back to article HTC: Shipping Android updates is harder than you think – here's why

If you're wondering why your HTC smartphone hasn't been updated with the latest version of Android yet, the struggling smartphone vendor wants you to know it's not its fault – at least, not entirely. While Apple likes to brag about how quickly its iPhone and iPad devices receive updates to the latest iOS version, Android …

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  1. PaulR79

    Harsh

    They gave the timeframe for 4.4 on the HTC One and they're sticking to it. They gave dates for the Developer Edition and Google Play Edition and stuck to those so calling it out as though it's lagging behind on 4.4 seems harsh. In fact they're pushing harder than they ever have to update 2013 devices to 4.4 and while I don't own one it's encouraging to see them finally tackle the updates faster. Unfortunately as an owner of the 2012 flagship One X I'm not likely to even see 4.3 and that still saddens me.

    Conclusion? I'm all for calling them out on abandoning phones too soon or lagging behind on updates but in this instance it isn't justified. What phones other than the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have 4.4 currently? (Rhetorical question)

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      phones other than the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have 4.4 ?

      Moto X and even cheap as chips Moto G

      1. PaulR79

        Re: phones other than the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have 4.4 ?

        Those slipped my mind but given they're made by Google owned Motorola I think you can almost throw them in with the Nexus line. It sums up what I was getting at though. Very few devices outside of the Nexus line currently have 4.4 available and it felt like a cheap shot.

      2. Mark #255

        Re: the Moto G

        My Moto G (SIM-free from phones4u) is still on 4.3.

        4.4 has allegedly been promised for January, though.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: the Moto G

          4.4.2 being rolled out for 10 days already

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: phones other than the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have 4.4 ?

          "stop talking crap DrainB the moto x is to get kitkat on the 9th of jan if all is ready"

          Well, sucks to be you as my Moto G got it on 21st of December. Call it karma.

          Who owns Motorola is irrelevant, Motorola devices are not Nexus devices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hence

      I went over to he iDarkside.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: Hence

        That's the trade off with Apple. They release an upgrade and it's usually compatible with most of their phones (although sometimes not all features will work with all phones) but to be fair this is at the expense of choice. Apple only needs to test it against a few phones and several steps are in house for Apple that aren't for Android phone makers. I'm not suggesting either approach is better, it's just a choice between pretty much guaranteed updates for a couple off years (by which point you will probably upgrade) or having more choice over the specification of your phone. I would not be shocked to find that Samsung released more phone variants in 2013 than Apple have released in total.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harsh but consider

      Samsung may now consider a propriety operating system that incorporates android apps.

      1. FoxyRaider

        Re: Harsh but consider

        They would have to provide copies of all the Google Apps as well though which would be difficult..

        Although Android itself is open source if any manufacturer tries to break away with a fork then there is a lot of 'lock in' making the transition very difficult and expensive...Thats why Google has been moving a lot of the added functionality out of the core OS into Play Apps

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harsh

      BUT there is a bigger timeline that they need to stick to: 18 months, according to Google:

      https://support.google.com/nexus/answer/3468085?hl=en

    5. Professor Clifton Shallot

      Re: Harsh

      " What phones other than the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have 4.4 currently? (Rhetorical question)"

      I'll answer anyway!

      I have a Galaxy Note running KitKat Omni thanks to the efforts of the community developers and ROM builders. This for me is the joy of Android

      1. Trevor Marron

        Re: Harsh

        I am running 4.4.2 on my S3. Thanks to those over at XDA Developers.

  2. Slx

    The biggest hold up for my HTC One seems to have been carrier requirements.

    Every time there's been an update, other Irish networks have had their software months before Three!

    I would love to know what carrier-specific updating actually needs to be done. Aren't all carriers just using GSM/UMTS/LTE networks that conform to GSM Association / ETSI / ITU standards?

    It strikes me as a bit like testing appliances for each power company's electricity. It's all the same stuff.

    1. DougS Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Some Irish networks are faster than others to insert their spy software that forwards your call/text history information to GCHQ, in case us silly yanks let our guard down and some guy escapes with documents that prove that Google has been cooperating with the NSA and that the NSA has also been hacking them as a backup plan to that.

      In that case the backup plan to the backup plan, the carrier back door that lets GCHQ and the NSA at your data, needs to take over, until they can come to a new secret arrangement with Google and hack them in a new way as a backup plan.

      1. Slx

        I'd say it's more a case of getting their bloody start-up logo animation in!

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          I'd say it's more a case of getting their bloody start-up logo animation in

          That and all the other bits of c*** software that are glued into Android devices whether you want them or not ( or indeed even know what they're for).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Certainly T-Mobile were totally useless when it came to shipping updates.

      Mind you Samsung are pretty crap at it too - two goes at 4.3 both of which are broken.

      1. Irongut

        "Mind you Samsung are pretty crap at it too - two goes at 4.3 both of which are broken."

