Is the Android Update Alliance Working Yet?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-09-07 Print this article Print

At Google I/O back in May, executives for Google's Android platform proudly announced they were working on a way to provide regular platform updates for Android smartphones for 18 months -- when the hardware makes it possible.

Android Product Manager Hugo Barra said the group was formed to "create guidelines for how quickly Android devices will get updated after new platform releases." Here are the members on a slide from Google I/O:

Android Update.png

Four months later and if there's been any progress, we don't know about it. Android And Me wrote a long, critical blog post on this effort, for which Google doesn't have an official update and declined to provide a comment.

The Android enthusiast blog calls it the Android Update Alliance, but as far as I can tell, the publication made the name up. Google hasn't even disclosed a name for it.

How confusing is the operation of this group? Enough that Android And Me assumes it is functioning, but is clearly vexed by the inconsistency shown by Android OEMs and carriers regarding updates:

We have seen a lot of devices getting updates lately, so we can reasonably assume that the Alliance is, in fact, doing what it has set out to do ... for the most part. There are a number of devices released early this year that are still running outdated versions of Android. Some are even being released now with outdated versions.

For example, check out this Android device dashboard stat graphic. Android 2.2 "Froyo" remains on half of the phones and it's over a year old. Gingerbread is second at 30 percent, which is a lot better than it was even a month ago:

Device dash sept.png

Why the bump in Gingerbread share? HTC, as usual, is quickest to upgrade its phones, with 13 running Gingerbread.

There is the success of the Samsung Galaxy S II devices, which sold over 5 million units overseas.

We also know that AT&T -- purportedly a member of this group -- in July pledged to update its Android handsets to Android 2.3 "Gingerbread." Was that a result of the Google-created group?

Does the fact that most Android handsets launched since the Google I/O pledge run Gingerbread mean the group is operating up to spec?

We just don't know what this super group has done, if anything, to help facilitate the Android upgrade scheme. Does anyone know what's going on with the group?

Meanwhile, Android And Me asks the right questions:

  • Is Google working with the manufacturers and carriers to get these updates out the door? Or is Google merely setting forth a guideline and expecting adherence?
  • Are devices released before this announcement that are still within this 18-month update time frame intended to be a part of this agreement?
  • Are there any guidelines relating to how long it should take for devices to receive an update after a new version of Android is released?
  • Are minor version updates (which often include important security fixes) intended to be released as part of this agreement?
  • Who determines if a device is capable of receiving an upgrade?

One other thing. If Google really worried about this, why didn't it set forth guidelines at launch? Surely it had to expect this current Wild West of rampant Android builds and disparate device and application support.

Everyone else did. |

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