Google's Inability To Force Software Updates Threatens Android

Megalith

24-bit/48kHz
Staff member
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Aug 20, 2006
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It has been nearly a year since the previous version of Android debuted, so it is time for the annual articles on how poor the distribution is and what Google is going to do to “fix” the update process. Recent vulnerability issues with things like StageFright certainly aren't helping.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign (beyond a little bit of psychology) that Google is able to force through a change that would improve the update situation in 2016. That alone speaks both to the weakness of Android, and the weakness of Google in the ecosystem. With more commercial pressures likely to be placed on Android manufacturers next year to reduce both the build cost and the ongoing support costs to maximise the profit in the low-margin high-volume market spaces, it’s unlikely that Android is going to improve on its ability to update itself one a handset leaves the factory.
 

steakman1971

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Nov 22, 2005
Messages
2,433
I know Android is "open" and allows vendors a lot of freedom. However, they really do need to address a few things on the Android platform:
1. Updates should be available to devices at a much quicker pace. Market fragmentation doesn't help with this at all - I don't know how to address it.
2. I wish Android could lock down the platform. Stop the bloatware, custom shells, etc - stock Android is nice and offers good software. Why should vendors be using their own web browsers, shells, etc?
3. Better standards. They have done this in recent years, but I'd like to see it go a bit further. What I mean: standard UI resolutions, pixel density, screen sizes, etc. Yes, this goes a little against the "open" - but you pay a price if you don't.

I'm in the mobile app software development space. It can be somewhat painful to test on even the "popular" devices. I think there are over 3000(!) different Android devices - impossible to cover all of these. The PlayStore doesn't support all, but I still run into someone with an issue we did not encounter.

I'm probably opening a can of worms, but iOS makes it a lot easier on software developers because Apple controls everything. You only support a handful of devices - old devices and OSs are dropped after a few years. Apple doesn't allow vendors to modify the base OS - you know what you are getting.

I'll stop. But seriously - I think Android would benefit from more control. Come up with a system and make the vendors stick with it (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc).
 

daglesj

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May 7, 2005
Messages
5,582
I know Android is "open" and allows vendors a lot of freedom. However, they really do need to address a few things on the Android platform:
1. Updates should be available to devices at a much quicker pace. Market fragmentation doesn't help with this at all - I don't know how to address it.
2. I wish Android could lock down the platform. Stop the bloatware, custom shells, etc - stock Android is nice and offers good software. Why should vendors be using their own web browsers, shells, etc?
3. Better standards. They have done this in recent years, but I'd like to see it go a bit further. What I mean: standard UI resolutions, pixel density, screen sizes, etc. Yes, this goes a little against the "open" - but you pay a price if you don't.

I'm in the mobile app software development space. It can be somewhat painful to test on even the "popular" devices. I think there are over 3000(!) different Android devices - impossible to cover all of these. The PlayStore doesn't support all, but I still run into someone with an issue we did not encounter.

I'm probably opening a can of worms, but iOS makes it a lot easier on software developers because Apple controls everything. You only support a handful of devices - old devices and OSs are dropped after a few years. Apple doesn't allow vendors to modify the base OS - you know what you are getting.

I'll stop. But seriously - I think Android would benefit from more control. Come up with a system and make the vendors stick with it (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc).

So you are describing...an iPhone?

We need a more radical approach than that. Something daring.
 

brettjrob

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Aug 3, 2008
Messages
387
What I'll never understand is why Google even needs to enforce any hypothetical rules to prevent the custom shells, skins, and bloatware.

In 99% of cases, those things make for a worse user experience, and require more effort and expense from the OEM to develop and maintain, and make it difficult to update devices to the latest version of Android.

Carrier bloatware is the one piece of this I can at least understand, as worthless as it is. The carriers don't stand to lose much by tarnishing the UX by shoving proprietary apps down our throats, if said apps make them an extra buck.

