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Re: Need help understanding carriers and receiving updates on android.
I think that many people don't really understand how this work, which is understandable because it's very confusing. With PC's the PC manufacturers make their hardware specifically to conform to all of the requirements of Windows. So all Windows PCs use the exact same OS, (assuming it's the same version). Every Windows XP with the same updates and service packs is exactly the same. Android isn't like that. With Android each hardware manufacturer has access to the kernel and OS code so they have the option of either making their hardware conform to the released Android kernel and OS (which I'm not sure how many, if any, actually do that, even for the GE phones) or use that source code as a starting point for their own version of Android. This allows device manufacturers to add their own hardware and software features and reduce the amount of overhead in having drivers for hardware that isn't there. Apple does this with their phones as well. If I'm not mistaken, the iPhone 5 runs a slightly different version of iOS than the 4S, 4 and 3GS. That makes sense considering the screen is a different size.
Originally Posted by RavenSword
So the OEM's take the open source version of Android and customize it for each phone. Then each carrier customizes that version to both work on their network and add whatever "features" (and I use that term loosely) they want to each phone.
The Nexus devices are a specific set of hardware designed by some company to work with the released version of Android so the fewest number of changes are needed. They also do not allow carrier "features." The GE devices conform as much as they can to Android with the fewest number of changes and don't have carrier "features," either. So there's less that needs to be changed for each new, open version of Android that Google releases and they promise to get them released as fast as possible. They also probably have a bit of an edge by getting some of the code early so they can work on it before the official Google release.
So when a new version of Android is released, the Nexus and GE phones get whatever minor changes they need to get the hardware to work and then are released. The OEM's take that new code and then modify it for whatever phones they decide will get the update, probably working with each carrier to make that decision. The carriers then add their stuff to each version from each OEM for each phone and then release it to us. Changing, testing and releasing an OS is not a super quick turn around type of operation.
There are probably some steps left out and I'm not super positive about who does all the work, but that's a general overview of why updates work they way they do. Android 4.2.2 isn't just a single version of software, there's probably a slightly different version of 4.2.2 on every single unique model that runs it. We don't all get updates becasue it's not as simple as just downloading Google's new version to our phones. The OS, drivers and kernel have to match our specific hardware.
Now a bit of personal speculation:
In the past it seems as if OEM's and carriers didn't see a whole lot of value in supporting devices in this way for more than a few months to a year (usually until the next "big thing" phone came out). There's some logic behind that because they'd have to put in a lot of work updating all of these OS's for all of these devices that people have already bought. They have our money already so why bother doing all that extra work? It seems though that recently some OEM's and carriers are seeing that people are starting to consider how many updates and how timely the updates will be in their buying decision. People are still recommending the Nexus 4 even though it has less storage that what many consider "necessary" in a good phone and the hardware is getting outdated. If they can keep people excited about a phone with much larger margin and extend the life of each model then it's something I can see OEM's and carriers getting excited about. I'm cautiously optimistic that this means more top end phones will get more updates and they will be more timely, but no one really knows how it will play out.