Android News

Why having the Google Experience may be better than having the latest hardware

December 20, 2010 | by Ed Clark

Android, Android OS, Google, Samsung Nexus S, T-Mobile

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As a longtime T-Mobile subscriber, I found it impossible to pass up the Nexus S as a $199 upgrade. Like Michael, I will miss my Nexus One, but it already has a new owner that will cherish its awesomeness (someone upgrading from a Palm Treo 650). I briefly considered waiting for another month or so for the dual core LG monster, but I’m not changing carriers anytime soon, and continuing with the “Google Experience” was a big plus for me. In my mind, the Google Experience can be summed up in two words: Guaranteed Upgrades. Having guaranteed upgrades for a few more OS versions makes up for a lot of hardware changes.

Let me explain. My wife has a Samsung Vibrant, which was an incredible piece of hardware when it came out, and still no slouch today (in fact, it’s quite similar to the Nexus S). However, it is still running Android 2.1. The unfortunate Samsung interface causes the phone to lag, and the only way for me to get it to be the incredibly powerful device it should be is to root it. (This is one of the tasks I’ll be doing over the holiday break.) The fact that carriers can cripple their phones and prevent them from having the latest goodies as a way to segment their markets is a key decision point for me. My Nexus One always got the latest updates, and I am reasonably certain that it will get Gingerbread soon. As you know, Froyo was pushed out on Nexus Ones seven months ago. That’s an eternity in mobile device land.

In the end, having Froyo on my Nexus One made it more powerful than other phones with better hardware. I could do more things, run faster, and avoid strange vendor overlays on the core OS. (I despise vendor overlays in general, from mobile devices to PCs, so I am no fan of Touchwiz, Blur, Sense, or whatever else is out there.) At one time, these overlays may have been “better” than the standard UI, but any advantageous benefit-cost ratio petered out by Android 2.2.

So when I see that the LG Optimus 2X will come with Android 2.2 but will be updated to Gingerbread “with no specific target date,” my alarm bells go off. There have been so many examples of phones being left behind in the past two years, and there is a chance–no one knows how much of a chance–that the only way you will ever get Android 2.3 on the LG is by rooting it. Just ask Galaxy S owners.