        4.3 is working fine on my S3 and the missus' S4 and we've never had problems with updates on them or our old Galaxy Ss. But then if you were posting anything other than a cheap shot you would have specified a model and carrier that you were having issues with.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Suggest you look at Samsung Mobile UK's Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/SamsungMobileUK ) and look at the posts made by others - you'll see its not a cheap shot. They aborted one 4.3 roll out ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/19/samsung_s3_upgrade_pulled/ ) and the second one is causing a lot of pain as well.

          No carrier involved in a lot of cases - lots of stock S3 and S4 models having problems and Samsung's default answer of "Do a factory reset" doesn't fix the issues.

    3. Mr Fuzzy

      The real biggest holdup

      I don't care what device you have, someone will decide they want to build the new version at home. The real problem is chip manufacturers deciding that you have to be in their special club to get the datasheet for a device you bloody own.

      This nonsense of commercial non disclosure agreements for how to operate your own hardware strikes me as adding costs to absolutely everybody involved.

      1. Mike Pellatt

        Re: The real biggest holdup

        How I wish I could upvote that 100 times. Closed hardware is the biggest barrier to Android updates and alternative "ROM"s - look at devices like the Galaxy Y S5360 with the Broadcom BCM21553 chipset - which doesn't have an updated BLOB so no chance of Cyangenmod running on it - even if it did have enough memory.

    4. Jorge Lopez
      FAIL

      Lmfao. Are you seriously still holding onto this urban legend ? That was disproven ages ago. Even Samsung admitted they only release one update and one upgrade for a device. It's in rare situations a device will get further updates. They want you buying a new phone.

      Carriers are the last step. Read the article. The longest part happens way before the carriers are even involved. The real issue is they limit their off shored development until they get to the certified release. Their slowness would be reduced if they actually paid more for development.

    5. Tom 13

      Re: love to know what carrier-specific updating actually needs to be done.

      If I were a betting man I'd put half a month's salary on there not being much. However,...

      The carrier probably still needs to do the testing for purposes of liability insurance(s). At that point both Samsung and the punter are at the mercy of the resource allocation from the carrier.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HTC - Hardware Technology Challenging

    I was pleasantly surprised when my HTC One XL upgraded itself from Android 4.0.1 to 4.3 recently, as most handset makers don't seem to bother, and just use the newer OS as a carrot to persuade customers to buy a new phone. So kudos to HTC.

    The only thing I would say to them is get rid of those awful adverts with Robert Downey Jnr and try sell the phone on its own merits instead.

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Re: HTC - Hardware Technology Challenging

      Heh, I am actively resisting the update on my HTC One X.

      I got a Samsung Galaxy III, but it didn't work with my car's bluetooth handsfree (which had worked with the previous 6 phones), so I changed it for the One X, which also didn't work with the handsfree. A couple of months later, the One X got an OTA update and now half works ( You have to switch it on, wait to pair, switch it off, switch it on again and it pairs on the second try ) with the handsfree.

      I daren't let it update again as it might stop working again.

      Serves me right for paying good money for non-Free technology.

      1. Trevor Marron

        Re: HTC - Hardware Technology Challenging

        The issue is probably with the car kit.

  4. kbb

    What's missing...

    ...is a timeline. How long, for example, does it takes to incorporate Sense™ vs. the other steps?

  5. jubtastic1
    Stop

    Thats pretty much what I expected.

    I have no horse in this race, but given androids ubiquity, if the public percieves HTC to be lagging with it's updates I'd assume that's because they're comparing it with other manufacturers handsets on their chosen carrier rather than that they're a moany old lot that don't understand how many steps are involved.

    This is the second 'eating out of the hand that feeds us' article I've read today btw, the other one was Microsoft pulling Nokia maps from their competitor because 'mumble UI mumble degraded mumble' and certianly not for any other reason.

    Please don't let this become a trend.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jubs

  6. Nate Amsden

    blame linux?

    Don't get me wrong I've been a linux user for about 16 years now, and linux on the desktop for at least 12 of those.. but I suspect a decent part of the problem is changing(breaking) the driver interfaces in the kernels as they come out significantly increasing the amount of work required to support a new android, instead of just dropping the older binary code on top of the newer kernel. Hard core open source folks say just release the source, a lot of times that is not feasible(and even with source it only solves part of the problem).

    *I am not complaining* (learned to live with it), I've been an android user for almost 5 days now (WebOS before that). But I do believe it was a sufficiently large contributor for linux never making any inroads on desktop market share (because you really had to rely on drivers that came with the distribution - and distributions for the most part seemed bad about back porting driver updates to support new hardware). Their "solution" is to upgrade to a newer distro (and take other downsides that may come with that, all I want is a newer driver). For me it's not a big deal I just compile the driver(s) myself. Obviously that doesn't work for a normal user :)

    An example I use is Intel e1000e(which is fully open source) driver and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. They haven't updated the e1000e driver I suspect since 10.04 came out, and each time a kernel update occurred I have to compile a new driver. On my desktop/laptop I just disabled kernel upgrades now (even though desktop LTS is end of life the kernel and non desktop related things still get updates). I have absolutely no interest in going to a newer Ubuntu, maybe I'll go to mint or something when the time comes(which at this point I think is when I do my next hardware refresh), or maybe generic Debian which I use on all of my personal servers.

