back to article Google doesn’t care who makes Android phones. Or who it pisses off

Google could use defeat in the Oracle case to take Android proprietary, reckons analyst Richard Windsor, who thinks development for this watershed event is already well underway, as we reported last week. Google would then be able to bring the ecosystem up to date much more quickly than it does today. Last year’s Marshmallow …

  1. ratfox Silver badge

    Sounds risky

    Google is already in the crosshairs of the EU antitrust commissioner for Android — and that's with Android being open source. If they make Android proprietary, they might just as well spare the lawyers and just send a cheque for $Billions fine to the EU.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds risky

      Open source or not, the problem are the required bundled proprietary services. Just like with Microsoft the problem was bundling IE and Media Player, not Windows itself.

      Google knows it has to fight the EU one way or the other. It could do it from the position it reckons more suitable for its interests even if it will have to lose something.

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Stop

        Re: Sounds risky

        Not sure your definition of required is the same as mine. Last I checked, I can use an Android phone without signing in to Google services at all, installing my own choice of app stores from the variety available outside of Google. Of course, I have to sign in to access Google's services, but that's to be expected.

        1. moiety

          Re: Sounds risky

          You still have to run the core Google proprietary stuff or else the phone doesn't work at all. And -possibly more to the point- allow it access to the internet otherwise -again- nothing works.

          My phone has never signed on to any Google service, and has been quite enthusiastically firewalled from the start and yet it has still sent stuff back to the mothership, despite my efforts. Now in my case it's not that critical, because I don't keep any personal stuff on the phone or use it to log into anything (because I don't trust it, frankly). That isn't a luxury available to everyone.

          1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: Sounds risky

            > You still have to run the core Google proprietary stuff or else the phone doesn't work at all.

            That may be true of some Android phones, but it is _NOT_ true of Android in general. examples such as Amazon Fire, Nokia/Microsoft X, Cyanogenmod and many Chinese phones do not have Google proprietry stuff and still work fine.

            On those phones you can still access services and can even get Google services if you want them.

            > And -possibly more to the point- allow it access to the internet otherwise -again- nothing works.

            Nonsense. Phones can phone, message and such without internet access, they can even run local apps. If you want to use an internet service then you will have to .... access the internet.

        2. energystar
          Alien

          " I can use an Android phone without signing in to Google services at all..."

          True of the platform. Also about MS platform.

    2. energystar
      Paris Hilton

      'Flagship' buyers...

      " Only in mature Western markets does Google need a Samsung or a Sony to snag some of those high-value customers who buy flagship products..."

      'Flagship' buyers... Is Andrew 'insinuating' We Westerns are... stupid flag collectors?

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    We need something like linux for phones. Something that users can install on a wide range of hardware and still have something functional. That there are several variants of so people can focus on an area that they need/want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't that what AOSP ROMs like Cyanogenmod are?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Last time I checked Cyanogenmod was based on Android 4.4 and Android is on version 6. If they don't hurry up they'll soon have problems getting features and apps to run on it. If Google goes full blob it might be the end is neigh for them.

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Last time I checked Cyanogenmod was based on Android 4.4 and Android is on version 6.

          It depends on the phone. CM 13 is based on Marshmallow ... but it tends only to be an option for phones that can run Marshmallow anyway. CM isn't generally a way to get a newer Android version on a device.

          1. James 51 Silver badge

            Which is a pity. I have managed to upgrade through three versions of Ubuntu with my current desktop. When the new generation of AMD chips come out I might upgrade keeping the same OS and applications.

          2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            CM *absolutely* is a way to get a newer version of Android on your phone

            Last phone : 2011 Xperia Pro, shipped with Gingerbread, updated to a mostly complete ICS. CM support - up to Marshmallow.

            Current phone - 2012 Motorola Photon Q with SIM card mod. Shipped with ICS. Now on Marshmallow.

            Without CM both phones would be bricks without up to date security patches. Not all phones have as much support, but many do.

            1. Mario Becroft
              Pint

              Re: CM *absolutely* is a way to get a newer version of Android on your phone

              Have a virtual beer for being a fellow Photon Q holdout. I've recently upgraded my Photon Q to CM13 and it's never run better! Just a pity we can't swap in a slightly larger RAM chip... the 1 GB RAM is really all that holds this phone back. Who would have thought the day would come we need 2 gigs of RAM to make a phone call (all right, I jest a little).

              I just wish Motorola would make a new Droid 4/Photon Q, exactly the same but with up-to-date innards. Not likely to happen unfortunately. But have you ever tried ssh'ing into a server on a phone without a physical keyboard? Not a pleasant experience. And my dad will let his Droid 4 (hand me down from me) be pried from his cold dead hands, and all he uses it for is texting. There is a market niche here...

