1. RavenSword's Avatar
    See, I'm the kind of person who likes to updates right when it's available. Whether that's app updates or device firmware. This goes for tablets, phones, game consoles, etc.

    But I do also wonder how important or needed these updates are becoming outside of the number change releases like whatever 5.0 is going to be.

    How much is Google pushing through its play services app so they can potentialy get around the carriers?

    Even so, I hate to miss out on a important firmware release.

    Also, another question, if there's a issue with the phone due to Android update or whatever, will we still have to wait for the OEM and the carrier to OK it before we can receive it?

    Say for example my phone was having touch response issues due to a version of android. And Google knows what's wrong and has a fix they are ready to send out. So I still have to wait for the OEM and the arrived to OK it?

    Honestly, the only phones I ever had on contract were iPhone, so I never worried about getting updates or my carrier roadblocks updates. So I'm not sure if I'm even going to be happy with a carrier android phone since Google can't bypass the carriers like apple can. Does that mean I'm forever stuck buying Nexus or Google play phones? Not saying those are bad devi e's, but the new us, at this moment, does not have LTE or great battery life and the Google play edition phones are expensive upfront.

    I don't mind buying subsidized right now because I like being on my family plan and don't have issues being locked in for another 2 years and I don't have a issue with the bloatware because the motor x doesn't have that much and I can disable it.

    However, I don't have a issue with potential never receiving updates because my carrier knee capped me receiving it.

    Can someone help me understand d how carriers influence phone updates and if it's even worth it?
    08-18-2013 09:35 PM
  2. garublador's Avatar
    Can someone help me understand d how carriers influence phone updates and if it's even worth it?
    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.

    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.
    08-19-2013 08:56 AM
  3. RavenSword's Avatar
    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.

    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.
    Thanks. That helped clear some things up.

    But what about if they're is a security fix that Google needs to put out or a fix for some issue with android that dose the quite a whole new OS version. Does everything you stated still apply to that small, critical update?

    My fear is that I get the moto x on AT&T and it never gets updated.
    08-19-2013 12:32 PM
  4. garublador's Avatar
    Thanks. That helped clear some things up.

    But what about if they're is a security fix that Google needs to put out or a fix for some issue with android that dose the quite a whole new OS version. Does everything you stated still apply to that small, critical update?
    It depends. Most of those types of updates are done to things that are apps, so they circumvent the OEM's and carriers. Anything at the OS level will have to go through those channels, but that's fairly unlikely to happen. The Linux kernel is pretty mature and it is pretty unlikely that they'd introduce a bug that would compromise its security. Phones get updated without changing the OS quite often. The Galaxy S4 has two firmware updates that I know of that didn't change the OS version.

    My fear is that I get the moto x on AT&T and it never gets updated.
    That's always a fear with Android phones. It's getting better and less necessary, but as far as I'm concerned it's the best reason to pick iOS over Android. However, Motorola Mobility is now owned by Google and part of the appeal of the phone is that it's runs something close to vanilla Android. IMO, the Moto X is by far the best bet for an Android phone bought on contract that is the most likely to get OS updates.
    08-19-2013 01:06 PM
  5. RavenSword's Avatar
    It depends. Most of those types of updates are done to things that are apps, so they circumvent the OEM's and carriers. Anything at the OS level will have to go through those channels, but that's fairly unlikely to happen. The Linux kernel is pretty mature and it is pretty unlikely that they'd introduce a bug that would compromise its security. Phones get updated without changing the OS quite often. The Galaxy S4 has two firmware updates that I know of that didn't change the OS version.

    That's always a fear with Android phones. It's getting better and less necessary, but as far as I'm concerned it's the best reason to pick iOS over Android. However, Motorola Mobility is now owned by Google and part of the appeal of the phone is that it's runs something close to vanilla Android. IMO, the Moto X is by far the best bet for an Android phone bought on contract that is the most likely to get OS updates.
    Yeah, and honestly it would be very embarrassing for google if the moto x has trouble getting updates.
    08-19-2013 02:40 PM

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