    I suspect not many folks outside of the tech community care if their android devices get major OS upgrades.

    It seems like the track record in general for major OS upgrades on mobile devices isn't that hot anyway, seem to get lots of breakage.

    of course something like a stable binary interface to drivers is probably a boring, hard thing to get right so developers shift the blame to someone else, because they are lazy(and in some cases not being paid). I had hoped a decade ago this problem would of been solved by now but it seems that it'll never get fixed.

    1. toejam13

      Re: blame linux?

      There have been a number of articles that suggest that the Linux kernel API is volatile by design. Part of it comes from Linux still having a foot in the research and software theory world. Part of it comes from a passive-aggressive desire to eliminate private code trees. I suspect that as long as Android is based on Linux, driver compatibility will continue to be a problem, just as it is with private binary blobs on the desktop.

      Makes me wonder if they would have been better off if they had used FreeBSD instead of Linux.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blame linux?

        Yup. I'd suggest Nate switched to FREEBSD too

      2. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: blame linux?

        Kernel that Android uses is not volatile in any way as Google has full control over kernel code and may choose to or not to implement any changes in API, so there's no driver compatibility issues whatsoever. They may even choose to write totally different kernel not using any Linux code but keeping API the same and no one would ever notice.

        1. toejam13

          Re: blame linux?

          While Google is free to make a hard fork of Linux at any point in order to keep the Android kernel API stable, doing so would inevitability cause drift to be introduced. Depending on how far that drift goes, it could make importing new features from the main Linux tree very laborious. One of the main points of using Linux is that you get to easily ride the coattails of other peoples' work.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blame linux?

        Sony didn't use Linux for the PS4, so they must have had their reasons.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: blame linux?

          "Sony didn't use Linux for the PS4, so they must have had their reasons."

          It would seem that their choice was mostly because of licensing - the FreeBSD guys seems remarkably relaxed about what people do with their code and aren't fussed over whether people openly release their own tweaks, etc. That's ideal for someone looking for a customisable OS that doesn't oblige them to release things like DRM tweaks.

          From a purely technical point of view I reckon Linux is the better OS of the two performance-wise [semaphores, context switch times, etc] on modern multi-core CPUs. So that must have made Linux a tempter for Sony, but commercial considerations are always going to override a purely technical choice.

      4. M Gale

        Re: blame linux?

        API, not so much. ABI? Well yeah, there's been some developers who have an insane desire to deliberately break stuff.

        It's one thing for one of your kernel updates to mess with Nvidia's kernel driver module. Another thing to go out of your way to break it and make life difficult for everyone involved. But, some people are quite happy with their special little 0.5% and don't want it getting any bigger.

        I don't care if they are leet hacksaw kernel devs, I call such people "fucking idiots".

    2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: blame linux?

      @Nate Amsden: Sorry, I am missing something here. I've been a Linux desktop (and server, or course) user for almost 20 years now, and I have never had to compile the e1000e driver except when I decided to build a custom kernel for R&D or for fun. I can't recall any significant HW driver problem for the last 15 years or so [at least with Linux - Windows is another matter :-)]. That includes the notoriously unfriendly, closed-source Nvidia and a fairly wide variety of old, new, and esoteric HW at work (admittedly, more servers than desktops) and sometimes at home. As far as I am concerned Linux driver problems are FUD. Come to think of that, apart from Nvidia I don't recall when I had to *install* a driver last time.

      Yes, the kernel interfaces are not guaranteed to be stable, famously and intentionally. But if you need to compile e1000e by hand when you switch to a newer Ubuntu then Mr. Shuttleworth does something *really* wrong. I don't know what - I don't use Ubuntu, but it just does not sound reasonable. FWIW, my laptop uses e1000e - I had to check because I never knew, through many versions of Fedora and uncounted yum-installed kernels over years. It just works.

      None of this is of any relevance to Android. Not sure about Ubuntu phones though.

      I realize that the various ARMs may be problematic - but that has little to do with Linux, except for Android being actually able to support all of them. iOS would be in the same situation if they only tried.

      1. Vic

        Re: blame linux?

        > I have never had to compile the e1000e driver

        I have. It's an Ubuntu-ism. We use Ubuntu at work.

        Unfortunately, many seem to believe that Ubuntu === Linux.

        Vic.

    3. John Sanders

      Re: blame linux?

      Even if the Linux kernel was the problem (which is not) the internal ABI/API doesn't change that drastically from one point release to the next.

      Most manufacturers are slow because they are slow for one reason or another, the most common reason is that they want you to buy another phone.

      All this crap about porting "sense" is nonsense, you do think that they do not have an ongoing development cycle with their on internal software to have it ready for newer models?

      They are not keen on you getting upgrades, no matter how you look at it because their appreciation is that it doesn't have a significant ROI in comparison with forcing people to buy a newer model.

      Well, they are wrong, really wrong, I bought a Nexus 4 because it was cheap and upgradeable, and my next phone is a Nexus 5 because it is upgradeable. I used Samsung's before but bitten in the ass once by broken flash memory, and later lack of updates. Looked at HTCs but all they looked like Samsung wannabes.