            2. energystar
              Paris Hilton

              Cyanogenmod... Mmmmmh!

              On Android: knowing at least where the signals harvesting goes.

              But, on Cyanogenmod: Who are the MIM?

          3. AceRimmer1980
            Meh

            I had an HTC Hero, which came with 1.6. There was supposedly an OTA upgrade to 2.1, but this never happened, despite many calls to my provider.

            One root later, I stuck Cyanogen on it, and it ran 2.3.7 (gingerbread) quite nicely.

        2. mdava

          @James51: Clearly you haven't checked for a long time.

          1. James 51 Silver badge

            The first stable release of CM13 was only three months ago so not that long.

        3. Grant 5

          Funny I'm typing this right now on a Galaxy S5 running Cyanogenmod 13 which is based on Android 6 and shows a patch level of 1st June.

        4. Michael Habel Silver badge

          CyanogeMod goes all the way back to Gingerbread (IIRC), and has since expanded to v13.0 (Marshmallow - Android v6.01). Which I'm currently typing this out on.

        5. Loud Speaker

          James 51 - I dont know when you last checked - maybe 1963?

          Yesterday I installed a version of Cyanogenmod based on Android 6 on my Samsung S3 - a phone which was shipped with 4.4 - and my 5 year old phone is now like a new one. It doesn't do 4G, but then I live in Central London - we don't have 4G here most of the time anyway!*

          It was not something I would expect my non-technical aunty to do, but I am sure she could get the guy who sells phones in the market to do it for £5 - which is far cheaper than even a Chinese "flagship".

          * who IS hoarding all the 4G? Is it the northerners? Or have the SNP hijacked it?

      2. Bawsnia2

        Or Ubuntu Phone?

        http://www.ubuntu.com/phone

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          >We need something like linux for phones. Something that users can install on a wide range of hardware and still have something functional.

          >>Isn't that what AOSP ROMs like Cyanogenmod are?

          Alas, no - those ROMs still need to compiled beforehand to work on a specific handset.

    2. jason 7 Silver badge

      Nice idea chap but some (read most in fact) just want a phone that works out of the box and till the day we chuck it on the shelf 2-3 years later. All it would do is give the XDA crowd more to obsess and waste their lives on than they do already.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        I'd prefer something like fairphone were you could upgrade it modularity and replace components as they fail.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The Ship of Theseus comes to mind here. Sort of.

          If you could swap out all the modules and replace them when they fail at which point would you have been better off just buying a new phone?

          It'd also be a development nightmare. The manufacturer of the modules will inevitably bring out newer revisions of their modules.

          This gives you even more possible permutations than the current Android phone ecosystem.

          Lastly when you've eventually swapped out all the modules for new modules how would the warranty work? At which point is it no longer considered the original phone?

          A warranty on each module would be absurdly hard to manage and comprehend for average folk.

          "Ah yes sir, but you plugged in the v2.0 camera module to the v1.2 control module, the warranty on the v2.0 module doesnt cover this"

          This opens the door to potentially unnecessary upsell.

          "Ah yes sir, you'll also need the v2.0 control module for that camera and a v2.0 touch module"

          This is A confusing for average consumers, B annoying to develop software for, and C a great way for consumers to be silently ripped off without knowing it.

          Modular phones are not the answer I'm afraid. As cool as they would be.

          Also, if my little lad got hold of a modular phone I'd likely be walking around with some modules missing quite frequently.

          Toddlers are shockingly efficient at dismantling and hiding things.

          1. James 51 Silver badge

            The model is already there in desktops and laptops.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        ... some (read most in fact) just want a phone that works out of the box and till the day we chuck it on the shelf 2-3 years later.

        Most people want a phone that works out of the box and continues to work and to be fully updated and secure until they pass it on, 2-3 years later, to a relative who uses it for the next 2-3 years and who also wants it to remain fully updated and secure in that time.

        Yes, most phone owners would never take the time or trouble to learn how to, for example, install Cyanogenmod on their phones ... but don't imagine that that means that they are happy with the idea that their phones contain unpatched security flaws. They want patches and updates, they just want them to be automatic and painless.

        1. fwadman

          I don't think so. Most users say they care about security - but then happily disable the virus scanner because some website said they needed to in order to get some (pirated) game to work. Of course because the user "researched" this by looking on the internet they know what they are doing and it's perfectly safe.

        2. jason 7 Silver badge

          "Most people want a phone that works out of the box and continues to work and to be fully updated and secure until they pass it on, 2-3 years later, to a relative who uses it for the next 2-3 years and who also wants it to remain fully updated and secure in that time."

          I bet if you asked the first 100 Android phone users you saw in the street 99 wouldn't have a clue about updates or really care. From talking to most customers they actually find phone updates annoying as it 'breaks stuff'. Yes ignorance is a kind of bliss.

