latest software updates, a top Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) executive said.

 

 

Speaking to a group of reporters Wednesday in New York City, Christy Wyatt, senior vice president of Motorola's Enterprise Business Unit, said that developing code to support hardware other than the lead "nexus" devices Google creates has proven difficult.

 

"When Google does a release of the software ... they do a version of the software for whatever phone they just shipped," she said, according to PC Magazine. "The rest of the ecosystem doesn't see it until you see it. Hardware is by far the long pole in the tent, with multiple chipsets and multiple radio bands for multiple countries. It's a big machine to churn."

 

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is reportedly close to closing its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola, but Google has insisted that even after the deal closes Motorola will still have to compete with other Android licensees to produce "lead" Nexus-branded Android devices. Wyatt said Motorola can't be more precise on when it will be able to deliver software upgrades to its devices, explaining: "I would have to know that every single operator I have is going to want to upgrade every single product, and sometimes they'll want to control the timing ... it's just not easy to make that blanket statement."

 

In September Motorola moved Wyatt, who had been corporate vice president of software and services product management, to her new role in the company's enterprise unit. Wyatt said Motorola will look to promote its smartphones and tablets for enterprise use in places such as schools and hospitals. So far, Motorola's tablet business has failed to take off--the company shipped 1 million units in 2011. However, Wyatt said Motorola is just getting started. "It's still early days," Wyatt, referring to Motorola's work in cracking vertical markets. "There are tons of interesting things we can do with our existing hardware today."

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This is spot on. You have all these Android devices using all these chiips...the qualcomm chips, the Nvidia chips, the TI chips, and so on. Each component therein (the CDMA baseband, bluetooth, wifi, gps, accelerometer, 3-D acceleration chip, proximity sensor, gyroscope, barometer, sound codecs, 4G chip, ambient light sensor, USB, HDMI, battery driver, and cameras) requires a module (similar to a device driver) in the Linux kernel to operate it and also additional firmware in the case of CDMA baseband and Wimax/LTE real-time operating system on the chips. That's quite a lot of devices packed into a phone, more than a typical PC! When a new Android drops they typically use a newer kernel with a variety of patches. Getting all these device drivers to work with the latest kernel requires time and engineering.

 

Because all these modules operate in kernel space, where program code is not isolated from each other, a bug in one driver or device hardware can crash the whole system. And there has been a long history of issues with certain phones, particularly GPS problems.

 

Then there is negative incentives for manufacturers and carriers to update. Each flash update potentially can brick the device or lose the customer's data, cause apps not to work, change the experience so that customers complain about the software changes, etc. While the phone is updating people lose ability to make calls (such as to 911). I'm actually amazed devices are updated at all.

 

Then there is also the time and effort needed for merging and testing manufacturer's modifications to the stock Android codebase and testing built-in applications.

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I'm actually amazed devices are updated at all.

 

Me too. I think OEM's only do it for the image of their brand and for customers to remain loyal. So in any instance where there is any significant additional obstacle, they just don't even bother. Like in the instance of the OG Epic. There isn't enough storage on the device. So why bother? They have enough fish to fry anyways. And also try and develop the new devices that are in their roadmap.

 

And each OEM just leaves more and more old devices in their wake. Are they supposed to go back and update all those? Every year, that backlog of old devices gets bigger and bigger. And all those owners feel entitled to update.

 

Unless it's specifically advertised by the OEM (like it is with the Nexus series), I never expect that my new device purchase will definitely be updated to newer versions of the OS. I think it's foolish and unreasonable to expect it.

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Just to comment on the carriers, i like the idea that Sprint is beginning to put "Sprint ID" on its phones. That way you can pick which bloatware to download. I myself would download Telenav and that's it. But it does give the option to personalize you phone with Sprint features you want/need without having it all baked in. I think its a good compromise.

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