      Anybody I know who cares about updates is on a Nexus or thinking of getting one.

      Manufacturers should start thinking that they are selling us small laptops, not disposable phones.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: Most manufacturers ... want you to buy another phone.

        Most manufacturers are slow because they are slow for one reason or another, the most common reason is that they want you to buy another phone.

        DING DING DING!!!!!

        We have a winner!!!!!!

    4. smot

      Re: blame linux?

      > I had hoped a decade ago this problem would of been solved

      <pedant>

      s/would of/would have/

      </pedant>

  7. Kirel

    Not much of an excuse

    I've worked for several computer manufacturing companies, and that looks like roughly the same process for pretty much everyone. I expect Apple's process looks very similar.

    This looks like a lame excuse to me. It appears that they are saying that if the chipset manufacturers won't support the new update, then the phone/device is unable to updated at all. Which is false. I've had many old phones that stop getting manufacturer updates, yet can get Andriod updates through 3rd parties, like CyanogenMod.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: Not much of an excuse

      And that's precisely why CM has permanent issues with cameras, wi-fi, screens, BT and lots more - because manufacturers do not release their drivers. And to be honest if any manufacturer released anything of CM quality it'd went broke in a month dealing with returns. CM is "just" good enough because there's not much else and it's free as in you get what you paid for.

      1. johnnytruant

        Re: Not much of an excuse

        CM11 (AOSP 4.4.2) on my rather creaky Sony Xperia P is just about flawless.

        Bearing in mind it's still on nightly releases, once the OMX (video playback/recording) issue is sorted out, which is half done and always the last bit to get fixed on Xperia devices, it'll be perfect. I expect RC versions before the end of January if not sooner. CM is considerably faster and more stable than Sony's offerings ever have been on this phone.

        From what I can tell over at XDA, there's only two people developing CM for the Xperia P. Part time, unpaid.

        Obviously milage varies depending on device, but in my experience CM is superb.

      2. John Sanders

        Re: Not much of an excuse

        Samsung... is that you?

    2. Vic

      Re: Not much of an excuse

      > that looks like roughly the same process for pretty much everyone.

      Yep. The only big difference I see between that and STB development (which I did for many years) is that the code tends to be available as source for Android, as opposed to an opaque blob for most intergration jobs.

      > This looks like a lame excuse to me

      I was thinking exactly the same. I'd put money on it that what *really* prevents releases being ported to older hardware is some PHB deciding that it won't make them enough money this quarter.

      As has been mentioned elsewhere, a big part of retaining your customer base is being seen to be supportive of your existing users. So the short-term gain of abandoning a device is almost certainly outweighed by the long-term loss of customers pissed off at nopt getting the support they expected.

      Vic.

    3. Joe Harrison

      Re: Not much of an excuse

      Cyanogenmod is amazing - 30 minutes work will see 4.4.2 installed onto your Huawei Y300, a great phone which you can pick up for under 40 quid at Crap-phone Whorehouse.

  8. DainB Bronze badge

    HTC is not in a business of updates

    It is in a business of selling NEW phones which works better if there's no updates. Eventually some odd user will be pissed and stop buying from you, but with new sucker born every minute and average lifespan of a phone now of about 12 months it does not matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

      Right on!

      Instead of investing a lot of effort in those 12 steps without getting a single dime in return, ALL phone manufacturers will prefer to concentrate their resources in getting a new model on the market which in turn will bring shiny dollars into their coffers.

      It's nothing wrong here, this is how closed hardware works and the thin layer of FOSS brought in by the Linux kernel can not change the game. I personally don't know why people bother using the word Linux when referring to Android.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        this is how closed hardware works

        well, yeah, and rarely anyone promised any updates with phones.

        People looking at Apple who controls both hardware and software (and does not put any carrier related crap to their phones BTW) and expects Sammy or HTC to be the same. Well, they're not as they do not have control over Android software. If someone wants same experience as Apple Nexus and seems like Motorola are the only options. Fine with me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: this is how closed hardware works

          It's obvious - Apple have limited hardware variants to support, whether phone/tablet/Mac.

          So, it's relatively easy to make your software work on those platforms.

          Android on the other hand is on hundreds of different hardware platforms.

          Same goes for PC operating systems, which is why some experience instability when first launched.

          HTC have released too many phone variants IMO, which is part of their support problem.

          Additionally their own Sense UI on top of basic Android creates extra work.

          1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

            Re: this is how closed hardware works

            I will say that despite the hardware variations, that once an Android update does get released, it seems pretty well vetted. You don't seem to get complaints that the OS update broke something, killed battery life, etc. At least not as much as the last few from Apple. (there will always be some affected software--especially free crappy games that everyone and their brother seems to write for this platform)

            1. RyokuMas Silver badge

              Re: this is how closed hardware works

              "especially free crappy games that everyone and their brother seems to write for this platform"

              ... as a game developer, I'm reluctant to invest time and effort in a platform with an approximate 90% piracy rate, especially given the number of OS/handset/screen resolutions permutations I'd need to test and support.