But the OEMs need to sell hardware and build brand loyalty. Replacing stock Android with a stuttering, ugly mess that requires them to hire a dozen extra programmers to develop seems antithetical to that, and to business sense in general. Whatever their reasons for going down this road at the beginning circa 2009-2010, what astonishes me is that even this late in the game, not one major OEM (Motorola aside) -- Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, etc. -- has decided to at least try selling devices with stock software. Wouldn't it be an easy experiment that allows them to cut personnel costs and development time, anyway? How has this not happened? Sunk costs fallacy due to their investment into their respective useless bloatware?
 

Wierdo

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It's the double edged sword of a diverse and vibrant market, the same one Microsoft has to deal with: With a market where you can have a ton of choice, rolling out updates means it has to get tested on each hardware combination, Google can't do that, it's a ton of work, so it's up to the manufacturers of each model to handle the transition.

With that said, another complication is the manufacturers may not be interested in doing so if their business model is all about selling new models.

The telcos, on the other hand, are poisoning the well without a good reason to hold the updates back, they need to be put in their place, this is one area Apple did the right thing and pushed back against teclos wanting to meddle in the process. Google should try going that route in their future updates imho.
 

nomas

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Apr 19, 2015
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250
One approach can be for Google to mandate universally a built-in easy option for the end-user to revert to a bloat-less stock Android. This way the choice lies with the users.
 

daglesj

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May 7, 2005
Messages
5,582
After using a Nexus 4 for the past three years I was reasonably surprised with my new LG-G4.

I was able to swap over to Google Now launcher (been using it on the N4 for a while so no biggie) and IO was also able to remove 95% of the included bloatware (though there wasn't actually that much totally crap stuff, just stuff I would never use) quite easily and not having to use root do it. (I don't bother rooting my phones anymore).

A much better experience than my girlfriends original Samsung Note, that was crammed with junk. In fact a few weeks ago I got round to rooting that (she doesn't use it anymore) just to see what I could do with it. Rooted, I managed to delete 90% of the bloat and I have to say the performance of the phone is right back up there. In fact I have now re-sued it in the Samsung Docker as a Spotify music source to my Fiio 15W Hi-Fi amp.
 

DrNick

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 19, 2006
Messages
276
Bloat and lack of updates are what kill android for me. Well, at least on anything non nexus which I would never spend money on. Samsung? Ha!
 

Auburn_Tigers

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Joined
Mar 16, 2013
Messages
431
This post was obviously started by an iPhone fanboy that suffers from the iPhone fanboy mentality. But, instead of getting help by the way of a nice new shiny android phone, he just chooses to stay disgruntle because of his iphone pride. Forget that pride crap for just once in your life, because you at lest deserve the right to be happy once in your life
 

westrock2000

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Joined
Jun 3, 2005
Messages
9,353
I know Android is "open" and allows vendors a lot of freedom. However, they really do need to address a few things on the Android platform:
1. Updates should be available to devices at a much quicker pace. Market fragmentation doesn't help with this at all - I don't know how to address it.
2. I wish Android could lock down the platform. Stop the bloatware, custom shells, etc - stock Android is nice and offers good software. Why should vendors be using their own web browsers, shells, etc?
3. Better standards. They have done this in recent years, but I'd like to see it go a bit further. What I mean: standard UI resolutions, pixel density, screen sizes, etc. Yes, this goes a little against the "open" - but you pay a price if you don't.

I agree with your analysis. But I think the market is ok right now. There are people who desire an environment like that and Apple has provided it. Then there are people like the guy above me who think real men use Android. I think having the polar opposite environments is good. Even if it gives us reactions like that guy above me (and from both sides of the camps).
 

DejaWiz

Fully [H]
Joined
Apr 15, 2005
Messages
21,585
So you are describing...an iPhone?

We need a more radical approach than that. Something daring.


Nexus and Motorola use vanilla Android and get the updates in a rapid fashion.


It's a shame there aren't more GPE flagship phones out there. Wish Google would put a clause in the Android licensing agreement that states if any manufacturer/vendor wants to use and develop Android, then they must provide the option for a GPE/AOSP ROM that the customer can choose. ...I'd be fine with the manufacturers even doing something like offering a 1 year warranty for the GPE and a 2 year warranty for the bloatware edition.
 

Cyraxx

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Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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Let vendors have the phone come with 3rd party applications that modify things, but the overall OS version should be maintained and retrieved directly from google.

