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How Google is Pushing Away New Android Users, Myself Included

22 October 20128 comments Android, inneractive, iPhone, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Industry

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

By now, it is pretty clear that Android fragmentation is a serious problem. If you don’t know what I am referring to, first of all, you need to do more tech blog reading. Android fragmentation is the reality of the Android ecosystem in which there are still millions of devices running Android Froyo 2.2, which is a few years old. Then there are some devices running 2.3, some running, 3.0, some on 4.0, and one or two devices officially running 4.1. Yes, it is a┬ácolossal┬ámess.

You see, as opposed to Apple or even Windows Phone (Windows 8, aside), Google does not push Android updates to users, the OEMs do.

What that means is that only the Nexus phones get the latest version of Android and older phones, even ones that are just a few weeks old, are stuck with an outdated operating system. And putting aside the mess this causes for developers, there is a fundamental flaw in the psychological factor of buying an Android phone that might become an issue for consumers. Let me explain.

For now, I am still using an iPhone 4S as my primary mobile device. But to be honest, it is getting old very fast. The one and only reason I am still using it is iMessage. I have friends, many of them, that still depend on iMessage to communicate with me and losing the ability to send messages to those people, will affect how we communicate. (Some are half way across the world.) Yes, I know there is WhatsApp and Gtalk…

So, of course, I am looking to Android for my next phone. But what device will it be? The Galaxy Nexus? Old hardware. The Galaxy S3? Awesome hardware, old software (Ice Cream Sandwich). HTC One X? Good luck getting OS updates on that one. But what about the Note 2?

Here is the problem. My Note 2 is on the way and I am super excited about it. I was at least, until I opened up some tech blogs this week to discover that in Google’s upcoming event, the company will most likely announce a new Nexus phone running Android 4.2, Key Lime Pie (yes, really.).

Now, you tell me, how do you think I feel about the fact that the Note 2, which I purchased (well, it was a gift, but not the point) for a premium price will be running outdated software in a matter of weeks? Of course, this feeling is not unique to Google, it is true for the entire tech world, but Apple and other companies let you enjoy your new shiny product for a bit before making it obsolete (not literally, but Jellybean is SO much better than ICS that running ICS feels pretty old-fashioned). Apple has product announcements once or twice a year, which means I can remain a cutting-edge Apple user for at least 6 months.

My brand-spankin new Note 2 is old before I even unboxed it. The S3? Phhh, a dinosaur running an OS two generations old. Yes, it will get Jellybean eventually, but by then, who knows what Android version will be out!

My point is, when it comes to consumer psychology, Apple has it down perfectly in order to give its consumers a feeling that they own the top of the line product just long enough to get bored and want to upgrade to the next one! Google, on the other hand, is shooting itself on the foot here.

Android fragmentation is a problem for developers and even a problem for users who have different experiences using apps on different versions, but all those are problems that are solvable and Google is working on it. But causing new Android users a level of frustration when they buy a new device? That is just he worst kind of marketing Google could possibly do.

Bottom line? If I were Google, I would figure out a sustainable solution to the fragmentation problem of its platform before releasing the next version. But hey, that’s just me, a soon-to-be Android user.

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  1. Edward October 22, 2012

    If your Android phone isn't getting updated at a reasonable rate, and in the US, that's pretty much guaranteed, that isn't the fault of Google, except perhaps that Google hasn't been pushing the carriers and OEMs hard enough.

    Apple's advantage in this arena is ownership of both hardware and software. Android phones are held back by the desire of both the carriers and the hardware companies to put their own branding on the OS, meaning a delay from when the (Open Source) software gets updated and when you receive your update.

    If you want fast updates, you have several options. Either root your phone and bypass the branding, or communicate your displeasure at the corporate business policies to those people who might be able to change them.

  2. shahar October 22, 2012

    I think u r missing the point here. It's the manufacturer problem not updating devices fast enough after Google releases the new version. I think Samsung, HTC, Motorola needs to think really hard what they need from Google and MAKE it happen (upgrades – fast!).
    Of course it's also Google problem since it an android phone etc BUT we buy it from the manufacturers.
    I personally hacked my way to new version with the nexus S and than bought the galaxy nexus to have all the updated available fast. Am running 4.1.2 now!
    Shahar (@checkmate9)

  3. Estee Lavitt October 22, 2012

    I have a Motorola Atrix and apparently they are not updating them because they want us to buy newer versions with the updates. Google profits from updating, but Motorola (and other manufacturers) profit from NOT updating and I have to PAY to get caught in the middle.

  4. @undefined October 23, 2012

    I think you should always buy a Google phone, like the Galaxy Nexus. That way, you will always get the latest update as soon as Google releases.

  5. maor October 23, 2012

    Liked the android one.
    Silly strategy by Google in a way – BUT – they do sell more devices bottom line, as the fragmentation allows for cheap devices as well as premium ones (S3).
    I would agree that if they were thinking about the user more than the device manufacturers, they would push updates from their end and not leave this to the operators which have no real reason to want to allow users to update their phones (hey – device sales still make money to operators….)

  6. @undefined October 23, 2012

    :-) Right now, iMessage is also the only thing keeping me on the iOS train. I also need it to talk to amazing people halfway across the world. The other messaging apps don't cut it for me.

    Wow, I wasn't previously familiar with Android fragmentation- that blows!

  7. jw_ November 13, 2012

    i dont know if this is going to get checked anymore since the article is 3 weeks old, but now that android 4.2 is out, and we see its just a jelly bean upgrade designed mostly for nexus devices (skinned devices dont need these updates), do you think maybe its time to retract some of what you wrote here? the general fragmenting issues are still there, but you railed pretty hard against them for the fact that your note 2 would be running obsolete software as soon as you got it, which would be egregious if it was true, but it isnt (even though it is running 4.1 not 4.2, 4.2 isnt necessary due to touch-wiz).

  8. stefano January 13, 2013

    I have a samsung galaxy s2 i9100g and apparently they are not updating them because they want us to buy newer version with the update. Google profits from updating, but samsung (and other manufacturers) profit from not updating and I have to pay to get caught in the middle.


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