Problem on Android’s Update Delivery Method


Problem on Android’s Update Delivery Method

Apple’s COO (chief operating officer) Tim Cook has recently stepped in for Steve Jobs and offered his own argument on Android tablets, by calling them as “bizarre” scaled-up smartphones. Jobs, who slammed on Google and RIM last October, took a medical leave leading to some speculation of an impending succession. But, it doesn’t stop Apple from making critical remarks on their competitors. Cook defines Apple’s competitors at the tablet market in two groups.

  1. Windows Tablet PCs, which are fairly expensive, big and heavy. They have poor battery life, need a stylus and draw little interest from the consumers.
  2. Android tablets, with an OS (Android 2.2) that isn’t intended for tablets. As the result, consumers get tablets that are less than reasonable (based on Apple’s standards). In essence, Amdroid tablets can be considered as scaled-up smartphones, which are bizarre in Apple’s view.

In his competitor classification, Cook didn’t include Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). He argued that there is still little information on its specs and how it will compare with iOS 4.2. Cook said that his company will immediately assess the new Android OS after it comes out. He claimed that Apple has a significant first mover advantage and it will not sit still when dealing with the competitors. He said that Apple is highly confident with its current position; the incredible user experience with iTunes and App Store along with a huge number of third-party apps is a huge advantage that even Google and Android can’t match.

One difference between iOS and Android is clear, iOS users can more easily update their devices. At this moment, more than half of iOS users use the latest version, iOS 4.2.1, while only 0.4% of Android users use, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It may not be fair to compare iOS 4.2.1 with Android 2.3, because the latest Android version is only available in Google Nexus S. The more commonly used, Android 2.2 is currently used by 52% users, which is nearly comparable with the latest iOS version.

Android seems to have a problem with how updates are delivered. Apple is currently using the top-down model, which allows a more uniform way of distributing updates to users. Android, on the other hand, as an open platform, allow device manufacturers to customize and tweak the stock Android codes. It could mean a long delay of weeks, or even months. Those changes also mean that many Android devices are no longer compatible with stock Android version, which prohibit users from making a quick update.

Obviously, Apple users can almost instantly download the latest iOS version, the moment it is released. The Gingerbread and Honeycomb may promise a bigger shift, but there is little sense of bragging about the latest development if Google is unable to provide a way to deliver them quickly to current Android users. All in all, this could be a good enough reason for Google to improve its delivery strategy. Setting Android up as an open platform and ceding control to device manufacturers and carrier, with their own business goals, seem to hold everyone back. Especially if you consider the fact that 35% of users are still using the Android 2.1 (Éclair) and in many cases they can’t upgrade to Froyo.

In fact, recently, a T-mobile source leaked a conspiracy theory about how Samsung deliberately delays its customized Froyo release in an attempt to sell more Éclair devices. This accusation could be true when we consider the fact that Samsung may finally be distributing the Froyo update for its Galaxy S on March 2011. Gingerbread uses a different distribution method, the Nexus S Smartphone is delivered directly to the consumers via Best Bay on early December 2010. This is a Google’s attempt to regain control of its software updates. Previously, Google launched Nexus One through the T-Mobile and it had a disappointing sales.

Eventually, Google still needs to relinquish some control of its platform to encourage more people adopt the mobile OS. Luckily, some manufacturers, including Motorola, announced the development of upcoming Android 2.3-devices.

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