              1. M Gale

                Re: this is how closed hardware works

                I see "90% piracy rate" and call utter bullshit, sorry. I know too many people with smartphones and apps for them for that statistic to make any sense whatsoever. Even with that in mind, the various reports my Googling turns up (try ios piracy rate, or android piracy rate) seem to indicate that iOS has a high piracy rate too, with some reports claiming that it's higher than Android.

                I take both cases with a pinch of salt. Wherever that piracy is allegedly happening, it isn't around here.

              2. Daniel Palmer

                Re: this is how closed hardware works

                >... as a game developer

                It's interesting that 9 out of 10 times that people claim they are a "game developer" the games they apparently develop seem to be poor rip offs of Speccy era games.. it makes me think that there is a word like "amatuer" missing somewhere in the sentence.

    2. Steve Todd
      Stop

      Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

      They are (or should be) in the business of customer satisfaction. The reason that Apple have such good retention rates (i.e. people comming back and buying newer models) is because customers know that they will continue to receive support and updates throughout the normal life of the device. It costs money to do this, but that is an investment in future sales.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

        Customer satisfaction and loyalty is not worth much in open ecosystem which Android is. Users are free to move between devices of different manufacturers and still have access to same applications and mostly have same (Google) experience. Compare that to moving from iPhone to Android.

        1. Steve Todd
          Stop

          Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

          Even within the Android ecosystem manufacturers can create brand loyalty. Samsung owners will buy newer Samsung devices if they think they will get better support than HTC and vice versa. It's harder to do, but it still worth the effort.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

            "Even within the Android ecosystem manufacturers can create brand loyalty. Samsung owners will buy newer Samsung devices if they think they will get better support than HTC and vice versa. It's harder to do, but it still worth the effort."

            Not when brand loyalty is too mercurial. Put it this way. One bad story and plenty of once-loyal customers will jump ship. Then there are people like me who have NO brand loyalty. I jumped from HTC to Samsung,but only on a consideration of features at the time. Should I need a new phone, the process will repeat. Since Google provides the common ground for Android, there's little need to stick with a particular brand unless you REALLY like their specific offerings (and no, I don't--I junked TouchWiz and installed a custom ROM pretty quick).

            At least Apple has the closest we have to a captive market. If you wanna keep your apps and so on, you MUST stick with Apple. Plus since Apple controls BOTH the hardware AND the software, they can afford to milk their older phones with the app revenues. Since (IMBW) none of the handset makers run their own app markets, milking isn't an option.

        2. Vic

          Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

          > Customer satisfaction and loyalty is not worth much in open ecosystem

          It most certainly is.

          I used to work for Sony[1]. We got glowing reviews for some of our products despite the fact that they were functionally *identical* to our competitors' (and had to be to get through customer testing). They actiually used almost exactly the same code as our competitors' units as well, seeing as that was supplied by third parties. It was an integration job, so there was little Sony code in the box.

          But brand loyalty paid off, and out units sold like hot cakes, despite the premium price charged for them.

          Vic.

          [1] Sorry, sorry, sorry. I left when I discovered what utter bastards they had become...

          1. Fatman Silver badge

            Re: [1] Sorry, sorry, sorry. I left when I discovered what utter bastards they had become...

            i could not agree with you more!

            (still smarting from that dammed rootkit that wasted my dev PC.)

    3. John Sanders

      Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

      The success of a certain company who produces far less phone models than HTC but supports older models thus creating a nice retention/fidelity effect on their coffers suggests that a business plan change is sorely missing somewhere.

      I'm of the opinion that Mobile manufacturers should stop this policy of "flood the market" and reduce their line-ups to three models at max every two years.

      That would lead to much more polish in both software and hardware, and will make producing updates for those both easier, cheaper and will result in more customer fidelity.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: HTC is not in a business of updates

        And how pray tell do they do that when NONE of the other handset makers maintain an exclusive app market? It's the App Market that allows Apple to milk since even old phones need apps, and every app the old phones buy means they take a cut.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

    "Understandably, that has angered more than a few Android users over the years: many point a finger at the hardware vendors which, according to the users, aren't doing enough to keep products relevant."

    It's LINUX ffs! If these whinging lusers are so upset, let them write their own fucking upgrades. That's why the fuck it's Open Sores: so lusers can write their own patches and upgrades.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

      Firstly it uses Linux kernel, which is useless on its own. Secondly drivers are not open source and manufacturers not obliged to provide source code and that's where all problems are.

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Re: It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

        Thats the crux of the problem. Until the chip manufacturers come together and produce some sort of unified hardware interface layer this is always going to be a challenge. It will happen one day but at present we are still in the chaos stage of technology development where everyone is throwing paint to the wall and see what sticks. I predict in 10 years mobile phone capabilities will be pretty ubiquitous and there will be less pressure to modify the hardware software interface

        1. John Sanders

          Re: It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

          You should explain that part of the problem is ARM's lack of enumerable buses.

          For the uninformed ARM based SOC use tables of magic numbers to tell the OS where the hardware is.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

          The manufacturers DON'T WANT open interfaces. For them, it's vendor lock-in, and since the phone market relies heavily on integration (SoCs, etc.), the "roll your own" element that helps drive open standards isn't there. So the manufacturers will jealously guard their trade secrets, much as nVidia and AMD keep their cutting-edge GPU driver code in blobs (so as to prevent sneaking peeks).

