Google Promises Android Users (and Steve Jobs) That Fragmentation Is A Thing Of The Past

Google Promises Android Users (and Steve Jobs) That Fragmentation Is A Thing Of The Past

Apple has infamously railed on Google for being fragmented on multiple occasions, lambasting the Android-maker for allowing carriers and handset manufacturers to dictate the terms of updating the Android software.

Cupertino was right to criticize: the vast majority of Android smartphone users couldn’t even be reasonably sure before now that they’d even be able to update their operating system in the future. But Google’s made a big step today towards addressing Android fragmentation: they’ve announced a partnership with carriers and handset manufacturers that guarantees that new smartphones will receive Android platform updates for a minimum of eighteen months.

“If hardware allows,” Google ominously promises, anyone who buys an Android smartphone through a list of partners including Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, Samsung, HTC, Sprint, LG, T-Mobile, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and more will be able to depend upon platform updates and system patches for a year and a half after release, and possibly longer.

Of course, “if hardware allows” is a big weasel term, but still, the spirit behind this promise is well-intentioned, and it’s nice to see Google no longer try to wave the problem away: Android fragmentation is a problem, we’re aware of it, and we’re making a pledge to you that if you buy one of our phones, it’ll be kept up-to-date through the term of your contract. Good on you, Google.

  • John T

    I bought an Android-based HTC Hero when it was relatively new and thought I’d be getting regular updates. Instead, I received one update about 7 months later and have been since told to expect no more. 12 months since that update, my carrier is trying to placate me by offering to let me update my phone at a discount. Of course, it requires another two year contract.

    No thanks.

  • JayeDee369

    This is an interesting prospect, I’m wondering which of the hardware makers will break this contract first. Google let these guys dictate the terms and now they want to run things? Are you serious? This is going to be very interesting, the major carriers are already fucking their customers, what makes you think you’re any different? The second you start making hardware recommendations is the day that they start telling you where you can stick your recommendations. Good luck with that Google.

  • Conrad MacIntyre

    That’s all well and good, if you live in the States. What about the other 6.4 billions of us? In Canada we are subject to three (yes, 3) year mobile service contracts. So my Android will only be supported for the first half of that? Then I’m just stuck with it? And THAT’s only IF Bell/Rogers/Telus get on-board for this update thing as well? Wow… that sounds do great! Where do I sign up?

  • Paul

    I agree, Google went the opposite of Apple and gave the carriers the power in the hopes of grabbing market share. Now Google wants to be a BSD with the carriers but now the carriers have Apple alternatives outside Google. You can bet your ass that Microsoft will be more than willing to jump on that fumble.

  • Mike

    What a joke. Microsoft has always failed in the mobile market and will continue to fail. They’re merging divisions with Nokia? Nokia is the worst phone manufacturer in the world right now, with a total of like three touchscreen devices to date and the most miserable OS’s of all time. Android will win the in the end.

    If I were Blackberry, Microsoft/Nokia, and Apple, I’d be BM’ing myself right now.

  • Apple Fan

    PALM WEEVIL GRUBS.

  • devunish

    a thing of the past….so what, are they going to get out of the OS business?

  • devunish

    a thing of the past….so what, are they going to get out of the OS business?

  • Articles And Blog Reviews

    It is good that the new smartphone will be able to receive updates to its operating system

  • Apple Fan

    More PALM WEEVIL GRUBS.

  • Alexander530

    Unfortunately, this is the price users have to pay for the very fast paced advancements in hardware specs. A new phone is pretty much obsolete after 10 months. I think 18 months is reasonable. Techies don’t keep a phone longer than a year anyway, and those who keep it longer than that aren’t techies, and they don’t quite care for regular updates.

  • Alexander530

    I don’t know how google could make this work. They can never set standard hardware specs when android is being used by phones under multiple price categories. That’s what made the iphone successful. Apple only has one phone, while android caters to high end, mid, and low end phones with different hardware specs. Something has to give.

  • Lars Pallesen

    So essentially Google has put a lot of effort into solving a problem they claimed wasn’t there?
    Oh, it’s all so confusing …

  • Tash Wahid

    So how long after the official google release of a new os are the partners bound to release of individual handsets updates?

  • freediverx

    Wrong. Carriers and device makers have been artificially restricting users from upgrading the OS on their Android phones in an obvious attempt to pressure them to buy new handsets and renew their service contracts.
    Of course this change will only partially address Android’s fragmentation issue, as you will still have a wide variety of device sizes, shapes, resolutions and capabilities, making it difficult for developers to support them all.

  • freediverx

    Both Nokia and Microsoft do suck tremendously, but Nokia still has a massive share of mobile devices sold globally – on the far low end of the quality/price scale.

    Their partnership with Microsoft can be mutually beneficial, as Nokia phones acquire a far more credible mobile OS than Symbian (albeit one that is still grossly inferior to iOS and Android), while Microsoft gets to spread its fledgling operating system to what is still the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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