          My Gf hates the fact her phone comes with Cyanogen on it. "Fucking nerds keep updating it!" She especially loved the last update a few days ago whereby the receive updates over wi-fi OR data had been reset by the last update to pull the 400MB in over her data allowance instead of wi-fi, while sat in the living room.

          1. Barry Rueger

            From talking to most customers they actually find phone updates annoying as it 'breaks stuff'.

            Because it's true, whether "breaks" means, changes the UI, or removes a feature that I need, makes an installed application stop working, or (with Google) removes an entire on-line service with little warning.

            Regular end-users, who lack the skills to ferret out fixes and workarounds on the Internet, are justifiably afraid of updates.

            (My Mint box being the exception. Somehow they manage updates without breaking stuff.)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        All it would do is give the XDA crowd more to obsess and waste their lives on than they do already.

        It's arguably more productive a hobby than posting denigrating comments on forums. ;)

    3. uncle sjohie

      The average user, the part of the market where Android is firmly ahead of iOS, doesn't want the hassle of upgrading an OS. Not on their computer, and not on their phone. They want a phone that works, is safe, and still is after 2 or 3 years, after which the hardware starts to die, and it is replaced.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They don't even care it is safe. It has to work, run "crappy bird", "slapchat" or whatever app is fashionable, until a new more fashionable model is out, at a a price they can afford.

        1. dajames Silver badge

          They don't even care it is safe. It has to work, run "crappy bird", "slapchat" or whatever app is fashionable, until a new more fashionable model is out, at a a price they can afford.

          They care, they just don't know it. They'll know they care as soon as someone in the criminal fraternity works out how to access their mobile banking app.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Just like they care on their Windows machines?

      2. Joe 35

        They want a phone that works, is safe, and still is after 2 or 3 years

        ======

        But the " is safe" bit isn't true, especially "after 2 or 3 years"

        Of course if the users are in blissful ignorance then they may still be content.

      3. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        > after which the hardware starts to die,

        It seems that, more often, it is the 'street cred' that dies. They laugh when you pull out your 2 year old phone, so you have to buy the latest model.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sure, for about 1.4% of the phone market it will work....

    5. bazza Silver badge

      Linux for Phones

      To get the proper Linux for phones the hardware architecture and bootloader needs to be open.

      This is what we have on PCs. Like them or loathe them, MS set a very useful PC hardware and architecture standard. Conform to that standard and you got a sticker for your PC saying that it'd run Windows. Linux benefits (even now with the optional Secure Boot) because there is a stable common hardware spec (albeit one with a wide range of possible peripherals and devices), so it's easier to make a One-Linux-Fits-All distribution.

      MS tried the same thing with phones. Conform to their hardware standard, Windows Mobile will run. AFAIK it's not an open standard like a PC, so it's not reusable in the same way the PC standard is.

      I think the best thing MS could do is to open up their phone standard. Dunno if it'll help, but they've nothing to lose by doing so. Google are heading towards a proprietary hardware standard, MS's open on might be more appealing for manufacturers.

      That'll put the focus on Google's proprietary services being anticompetitive...

      1. oldcoder

        Re: Linux for Phones

        That wasn't Microsoft.

        That was manufacturers not liking IBMs heavy handed approach.

        The manufacturers used a reverse engineered BIOS to boot whatever OS was wanted, and independently of IBM and Microsoft...

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Linux for Phones

          @OldCoder, I'm talking about the PC design guides, which are more recent than the BIOS wars. See Wikipedia.

          As far as I know every PC nowadays is basically a PC2001 on steroids...

          1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: Linux for Phones

            > As far as I know every PC nowadays is basically a PC2001 on steroids...

            That is merely defining the term 'PC' as something that fits what PC2001 requires it to. In fact PC2001 was just a list of features that were already available in most 'x86 PCs' at the time and did not create anything new.

    6. Oliver Burkill

      Like Tizen ? Which comes with support of the Linux foundation.

    7. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > We need something like linux for phones.

      Android _is_ 'Linux for phones'. Linux is the kernel of Android.

      Perhaps you meant 'GNU for phones' or 'KDE for phones'. Well you can do that too. Maemo/Meego was 'Linux/Gnome for phones' and later, 'Linux/QT for phones' from Nokia and would run such desktop programs as Gnumeric, Abiword and OpenOffice.org. I wrote stuff in Python/Glade that would run unchanged on N800, Windows and desktop Linux.

      There is also Ubuntu for phones, Tizen, Jolla and probably some others.

      You can also run GNU stuff on Android such as Terminal-IDE.

      Just go and buy them otherwise they will fold for lack of demand.