    2. joeldillon

      Re: It's Linux. It's Open Sores Software. Write Your Own Fucking Upgrade.

      They do. It's called Cyanogenmod. (And similar custom ROMs). Of course, if you install a custom ROM you're out of warranty; it's hardly surprising many people want an actual supported-by-the-manufacturer recent version of Android on their handset.

  10. Guillermo Lo Coco

    Big manufacturers sign and have most (if not all, including gpu) components driver source code and compile by them self.

    its clear that if HTC buy a million of X component, will make sure have access to the driver source code.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "its clear that if HTC buy a million of X component, will make sure have access to the driver source code."

      But typically under NDAs; the chipmakers aren't stupid. It's one thing for a chip manufacturer to share trade secrets with a major partner, but implying this should cause the code to be released before all and sundry is too far of a stretch.

    2. Mookster
      Alert

      except that the silicon vendor's drivers are "examples" i.e. sh!te

      In my experience of silicon vendor's drivers, they're a freebe that *just* work. Better to re-write them, removing 5 layers of empty API.

      -Mook

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Built In Obsolescence

    Oh dear it's so hard to update blah blah bullshit, your just going to have to buy a new phone.

    One day there will be no more resources left to carry on this ridiculous cycle.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Built In Obsolescence

      It's gonna take a long time. Don't forget that they can recycle the old phones to help get materials for the new ones.

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Flame

    I would

    have thought the biggest hurdle was making sure the phone could still run after loading all the companies (and carriers) crapware on it

    Like having memory occupied by games I cant use because I wont buy them, yet cant delete to save some memory space... Its a phone I use to store MY crapware engineering stuff , not someone else's

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We know it's not difficult, but if they didn't release quite so many different phone models then their development teams wouldn't be so rushed off their feet.

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If they spent the time they spent drawing that flowchart

    on some code to automate the process they'd be nearly there.

  15. Piro

    Yet you can head to xda-dev and find an update

    That somebody has cobbled together in their own time. For free.

    Often only a proprietary driver or two away from perfect functionality.

    Makes the official process look like a mess that's designed to make you buy a new handset rather than keep your old one.

  16. Catweazle

    Zero updates

    Two minor updates?

    My HTC One V never received an update.

  17. Richard Lloyd

    Less phone models and less customisation is the answer

    A few years back, HTC were horrendously guilty of releasing new phone models every few weeks - they'd be slight variations on existing models and probably caused extreme customer confusion about which model to buy. It lead to an HTC culture of not providing many (if any) updates for a lot of their Android models, on the assumption that everyone would be getting a new HTC model once a year and nothing needed updating beyond that.

    Eventually, HTC saw some sense and reduced the number of new models (I'd still argue there's too many!), but the "everyone updates annually" mentality is still there. It does surprise me that Google don't lay down some rules about this for everyone in the OHA:

    * Minimum hardware specs. Nothing causes defections away from Android quicker than a lousy experience due to poor hardware. This issue is thankfully gradually fixing itself (e.g. Moto G for 100 quid at Tesco) - it would have been handier in the early Android years.

    * Maximum elapsed period after Nexus devices get Android update for non-Nexus devices to update. If the manufacturer fails to provide a timely update, have a rolling points system where they can be thrown out of OHA if they exceed a certain total.

    * Minimum update support period - Google has 2 years for Nexus devices, so why not other manufacturers? Again. failure to update for that minimum time would incur more penalty "licence points".

    * Some sort of rules about the "bloatware" that manufacturers and carriers needlessly add. For example, nothing should be added that causes update testing to be extended beyond, say, a total of one month (again, with penalty points if this is exceeded). If this means dropping some of the bloat, than that's a good thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Less phone models and less customisation is the answer

      Why would google do that? What is in it for them. The more handsets shipping with Android, the more data collected, the more ad money made.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd just like to agree with the article: the iPhone does indeed get updates very quickly. But android is popular because of its price, not for functionality, security, timeliness or its after sales service. You wanted to pay less - this is what happens.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      You speak heresy, cursed one.

  19. Russ Tarbox

    "Once the chipset makers decide which of their components will support the new OS..."

    I don't like how this is written. Surely they decide "which of their components they will write drivers for". It's not like they're going to ship new components. It's up to the OS/drivers to support the hardware, not the other way around.

  20. Tom 35 Silver badge

    This is the difference between Apple and Android

    "Then it's time for the handset makers to start working with the mobile operators, folding in any modifications that they may require and tacking on their custom apps and services."

    Other then a few top sellers the carriers just don't care. Is upgrading the phones people already have on contract going to make them more money today?

    Since we are not HTC's customer, they are more interested in what the mobile operators want.

    I currently use a Nexus 4 and will never buy another phone from a mobile operator. They can stuff their custom apps and services!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: This is the difference between Apple and Android

      "Other then a few top sellers the carriers just don't care. Is upgrading the phones people already have on contract going to make them more money today?"

