Ever since Android was released its been touted as being open source. With news that the big G could be about to enact tighter controls over the operating system, I argue that it’s a good move.
Every Android user has experienced this at one time or another. You have a beautiful phone running Google‘s operating system and then Mountain View release an update for the operating system. Months go by and no update pushes through.
Now unless you have a Nexus One or a Nexus S this will be an all too common experience. Android Central reported that only 3% of all Android devices have 2.3 installed, they tried to spin it to say that 85% are now running 2.2 but with Gingerbread now out, that should no longer be the benchmark.
So what happens, and why doesn’t the Nexus line struggle with this? Well the reason why the Nexus line doesn’t have this issue is that they are “Google Experience” phones which mean that they run purely stock Android and so can get updates direct from Google. The two biggest obstacles preventing users from getting the latest and greatest version of the little green robot are the manufactures and networks.
Its been 5 months now since the Nexus line received Gingerbread and not ONE of the other devices have been upgraded, hell some are still waiting for 2.2. One issue is manufacturers obsession with skinning the phones. Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola and others all put their own UI over Android, most of the time these are just awful (looking at Motoblur). The best of the bunch is probably HTC‘s Sense UI but because of these UI’s it takes an absolute age for them to release the latest Android to the masses. Another cynical reason is that they purposely withhold updates until after their next phone is released.
The other issue is networks. An Android phone branded by a network will more than likely have their own boot screen on it, and bloatware, most of which people don’t care about. By doing this, means a further slowdown as this next level then has to be tested.
This is why I think that Google taking a stronger control over Android is good for the future of the operating system. What I would love to see happen is for them to say that whenever a new version of Android is released, the manufacturers have to give users the option of either installing the new stock Android or waiting for the skinned version of the system. This is unlikely to happen. What I think could happen is that Google will say “Look you can do your own UI, add your own bloatware, but do NOT take longer than 2 months to get the latest update to your users.”
I would guess anything that Google didn’t want to take this action, that they wanted to keep Android as open as it has been, unfortunately I would hazard to guess that the sluggishness of the manufacturers and networks to keep their users up to date, and that has forced their hand.