    8. TimNevins

      Already available

      You can get the SailfishOS(from Jolla)for mobile , or Ubuntu Aquarius from BQ

      It's a start

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Don't blame the OEMs

    Google, with its perpetual attention deficit disorder, never sat down and thought properly about an update mechanism for Android.

    Android Wear devices are also bitrotting. It's not as if they didn't know there was an update problem before designing AW.

    Once is carelessness, twice is on purpose? It seems obvious that Google doesn't care about OEMs, they just want the advertising. Cheapy Chinese manufacturers don't care about Google, they just want an OS to stick on it. It's not a future anyone particularly wants.

    Silver's cancelled, and the conclusion is that Google has won? I hope not. Perhaps western OEMs will switch over to Tizen or something. It'd be in their own best interest.

    If Google ever rock up in court complaining about Dalvik runtimes it'd be funny.

    1. fandom

      Re: Don't blame the OEMs

      But blame them too.

      The Silver program would have required OEMs to release upgrades for their silver phones.

      Naturally, they refused.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Don't blame the OEMs

        Don't forget to blame the OEM's, carriers and regulators. Google has never had enough power to force any of them to provide product support. They all learned from Apple that conceding any control at all was bad and unlike Apple, Googles Nexus line didn't grab enough market share to frighten any of them.

        Endless API churn in the kernel it's built on doesn't help either, once the manufacturer stops updating their binary driver blobs you're usually locked into that release of Android. That's something Goggle should have controlled and had the power to do.

        There's plenty of blame to go around.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Don't blame the OEMs

          >Google, with its perpetual attention deficit disorder, never sat down and thought properly about an update mechanism for Android.

          They didn't have a choice - The way most ARM-based systems were designed doesn't allow for a one-ROM-fits-all (Linux distro-style) updating. Google bought Android in, as they were desperate to catch up with the iPhone. That was at the beginning.

          In Act 2, silicon was advancing so much that two-year-old phones weren't really worth updating. It's only been the last couple of years that older phones have been good enough to keep using (though of course a new budget, but pretty good, Android phone won't break the bank).

        2. DougS Silver badge

          @Paul Shirley - "Google never had enough power"

          Google has plenty of power, since Android is the only real choice for OEMs who want to sell smartphones given that Apple won't license iOS and Microsoft and RIM are on life support.

          They just choose not to exercise it.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: @Paul Shirley - "Google never had enough power"

            "Google has plenty of power, since Android is the only real choice for OEMs who want to sell smartphones given that Apple won't license iOS and Microsoft and RIM are on life support."

            They don't have "walking on the sun" power, though, meaning they don't have the power to compel manufacturers to make phones even if the conditions don't favor them. They can always walk out and leave Google to figure out how to make phones without a manufacturer on their side. At least Apple has a hardware division and makes its own phones in-house.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't blame the OEMs

      "Android Wear devices are also bitrotting."

      That's horseshit. AndroidWear is serviced and updated by Google itself... ALL AndroidWear devices are running the latest Android 6.01.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Don't blame the OEMs

        The first Android Wear watches that were originally released aren't getting Android Wear 2.0.

    3. Havin_it

      Re: Don't blame the OEMs

      Funny you should mention Tizen as this timely burp from Samsung makes me think they have an opinion on this...

      I'm not sure how much it'll appeal to other OEMs though, unless they can ensure Sammy won't be in a position to wield just as much influence with it in underhand ways as Google can/are with Android.

  4. joeldillon

    How would Google 'ship binaries to OEMs' for a hardware platform it doesn't make? I mean, it could, but what's in it for Google? Either OEMs make their own hardware, in which case the current update situation remains (because Google can't produce and QA a full binary release for a platform it doesn't produce - only the guys making the hardware can do that), or Google makes its own hardware, like Apple, which it could do but which even this article doesn't claim is on the cards.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      How would Google 'ship binaries to OEMs' for a hardware platform it doesn't make?

      Good question.

      Even if Google could ship the bulk of Android as a binary blob that the OEMs could just link into their own hardware support layer there would still be a problem in keeping that hardware support layer patched.

      Google needs a stick with which to beat the OEMs to force them to issue timely updates (and fix their own code when it's broken) ... or maybe a carrot, but methinks the OEMs currently seem more deserving of a stick.

      1. Efros

        As long as it's a stick with 6 inch nails in the end of it. My 3 year old Samsung has never had an update combo of Samsung and Cell company not doing their job.

      2. fuzzie
        Facepalm

        Some phones have fallen off the upgrade cycle due to Qualcomm discontinuing SoC support. I think one of the Nexii fell foul of that. Without HAL updates, OEMs are dead in the water. Last I saw a "Google-to-OEM" workflow, it said OEM get a hardware-support-pack one (maybe two) weeks before a new Android release. That's to get the kernel up.

