Unlike iOS, Android Users Play Upgrade Roulette: Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t

Some of the cause for the updates is likely to be HTC, which only said 2010 phones would be updated. As such, the only HTC phones on Sprint to carry Android 2.2 are likely to be the Evo 4G and possibly the Legend. Samsung hasn’t explained any of its plans for the Moment, but the company has developed a pattern of declining to upgrade phones beyond one revision.

Only phones from 2010? Only one revision? Wow. That’s some harsh upgrade terms right there. And don’t think other hardware manufacturers and carriers will think any different.

For all the good press Android 2.2 has received, little has been written about the tiny percentage of phones that are actually going to run it. The vaunted Evo doesn’t have it yet. Even unreleased phones like the DroidX will debut with 2.1.

Notice that there isn’t just one upgrade villain. Various manufacturers and carriers will have their own rules about what’s happening. Too bad for the user who wants to upgrade but realizes the decision is not his.

Still, this is what Google wrought by design. Their goal is to get as many “Androids” out there as possible. Version consistency is not a priority because they all display Google’s mobile ads, which is the entire point of Android in the first place.

Though disappointed by this, I’m not surprised. I’ve compared the Android distribution philosophy to Windows Mobile before, and this is more proof of it.

Sure, Android is better than WinMo, but saying you run “Android”—unless you’re a geek—doesn’t tell us much because of the many hardware/software iterations. Typical users will be running the original version that came on the phone two years later when they buy a new one because upgrading was too much trouble, or they didn’t know they could, or it wasn’t an option. The more Android devices sell, the more this will be true. The carriers and manufacturers are too busy with the latest spec sheet-based offering (10 megapixels, anyone?) to worry about the user who bought one three months ago.

Compare this to the iPhone. Much is made of Apple’s yearly iOS introductions, with critics claiming it’s all hype or they’re just catching up. I disagree, but none of that matters. What matters is that every year iPhone owners get an upgrade that significantly improves their existing phone and it costs them nothing. They just plug into iTunes and click Install. Further, only with iOS 4 has Apple finally dropped a device. But that original iPhone is three years old, and was already “made new” twice; we’re not talking about an HTC phone bought seven months ago. 

The reason iPhone owners watch Apple’s new iOS announcements closely is because they know their phone can upgrade to it. Meanwhile, Android users excited by 2.2 a month ago are still waiting, most likely to be disappointed. 

Engadget on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Flash

we found that rediscovering Flash was much like reuniting with a high school friend; at first you’ve so much to catch up on, but then you realize how far you’ve grown apart. Adobe’s pre-vetted list of Flash-enabled sites do a good job of showing off the technology, but we still can’t help but think the interactive elements still have a lot of catching up to do. As for video, the stream is good quality but gets fairly choppy — especially when you check out something “not optimized for mobile viewing.” Some of the HTML5 footage we’ve seen via the same device shows up in crisper detail and fluidity. Battery and heat are also of concern: the pre-release beta we have, according to Adobe, lacks hardware acceleration. Ergo, our beloved handset got piping hot after about 30 minutes of heavy video watching, and the battery indicator in the upper right had a sizable dent.