I desperately want to update my android version on my phone. The problem is, it's a company phone so I have a lot of restrictions as far as unlocking/rooting to install whatever I want. Thus I'm kinda stuck in a bind.
 
Joined
Mar 28, 2005
Messages
2,852
After using a Nexus 4 for the past three years I was reasonably surprised with my new LG-G4.

I was able to swap over to Google Now launcher (been using it on the N4 for a while so no biggie) and IO was also able to remove 95% of the included bloatware (though there wasn't actually that much totally crap stuff, just stuff I would never use) quite easily and not having to use root do it. (I don't bother rooting my phones anymore).

What is IO?
 

dandirk

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Messages
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Let vendors have the phone come with 3rd party applications that modify things, but the overall OS version should be maintained and retrieved directly from google.

I desperately want to update my android version on my phone. The problem is, it's a company phone so I have a lot of restrictions as far as unlocking/rooting to install whatever I want. Thus I'm kinda stuck in a bind.

so like windows basically. The only reason MS can do that is because windows isn't open source (and I assume there is some sort of OEM modification rules).
 

Zarathustra[H]

Extremely [H]
Joined
Oct 29, 2000
Messages
34,243
Just change the license agreement.

The license is free, but terminates within 48 hours of a new update being released.

Fine for violating a terminated license? $15,000 per device.

Should solve itself.
 

GilmourD

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Jun 17, 2004
Messages
11,187
Don't blame Google or the manufacturers. Blame the carriers.

For instance, right now Motorola has updates certified for ALL versions of the Moto X 2014. However, Verizon and AT&T won't certify their versions and have announced that their versions won't be getting further updates. Motorola wrote and tested their updates, so it's the carriers being a bag of dicks.
 

Ocellaris

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Messages
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Don't blame Google or the manufacturers. Blame the carriers.

For instance, right now Motorola has updates certified for ALL versions of the Moto X 2014. However, Verizon and AT&T won't certify their versions and have announced that their versions won't be getting further updates. Motorola wrote and tested their updates, so it's the carriers being a bag of dicks.

I find it impressive and brash they would even bother to announce they were stopping updates on any particular phone.
 

Armisael

Weaksauce
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Apr 19, 2013
Messages
118
Zarathustra[H];1041905160 said:
Just change the license agreement.

The license is free, but terminates within 48 hours of a new update being released.

Fine for violating a terminated license? $15,000 per device.

Should solve itself.

Yeah, I imagine pushing all the carriers to iOS and windows phone would reduce android fragmentation.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Messages
34,243
Yeah, I imagine pushing all the carriers to iOS and windows phone would reduce android fragmentation.

Good points, but the problem is really that end users don't care about updates and security. As soon as they care everything changes.

The likelihood of this happening? Probably close to zilch.

Shirt of that, were looking at the need for some government security patch regulation.

Ideally what we should have is something like whaybwe have on the desktop. A blank hardware platform you can install the operating system.of your choice on, for which the originator pushes all updates independently of the carrier.

We need three separate entities. Hardware, operating system and carrier and never the twain shall meet

We need to get to the point where wireless carriers are just dumb wireless internet providers, with no input into the handsets at all.

Until that happens everything will be fucked up.
 

GilmourD

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Jun 17, 2004
Messages
11,187
That's funny. Good joke.

(The Moto X 2013 took almost a year to get Lollipop.)
That's because they used that weird Motorola X8 chipset. Supposedly it caused a lot of issues with updates, even on the ROM developer side for those with unlocked Moto X 2013 devices.
 

Axiomatic

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jun 10, 2004
Messages
452
I kind of wish Google would control a little more as well. I've owned Nexus phones as well as Samsung and Sony and without a doubt I no longer buy anything other than Nexus just so I control the OS experience. Why settle for anything else?

Side note: I have to thanks Touchwiz on the Samsung Note 4 for this position. Touchwiz was so terrible on that device that it had 2 cores constantly pegged at 100% yet when I switched to the Nexus 6 (which has the same CPU) and stock Android all 4 cores would be used and park themselves when needed which apparently just wasn't possible in Touchwiz for the Note 4.
 
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