        Subsequent to the release, it's another week or so before the AOSP source dump. At that point the OEMs get to figure out what's changed/new/gone and add in stuff like dual-SIM support and whatnot. Lots of pain ensues if Google had done major work, i.e. Marshmallow's Doze seems to have clashed big time with Sony's Stamina mode (a major differentiator for them) and they've had to do major rework on that. Likewise their Smart devices/gear APIs, when Google introduced their own.

        In a real sense, there's actually a penalty for those innovating/differentiating.

        PS: D'oh because it's the closest to #facepalm

    2. Seajay#

      Microsoft doesn't make the hardware for my PC, nor do they test releases on every hardware combination but they manage it so clearly it's possible.

      That model would be difficult for current phones since the availability of the Operating System source code has presumably encouraged manufacturers to blur the line between drivers and kernel and rely on undocumented features. But a new closed Android which warned manufacturers from the start that the OS would be upgraded should make it possible.

      1. oldcoder

        No, but Microsoft does dictate what that hardware will do - hence the rather poor job of "secure boot".

        "blur the line between drivers and kernel"... no - you can demand the source code for the kernel and any modification of the kernel. The kernel developers can sue for source code to drivers as such "blur the line" is a copyright violation.

  5. IHateWearingATie
    Devil

    Why upgrade?

    Much as I love shiny new things, I'm struggling to remember anything significant I've got from an OS upgrade on my previous android phones (galaxy S4, now a S6). Security upgrades are obviously important, but for other things? If this isn't a big deal for me, I can imagine a majority of users really don't care and are happy to get a new version when they get a new phone

    1. mdava

      Re: Why upgrade?

      I upgraded (and was only able to because CyanogenMod exists) for various reasons:

      - security

      - ability to run some apps that won't run on old Android versions

      - control: removing all the bloatware that comes pre-installed and unremovable

      - control: better permissions and privacy management in latest android and CyanogenMod

      1. Seajay#

        Re: Why upgrade?

        - ability to run some apps that won't run on old Android versions

        You need to have a pretty ancient version of android for apps not to run. I don't think I've come across anything which requires 6.

        I have experienced the opposite. Installed CyanogenMod (not rooted) and found that Google Pay won't work.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Why upgrade?

      I'm struggling to remember anything significant I've got from an OS upgrade on my previous android phones ... Security upgrades are obviously important, but for other things?

      Two things that spring to mind are

      -- Lollipop relaxed the access control mechanisms employed on external SD cards that had prevented third-party file manager apps from writing to the card in KitKat.

      -- Marshmallow allows the user to edit the permissions that an installed app is allowed to use, previously the user had no control.

      Those are both worth upgrading for.

    3. John Lilburne

      Re: Why upgrade?

      Given Google's attitude to privacy - piss off you aint got any. I dunno why anyone would want Android on a device they carry about all the time.

    4. energystar
      Boffin

      Re: Why upgrade?

      "I'm struggling to remember anything significant I've got from an OS upgrade on my previous android phones..."

      Platforms can't keep bloating at infinitum. And that is good.

      Personalize from an ever growing [Google] Repository.

  6. thondwe

    EU/Ofcom could make itself useful?

    Rather than chasing IE off Windows (when Apple/Google are as bad), they could mandate that Gadgets (PCs, Laptops, Phones, Routers, etc) be supported for 5 years with OS updates. They could even stipulate a Test suite which needs to run the same way (and at the same speed!) 3, 4 or even 5 years on, so we don't get the Apple IOS upgrade - lots of new features, but sorry your iThing now runs like a dog, please buy new...

    Same deal with Apps perhaps - e.g. they have to support 5 year old hardware - even if it's just older versions with Security updates only.

    This would be GREEN and PROTECT the consumer!

    1. Mario Becroft
      Meh

      Re: EU/Ofcom could make itself useful?

      Not very realistic but a pleasant dream nonetheless! Gov't regulation is likely to cause a lot of bad side-effects here, at the same time, nothing else will make the vendors support their hardware properly.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: EU/Ofcom could make itself useful?

      Remember the most frightening sentence in the English language? "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. oldcoder

      Re: No. Just no.

      and yet Microsoft is now supporting Linux... :-)

    2. tony72

      Re: No. Just no.

      Glad to see someone else was thinking it. Milking one analysts blog post a bit much, eh?

      It's not even that exciting anyway. In the unlikely event that Google did take Android proprietary, OEMs would deal with the new reality soon enough. They might whinge about restrictions on their ability to differentiate their products, but it wouldn't stop them making Android handsets. Windows Phone 8 was proprietary, OEMs had very tight restrictions on hardware design and UI customisation, and they had to pay for it, and they still signed up. Proprietary Android would probably be better for customers, with more regular updates and a more consistent experience, and it would be a brave manufacturer that would pull out and leave the field to others.

