Fragmentation, a fancy word for the current Android update situation, where some terminals receive the latest version while others remain outdated, is the number one problem of Google’s mobile operating system. Although Android can be considered the most famous mobile OS out there, and pretty much the first choice of most tech-savvy people, it lacks the update advantage of iOS, which serves the latest firmware to the wide majority of its devices.

Perhaps, fragmentation can be adverted with a trick which most users may hate at the first sight, but accept it at a second look: paying for Android updates. Spending a few bucks to get that pricey but now almost useless smartphone out of Google’s sandbox may worth the trouble, because carriers and even the search engine giant itself refuses to develop such updates, as a marketing strategy. But let’s emphasize on that.
Android updates delayed

Android updates: a way of making money, without making the work

At this moment, OEMs and cellphone carriers are actually making profit for NOT developing Android updates. The situation is quite simple, really. Once a shiny new phone is released, the marketing campaign puts access on the Android version, as well. After two, or even one year, this device becomes too old in OEM’s eyes and it refuses to make a newer Android version compatible for the gadget, out of two simple reasons:


  1. More work – it requires the work of several programmers to port an Android version to a device, because each terminal has its own specific tidbits which must be taken care of. Moreover, this effort is amplified by the fact that the new firmware must be compatible with all the existing networks so to sum things up, it’s an extra work from multiple parts. That means extra pay.
  2. Less money – by restraining the access to fresh OS versions, carriers and product makers force people to purchase brand new devices, which come with newer Android versions pre-loaded. This way, people will have to purchase a new device so they could enjoy brand new features, meaning more profits for either sides: product and software makers.

Moreover, carriers are even branding the promise of an OS update as a marketing scheme, with just launched devices being advertised as updatable to the latest Android version.

Google on the other hand has seen the opportunity and launched the Nexus line, a collection of tablets and smartphones alike which introduces each time a major Android update. Besides being launched with premier firmware versions, each device produced in partnership with Google is guaranteed to get plenty Android updates, and in very short time. Actually, this was one of the main reasons I have a Nexus S, and I cannot be the only one.

Paying for updates might be the solution

Nexus One update

Although it’s not a fortunate case, paying for Android updates might be a viable solution, for both customer and vendor alike. With users willing to invest into a software more powerful for their smartphones, one which should add interesting features, developers and carriers will be motivated to invest the time of preparing these packages. Of course, it all comes down to the price and one the shoulders of the first one to break the ice, but it would be worth it. There are some possibilities that come in mind:

  • Pay per update – a possibility would be to charge users for a fixed fee on every major update, something like $5 for version. This way, those who agree with the paying tactic will get their much-needed features and those who rather keep their device outdated would have the possibility.
  • Paid in advance – another tactic can be implemented by carriers when the device is sold. Marketed as a fixed term plan, the phone should be guaranteed updates for, let’s say, 18 months, at the price of $20. This feature could also be extended at client’s request and should be seen as a bonus option, on signing. Those who are not interested can refuse and this way the world could mind its own business again.

Paying for updates has other advantages, besides getting the freshest version on older devices. Because the software will be developed by official sources, owners won’t have to rely on user-customized version and custom ROMs, a word which seems to be highly feared by those not so tech-savvy. This way, the updating process could stay simple and relevant always, with over-the-air procedures terminated in just a few taps conquering the market. Paying, for the sake of security.

Of course, many will disagree with this tactic. In an ideal word, Android updates should be as free as air, but unfortunately capitalism is not such a place. Profits must be made and sometimes they are made on dirty paths, but a compromise from both sides can resolve Android’s fragmentation issue.

Will you pay a nominal fee if you are promised to get timely OS upgrades?

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Author

Alex holds an engineering degree in Telecommunications and has been covering technology as a writer since 2009. Customization is his middle name and he doesn’t like to own stock model gadgets. When he’s away from the keyboard, simpler things like hiking, mountain climbing and having a cold drink make his day.

 
 
  • Kjetil__H

    Speaking of marketing.. I think doing this would be as popular as kicking the customers in the balls, but I guess ideally it’s a much better situation for the customers.

    I actually feel better owning an iPhone now

  • Malik Graves-Pryor

    This article is fundamentally incorrect. Google doesn’t control what the manufacturers and carriers allow on a phone. The manufacturers and carriers do.

    You can take the lastest OS and install it on an android phone if you have it rooted. It is the manufacturers and carriers who prevent OTA updates because they want to focus on the newer products they’re hawking.

    In addition, Google doesn’t make a profit on android directly. The OS is free to use. Case in point, Amazon. Google makes money on the ads they sell when you use android.

    If you want a true android experience, buy a nexus phone and/or tablet.

  • Naw Son

    Yeah, because I really want to spend more money subsidizing the likes of motoblur and other bloated ui addons the manufacturers and carriers force.

  • kamiller42

    People incorrectly compare Android upgrade cycles to iOS. A better comparison is to the PC and Windows. My old PC is running Windows XP. As long as apps maintain Windows Win32 in WinXP compatibility, I don’t need to run the latest version of Windows. When I want apps that supporting the new bells and whistles in Windows, I can buy an upgrade or get a new version of Windows on my new PC. Google and makers are betting most users will obtain the newest Androids via the latter method, i.e. when they upgrade their phones. This article asks if makers should start selling upgrades. Yes, but they won’t be able to for every device. This could change if makers reduce internal variations between models. Lastly, Gingerbread dominates because it is currently the Windows XP model of Android. This will change.

    • Alex Serban

      Gingerbread is not the XP of Androids. Windows XP is so loved because it offers good results, at minimal resource price. Gingerbread is the most spread because ICS is delayed. In a year or sooner, just like you’ve said, another Android version will be the most popular. But Windows XP is considered the best for construction options.

      As for the comparison between mobile updates and desktop related, new Android versions can only be compared, from my point of view, with Mac OS X updates – where a new version adds features, not troubles, like Microsoft.