      Heck yeah! They ALREADY got their money from the carrier (and if you upgrade early, the carrier will get you back either with a termination fee or a higher upgrade price, depending on the terms). More phone churn = more revenues to the phone makers.

      "I currently use a Nexus 4 and will never buy another phone from a mobile operator. They can stuff their custom apps and services!"

      Show me a Nexus with an SDXC slot and a removable battery and I'll consider it. Until then, I don't consider Google any better than the other big boys.

  21. Mikel

    Want quick updates?

    Just get a Nexus. Problem solved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Want quick updates?

      Just get an iPhone. Problem solved.

  22. No Quarter
    Meh

    Hello!

    HTC only have to worry about HTC phones. I don't think they are trying very hard.

  23. vmistery

    If they did not have quite so many different models it wouldn't be so hard. Apples model works for a reason, it also doesn't help there is little financial benefit for HTC to keep their old kit up to date wheras Apple do.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      It also works because Apple controls BOTH ends of the iPhone experience: the phone AND the software. Since they BOTH make the phones AND run the app markets, they get paid either way. Old phones still need apps, so Apple can milk old phones for app revenues. That option isn't available to the Android handset makers because Google runs that market. The ONLY revenue stream available to the handset makers comes from the handsets themselves.

  24. Jorge Lopez

    Finally owning up and taking the blame... Partially.

    Blows the carrier urban legend myth out of the water. Was sick of hearing that lame excuse. One word: Apple. They dealt with more carriers than ever and you never hear them holding back updates and security patches because of carriers.

  25. FrankAlphaXII

    This is why I never plan to buy another non-Nexus Android in a nutshell. Anything else, but not Android unless its a Nexus, and even then I really resent having to pay Google's equivalent of the Microsoft tax to be able to do something as simple as updating my damned phone.

    Actually, as far as phones go, the only ones I'm interested in are running Sailfish OS, Windows Phone, and Firefox OS. I won't go near an Apple product (aside from my 512K Mac museum piece), and BlackBerry's pretty much dead in my estimation so options are kind of limited. And if Canonical ever gets a Ubuntu mobile out, I sure as hell won't buy it. I don't particularly like how divisive to the Linux development community that a company with a supposed focus on togetherness and unity has become.

    Hopefully Jolla takes heed of how fucking fundamentally broken Android's updating and package management are and do it right with Sailfish OS, because I don't really want Google and Canonical to dominate the Linux kernel's mobile market, Microsoft's sure as hell never going to dominate even with as easy and pleasant to use OS that Windows Phone is. That being said, Its a bit disingenuous of HTC to pass the buck to Google, their hardware manufacturers, the FCC and/or EU, and damned near anyone else in between.

  26. Outcast !!!

    Where the hell is 4.3 or 4.4 for Butterfly S?

    Alright HTC, where the hell is 4.3 or 4.4 for Butterfly S?

  27. Alan Burlison
    FAIL

    HTC - once bitten...

    I have a HTC One S that I thoroughly regret buying and which neatly illustrates the points that people have already made. It is stuck on 4.1.1 because HTC shipped two variants using two different CPUs, one which could reasonably be updated and one that HTC claim couldn't, so their 'solution' is to not upgrade any of them, to "avoid customer confusion". That's despite the fact that the current software is a morass of bugs, in everything from google calendar sync through WiFi connectivity, through inability to connect to the phone service after power off and even the inability to make an actual goddam phone call - I'm used to rebooting it multiple times a week. I have an email thread from hell with HTC support trying (and failing) to get them to accept that there *was* a bug in the handset. Frankly, it's a total lemon.

    HTC's approach to customer service and support in general is don't fix or update anything, just give a long list of excuses as to why it's not their fault/too hard/whatever and assume that we'll all buy new phones instead. The process for releasing software for a new phone is more or less the same as updating a new one and their continual stream of new handsets mean that they are very well aware of what it takes to update the existing ones, so the excuses in the "infographic" just don't wash. HTC are just top-to-bottom hopeless and thoroughly deserve to go to the wall, something that looks increasingly likely.

    I don't particularly like Apple but I'm seriously considering them for my next phone update, although a Nexus is another consideration. One thing is certain though, I'll never, ever buy another product from HTC.

  28. eldakka Silver badge

    at least 2 steps are problems of their own making

    1) They don't need to provide their own customized (Sense) UI. They could use the stock android UI and hence skip this step entirely. If they really have a hardon for their (unnecessary) customized UI, make it an optional component and provide it as a separate package. That way they can release a stock version sooner with a Sense UI update later and give customers the choice of stock android or waiting for the Sense UI version to be available.

    2) Carrier requirements? huh? This sounds like a chipset provider problem, i.e. provide the correct drivers/firmware for that android version that corresponds to the appropriate GSM/UMTS standards etc for the included chipsets. Any 'carrier specific' customizations like specific software should be the carriers problem and just like with the Sense UI just provide stock android ASAP and provide carrier/UI customizations later.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: at least 2 steps are problems of their own making

      1) Actually, they do. The UI is one of the FEW ways a phone maker can produce a lock-in. With stock Android, people can jump to another phone maker and not lose anything. That's why EACH of the big phone makers have custom UIs, be they Sense, TouchWiz, or whatever. Even Google's default UI, the one they use for the Nexus devices, has a heavy Google bias with Google Now and so on baked in. And since a lot of the UI components require low-level (think root-level) operations (such as access to some of the hardware), it MUST be baked in. Besides, they don't want anyone ripping the UI out.