      1. energystar
        Angel

        Not buying another Android for personal use...

        Unless a guaranteed route for timely upgrades and nag control set & enforced. Of course, would prefer that route not being along private lands.

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: No. Just no.

        > Windows Phone 8 was proprietary, OEMs had very tight restrictions on hardware design and UI customisation, and they had to pay for it, and they still signed up.

        Many of those OEMs were already OEMs for desktop systems and did not want to lose their discounts on all MS products for not being 'Loyal'. Others may have believed what Microsoft asked Gartner and IDC to predict - that WP would overtake Apple by 2015.

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Phone OEMs seem to be in the same situation with Google that PC OEMs have been with MS. They are entirely subject to the S/W maker's diktats and are vulnerable to the S/W makers moving into H/W any time they choose.

    Back in the mists of time computer makers provided their own OS. It was an additional cost for them and an additional cost for customers who had to maintain the required expertise for each platform they had in the business. Commodity OSs solved that. CP/M in particular allowed a lot of startups to offer H/W. Eventually MSDOS & then Windows did the same but gave MS power to do as they liked.

    Maybe the H/W manufacturers need to look at setting up a consortium to deliver OSs for both PCs and phones that they can shape to what they perceive to be the market's needs.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      That was pretty much the market before the iPhone. Do you really want to go back to that?

    2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > Phone OEMs seem to be in the same situation with Google that PC OEMs have been with MS. They are entirely subject to the S/W maker's diktats

      Except for those that aren't, these include Nokia/Mocrosoft X, Amazon Fire, Cyanogenmod, and many Chinese makers.

      > and are vulnerable to the S/W makers moving into H/W any time they choose.

      Google moved into HW with Motorola and with Nexus. That didn't make anyone feel vulnerable.

    3. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > Back in the mists of time computer makers provided their own OS. It was an additional cost for them and an additional cost for customers who had to maintain the required expertise for each platform they had in the business. Commodity OSs solved that. CP/M in particular allowed a lot of startups to offer H/W.

      Those computer makers OS were generally very simple boot loaders and/or language based systems (such as ROM BASIC). There was very little 'expertise' required and very few businesses had more than one 'platform'.

      Before CP/M there were several other OSes that were available to HW makers: notably Unix from various software houses. The notable thing about CP/M was that it was a microprocessor based OS that had a proper Disk Operating System. There were many clones of CP/M, such as Turbo-DOS. MS-DOS 1.x was a CP/M clone for 8086/8088.

      > Maybe the H/W manufacturers need to look at setting up a consortium to deliver OSs for both PCs and phones that they can shape to what they perceive to be the market's needs.

      Maemo, Moblin, Meego, Tizen, ... Been there, done that, still got the T-shirt.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Those computer makers OS were generally very simple boot loaders and/or language based systems (such as ROM BASIC). There was very little 'expertise' required and very few businesses had more than one 'platform'."

        You have a very limited concept of what a computer is. Does OS/360 mean anything? VMS?

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          > Does OS/360 mean anything? VMS?

          Were you running those on CP/M-class computers ?

          Perhaps you missed that I qualified my reply with "_Those_ computer makers OS ..."

    4. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      Maybe the H/W manufacturers need to look at setting up a consortium to deliver OSs for both PCs and phones that they can shape to what they perceive to be the market's needs.

      They did. It was called Symbian, and was the most popular OS before Nokia made the "smart" move of taking over Symbian. Then all the smartphone manufacturers decided to flock somewhere else, and Android ended up being the replacement OS.

      Even then, Symbian was moving into an interesting direction up until the Elopocalypse. Proof? Symbian Belle had rave reviews.

  9. marcusjt

    Galaxy S6 runs Marshmallow

    FWIW my vanilla (i.e. not rooted or customised) Samsung Galaxy S6 is currently running Marshmallow / Android 6.0.1 as a result of official OTA updates and I'm very happy with it.

    1. Mario Becroft
      Thumb Up

      Re: Galaxy S6 runs Marshmallow

      Same with my Nexus 7. On my Photon Q I had to install Cyanogenmod. So far the only device I have that can't run Android M is the original LG G1, which truly has done its time and can serve only as a museum-piece now.

      Actually, now that I think about it my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.1 (top of the line, expensive tablet) is still stuck on Android 5 with little sign of movement. Now that *is* frustrating. Could CM it, but in this case the Samsung supplied apps (to support the inbuilt Wacom digitizer) are essential.

    2. David Roberts Silver badge

      Re: Galaxy S6 runs Marshmallow

      FWIW my Galaxy S5 (bought SIM free quite recently) is on Android 6.0.1 with security patches to 1 May 2016.

      Currently on Tesco PAYG.

