Why Updates for Your Android Phone Take So Long

Illustration for article titled Why Updates for Your Android Phone Take So Long

Many of us point to custom UI skins as one of the main reasons Android updates take so long to reach certain phones. But according a Motorola exec, that's not really the case. It's the hardware itself.

PC Mag's Sascha Segan spoke with Moto Senior Vice President Christy Wyatt, who launched a full scale explanation.

"When Google does a release of the software ... they do a version of the software for whatever phone they just shipped," she said. "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."

Motorola understands that consumers want their Android upgrades sooner, but the process is complicated, she said. First there's hardware support, then the layering in of custom software from manufacturers like Motorola, and finally, phones must be re-certified by carriers, taking more time.


Long story short, handset manufacturers struggle have to code the drivers for all the different components themselves, and because there are very few hardware limitations on Android once it's gone public, there is a ridiculous amount of variation in devices, even if made by the same company.

Another interesting little aside from the piece is that from the sounds of it, it's possible that Motorola's future webtops (the ones which use phones like the Atrix to power them), will run straight-up Android instead of some other version of Linux. That could be interesting. [PC Mag]

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This is a problem of where the company decides it wants to make its money. Google wants eyeballs on ads so they're going to keep upgrading android in order to entice more people (and therefore more eyeballs on ads). Phone manufacturers want you to buy their stuff. This means getting the stuff out the door and selling it. After you buy it they could care less, but if they didn't care at all then you the consumer will probably jump ship and go to another manufacturer, which is why manufacturers keep their phones updated at all. Carriers want you to stay on their plans. They only need to keep you happy enough to not want to jump ship to another carrier, so they'll also begrudgingly update the phone in order to keep you around till your contract is over.

Now contrast this with Apple's business model. Apple wants you to buy their stuff. Period. Doesn't matter if its a device, or a movie, or a song, or an app, any of those sales get them money. In order to keep the customer happy in that environment they have to keep all their devices able to do as much of the buying as possible, which is why they are able to keep old devices even remotely up to date. They'd rather you keep buying stuff on an old device rather than dumping the old device (and thus a customer) completely.


Android updates are slow because capitalism and business models are a bitch.