      2) It's not just the chipsets (which does have a factor--each carrier can have different frequency requirements, especially in the US--and they can't necessarily be reset by drivers; sometimes they need a whole other set of chips). And note that the onus is on the handset maker because if the carrier disagrees with the finished product, they can cancel their purchase contract, meaning the phone maker is out big money; it's in their interest to make sure the carrier completes the contract--so they get PAID.

  29. sleepy

    It's not because they want you to buy a news phone

    When you sell a generic product, the customer is very likely to buy a different manufacturer's product next time. All updating Android does is to possibly delay a hardware upgrade sale; it doesn't get you the next hardware sale. Android updates only benefit the user, not the manufacturer.

    Google is aware of this, hence the bundling of many updates into Google Play Services instead of Android updates.

  30. Alan Denman

    Leak it!

    Far far better would be them simply 'accidentally leaking it'.

    That way the support costs vanish.

    The term 'update' is only sometimes an 'upgrade'. Updates really can cripple your gadget. And for some poor suckers it is a permanent thing.

  31. Christian Berger Silver badge

    And that's the big problem in the mobile world

    Since every SoC is completely different every operating system needs to be ported to every SoC and even every device. What we must finally learn to do is to define a common architecture, perhaps like with the PC. The least would be to have a little ROM inside of every SoC which contains information about that SoC in a vendor independent way. Additionally we could have certain standard hardware an routines to use it. Why does every graphics subsystem have to behave differently even when used as a simple framebuffer? Why do serial ports have to behave differently?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: And that's the big problem in the mobile world

      That all sounds quite logical but the problems these phone people are having is they want to do something different and they haven’t a clue how to manage it, or rather they do - they want you to buy the next phone.

      It is quite strange that a few PFY's working for free can get CM updates working without having the hardware and software support that is needed to make the phone work in the first place.

      If they cant get upgrades out reasonably quickly you can put money on one of two things:

      A) they are technically incompetent and you should never buy another phone from them.

      B) They don’t want to support your phone and hope you will upgrade so you should never buy another phone from them.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: And that's the big problem in the mobile world

        Thing is, the homebrew coders are still behind the 8-ball because of the driver blobs (which the chipmakers will never release since they're trade secrets), and the hacks that are used to get around them are either grafted blobs or imperfect attempts to duplicate the functions.

        As for your (B), considering this is happening with ALL the phone makers apart from Apple (who could care less because they ALSO own the market where the older phones get their apps), your statement basically precludes anyone EVER getting another phone ever again.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: And that's the big problem in the mobile world

      Three words: Vendor Lock-In.

      The SoC makers DON'T WANT to use a common design. Their designs are basically trade secrets and are under no pressure from the phone makers to open up since integration is the buzzword in that market.

  32. Alan Denman

    Re: And that's the big problem in the mobile world

    Yes, they would surely love to have the very low cost scenario of Apple.

    That added cost of always having to compete by massively improving new hardware in the phone is a big customer win though. Not everyone wants to pay 500 bucks for 'mutton dressed as lamb'.

  33. hairydog

    Not all upgrades are good

    When my Nexus 4 was upgraded to KitKat, I could see no improvements, and precious few changes, except that the GPS stopped working unless you switch to Aeroplane mode till it gets a fix. A replacement Nexus 4 fixed the problem till it too upgraded to KitKat. A replacement sim card didn't sort the problem.

    I'd much prefer to go back to Jelly Bean.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have no issue with a business model that does not include major updates over the lifetime of a phone - as long as this is stated up front. The pace of innovation has slowed of late anyway. The reason why I have abandoned HTC is because a major update was "promised" for my last phone and then reneged. That's unforgivable.

    As for "it's difficult" ... a bad result plus an excuse does not equal a good result.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems a little bass ackward...

    Kudos to HTC for at least attempting to explain how it works. I think the problem is after step 2, "google announces new version of Android". What this means is "Google announce some code, but HTC, the carrier and Google are all very well aware that there are months to go before it's ready".

    Surely better to save the announcement until the chippy vendors have done their thing? Surely Google have already dealt with the chippy people by the time they make their annoucement. It would be like announcing a new version of Windows before giving Dell a chance to see if it worked on their laptops. Or worse, announcing that GNU Hurd is ready. Except for that pesky kernel.

  36. Glen Turner 666

    Not in the business of updates

    I've read here a few times that HTC isn't in the business of updates. I don't get that -- why aren't they in the business of updates? If they charged $20 they'd turn updates from a cost centre to a revenue centre, and they'd be getting money without all the trouble of a new hardware design. And it would encourage customers to buy a HTC phone rather than a carrier phone. I just don't get why HTC persists in the current economics of Android updates when they could change the system for a better result for themselves and their customers.

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