      Although my Sony Xperia Z tablet (1st generation) still gets updates it is only on Android 5.1.1

    3. Mr Flibble

      Re: Galaxy S6 runs Marshmallow

      Is it up to date with security patches, i.e. is the patch level showing 1 June 2016?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, so this is a report on something an analyst said, which follows another article about something an analyst said last week?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Yeah, I take your point. However, in the rapidly evolving world of IT, the public need to think about things *before* they happen. Analysts play a role in this - even if they have as much insight and foresight as a Wired.com hack, because here we all are, offering argument and counter-argument.

      The analysts don't have 20:20 crystal balls, but they usually do offer their reasoning. We obviously can't go by the predictions offered to us by any players in the game, such as Google, Samsung, MS, Apple etc because they want to bend our perception to their ends. The big players do, however, have their own analysts, and I suspect that some of them are very good at what they do, and have more expensively-gained information to study.

      tl;dr: 1, Laypeople speculating is healthy

      2, We won't read here what the best analysts think

  11. CJ_C
    Mushroom

    Time to Leave

    but an Ubuntu phone or a hipster classic Motorola flip?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time to Leave

      Unaphone.

      unaphone link

  12. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Update for Security?

    If I was serious about security (i.e, I had need to have client's data on my phone, which would result in fines for me were my phone to be accessed by a third party) then the saying "If you want to go there, then I would't start from here" would seem to apply.

    Here's the thing: I can't easily find any information about just how vulnerable - or otherwise - Android (various versions) is to attack, both proof-of-concept and seen-in-the-wild. Perhaps the Reg could put together a sketch of the current Android security landscape?

    I don't even know if it is safer to have an older version of Android, but with no extra apps installed, or to have a new version but with dozens of apps from the Google play store.

    If I was a doctor or a lawyer, I'd just buy an iPhone and be done with it. If I was a terrorist, a whistle-blower, or a very high level executive or engineer, I'd be spend some time and discipline studying operation security before making a decision.

  13. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    Good

    Good. This is why I don't buy android phones. I've got a windows phone at the minute, and while it's good, I'd prefer Android if it didn't have the flaws listed in the article.

    Having said that, Windows updates aren't as frequent as expected.

    It's the one thing I miss about IOS - all supported devices get upgraded at the same time, by the OS author ( rather than the foot dragging third party phone manufacturer ).

  14. John Savard Silver badge

    Antitrust

    It's a pity that Samsung and Sony would have to fear U.S. antitrust law if they did the obvious thing to respond to Google here: set up their own app store, so that two manufacturers at least - others could join - would be behind it. For their own fork of Android.

    Of course, that would still be a risky move.

    It's too bad this comes too late for another possibility to be realistic: for Samsung and Sony to license the BlackBerry OS, thereby saving it from oblivion. (Microsoft, of course, doesn't believe in its own phone OS, and I wouldn't want to see them dominate this new market, but that too had been an alternative.)

  15. sean.fr

    Upgrades not the issue

    Samsung may have given up replacing closed source, but others can and do provide Google free phones. There is very little IP that Google owns. PC makers tried to dump the Micosoft license with linux machines. But the apps were not compatable. The Android base code is an open source kernal, The apps are in Java ! Huawei are fully able to do without Google if Google becomes too dear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Upgrades not the issue

      EXCEPT many apps rely on GMS or other Google-owned systems that are NOT open source. Try to run them on a Google-free phone and they break. Plus some of the top apps--YouTube, Maps, Android Pay, etc--are strictly Google products.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So once again the Apple model irrisistably proves to be the best way...

    ...for Apple and Google.

    Maybe less so for consumers. We shall see.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So once again the Apple model irrisistably proves to be the best way...

      The thing about the alternative is that it's like the Wild West: practically anarchy, meaning you're likely to get caught in crossfire. Bad ROMS, root-aware apps, and so on.

  17. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    FAIL

    gPhone

    Honestly, Google's phones suck. The amount of shovelware and spyware on them makes you feel nostalgic for the old days of carrier shovelware. There's no external storage and the phone is pretty much a brick without constant high speed cellular service and a nearby charger. Anyone OK with all of those limitations would have purchased a superior iPhone.

    Variety is Android's life. It dies a little bit every time Google tries to lock it down and restrict it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: gPhone

      Variety is also its bane as vulnerabilities become harder to plug up without a simpler bugfix route. Note the problems Windows has with security updates (something tends to break along the way).

  18. jnffarrell1

    Google Certainly Could Enforce Security Updates

    Nonsense that Google wishes to reinstate Microsoft's OEM practices and bring back exclusive contracts for monopoly gain don't make sense.

