1. Rukbat's Avatar
    How does an over the air (OTA) uptate work?

    With an iPhone, an iOS update is easy. Apple controls the hardware, what address the screen is at, how the Bluetooth stack works ... everything. The OS may have to figure out on which pixel to put this dot, because the 6 has more pixels than the 4, but that's part of the OS. So they write an update, test it on a few differen iPhone models, get the bugs out, test it again (this is a puppy-chasing-its-tail situation - there's no large piece of software with no bugs. Even Windows 95 [anyone remember that?] died with some bugs) - eventually there are no bugs left that they can find (there are still some little things that someone, some day, may trigger), and they release it. To all iPhones. Once the update is ready to be released, Apple notifies the world that a new version of iOS is ready - and it starts rolling out in days. (It may have taken 2 years of work to get there, but leaking the information that the next version of iOS runs your toaster, one day before the official notice, could get you fired from Apple.) So iOS is releases so quickly, right? Nuh-uh. It's just not announced until it's ready for release. then it's released in batches, a few phones at a time, but within a few weeks every iPhone has been updated.

    Android? That's written by Google. To run on the Nexus. They control what hardware sits where and takes what commands, the same as Apple does with iPhones. That's great, right? But Samsung makes their hardware differently. So does LG. So does Sony. So each manufacturer gets a copy of the new version and has to modify it to work on their individual phones. The mods for the S3 European version are a little different than the mods for the S3 Verizon version. The mods for the S4 are totally different than the mods for the S3. So it takes at least a few months for the manufacturers to make all their modifications, tests, debugging, bug fixes, etc. Meanwhile, Google released the information that a new version of Android was being released 3 months ago, and you're wondering why you haven't gotten it yet. And your phone manufacturer still hasn't gotten that nasty hard-to-figure-out bug out of the version for your phone. (And some manufacturers take a lot longer to make the modifications than others. Why? Who knows? Maybe one manufacturer has a whole facility devoted to rewriting updates, while another one has 5 programmers in a little office doing all the work.)

    Now the carriers get the manufacturer-modified code. (Apple? If you want to sell iPhones, you sell the ones that Apple makes. "You don't like the fact that the customer can change some function, that's tough, don't sell iPhones. Oh, that would put you at a terrific disadvantage? Then sell the phone we give you.") Android? Oh, we don't want the customer to change the APN, so we modify Android so you don't have that ability. And we have to add our bloat. This adds another few months to the process. And you're STILL wondering why you didn't get your update. (And some carriers are slower than others, too. AT&T is noted for being "the snail on the block". They test the update to death usually, but they're the last ones to release an update.)

    Now it's finally ready to release through the carrier. If you live in Podunk, where there are 3 people using the only tower within 20 miles who use that phone, that's no problem. 1.5GB at one time? Slow night. But if you're in the middle of NYC, where maybe 50 people on one floor of a building have that phone, and there are 60 floors in that building, and one tower serves 8 buildings, releasing the update at once to all the phones connected to that tower would bring it crashing so hard that it would take a month to put it back into service. So your phone's IMEI (serial number, basically - it stands for International Mobile station Equipment Identity) number is put into a list, and a certain number of phones get the update per hour or other period. So if you have an S5, and the S5 is the last update to be finished, and your IMEI is the last one on the list for that carrier, it can be 6 months after Google announces 5.0.3 before you see it on your phone.

    And that's why everyone else has the new Android update and you don't, and iPhones get updates so much sooner. Then don't. They just get updated faster after the announcement is made, because the announcement isn't made until the update is ready for your iPhone (and all other iPhones). With Android, the announcement is made months before the update is ready for your phone. Once the update for your model phone and your carrier starts rolling out, every phone of that model on that carrier gets it just about as quickly as iPhones do.
    12-29-2014 02:45 PM
  2. B. Diddy's Avatar
    Very informative--and entertaining!
    12-31-2014 02:45 AM
  3. Golfdriver97's Avatar
    Nice write up! I didn't know the population of Podunk went up to 3!
    01-02-2015 08:51 AM
  4. Rukbat's Avatar
    It's 5. The other 2 people are on a different carrier.
    Golfdriver97 likes this.
    01-10-2015 01:11 PM

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