    Schmidt was brought in to get Google through its early years when infanticide by Microsoft was attempted and failed. Schmidt's experience with Microsoft's competitive practices in earlier decades led to Google's survival even though both Microsoft and Apple joined forces to Scroogle Google.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Google Certainly Could Enforce Security Updates

      How would Google enforce security updates if the drivers go to the manufacturers and the manufacturers don't want to cooperate? If Google threatens to withdraw support, they could decide to walk away, leaving Google without partners.

  19. jonnycando
    Coat

    At the risk of entering a walled garden.....

    It's the bloatware that I have detested to the point that I would make every effort to root every Android phone I've had. Or possibly wipe it and install Cyanogenmod. But that puts you on the bleeding edge, and sometimes you end up with a phone that CM has no OS for. So I reckon for the near future, I'll stick with Googles own Nexus line. I'll get the latest Android version and at least several updates, and minimal bloat. And if I want to try CM or some other, it's a fairly trivial task.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: At the risk of entering a walled garden.....

      Even that is getting risky know thanks to SafetyNet. Now you'll be seeing more root-aware programs that won't run on anything less than stock. And while Nexus devices provide timely updates, they are adamantly against external storage.

  20. shaunhw
    Megaphone

    Be careful what you wish for!

    When you do get an Android update, it might be the case that you wish you hadn't.

    My HTC 1m8 soon two years old:

    First major update - Texts got stuck "pending" and wouldn't transmit. This apparently only happened on EE's network, and even though they sold me the phone on contract, they didn't care, and just said it wasn't their responsibility. Eventually it was fixed with a minor update after about three months,during which I had to use my old Samsung Galaxy S3.

    Second major update - This was less serious, but messed up my phone settings big time, and I still hate what I've ended up with, though I've managed to find a skin to make it more accetable. Imagine, hard to change brilliant white phone screens for a phone that is answered in the middle of the night! Complete with horrible new emojis which look like they were drawn by a five year old. You can't even roll the thing back either.

    Never mind the bugs still never fixed since day one, which put the touch screen back on when the phone is near your face, so you end the call or turn on mute with your cheek!

    Be careful what you wish for. I'm no Apple fan, but at least they take responsibilty for everything, OS, hardware, 3rd party app quality (though people should be able to install whatever they wish from elsewhere, on their OWN devices) but the fiasco with HTC and android has made me wonder if I will return to Apple. I did have Apple 3G, and 3GS phones before getting HTC desire HD, Samsung S3, then the disasterous HTC 1M8.

    I am starting to detest Android even more than I derested Apple and their control freakery.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Be careful what you wish for!

      "though people should be able to install whatever they wish from elsewhere, on their OWN devices"

      But the problem is that it's NOT your software, which creates the rub. The ONLY way Apple can take responsibility for everything is because they have CONTROL of everything: including the software. It's a tradeoff. It's either the walled garden or the Wild West, with nothing in between (because ANY degree of freedom eventually results in Wild West).

    2. illiad

      Re: Be careful what you wish for!

      yes, this the major problem with an otherwise great OS... android is getting the 'windows disease' in a bad way...

      They foist an unwitting buyer with tons of upgrades, that the poor person has no idea about... most likely scaring them to apple!! :O :O

      Then the app devs ALSO do the same thing, oblivious to the fact that they are for an OS that is 2 years older than the one on the phone!!!

      I am still the owner of a Gs3, with ALL updates switched off...

  21. x3mxs
    Holmes

    statistics....

    "Statistically speaking, the number of people who upgrade their 5.x Android to 6.x is almost zero".

    Realistically speaking people can't upgrade because the phone manufacturer won't release the new version OS and even if they do, the phone provider will ensure it get buried...

    So that if you want to get the new Shiny OS you got to renew the contract and get a new Shiny Phone...

    I bought myself a Nexus 5 and albeit it's hasn't all the bells and whistles I had in my Samsung, I am kept up to date really often, with all the security advantages....

    And once this phone will die, I won't surely go back to Sammy ....

  22. Jim84

    The big handset makers will fall divided

    If the big handset makers (Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC etc) could get together and promote an alternative open Android, they could probably pull it off.

    But committees are difficult and slow, so this will probably never happen.

    About the only way this could ever happen is if Microsoft brings back Nokia Android X and really pushes it, but that isn't likely either. I think they are hoping that x86 somehow spreads to the mobile space. It looks more likely that ARM instruction set chips will spread to the laptop desktop space. Why do google's chrome OS laptops run on x86 and not ARM?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: The big handset makers will fall divided

      I don't think so. I think the two spheres will remain divided: x86 on the bigger stuff, ARM on the smaller stuff. Institutional momentum and a lot of legacy stuff will keep the desktop firmly on x86, plus there's little need for crossover: the desktop world and the mobile world are different enough that it's extremely difficult to picture an all-in-one, particularly if you run into the conflicting demands of performance and power savings.

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