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Android Update Alliance one year later: is this sufficient progress? [CHART]

June 25, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka

Android, Android OS, Google

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The Android Update Alliance was supposed to fix Android’s flawed update structure, but a year later, one has to wonder if it has really had much of an impact. There are still several prominent phones that have been excluded from software released just a few months prior, and we’re guaranteed to see more disappointments on the way.

At Google 2011, Android Product Manager Hugo Barra announced the Android Update Alliance as a partnership with almost all of the major players involved in the Android device ecosystem. The phone manufacturers, the carriers, and Google would all work together to supply major updates for phones up to 18 months after their release. Many took this to mean that consumers would no longer buy a phone running Android Version X in February, only to discover that in April that it would never be upgraded to Android Version Y. The Alliance was a collective promise to try and keep firmware current for as long as reasonably and technologically possible.

How successful has Google been at encouraging major firmware upgrades? Let’s take a look back at some of the North American devices released following or slightly before the Update Alliance was first announced. There are far too many Android releases to track them all, so we focused only on major phones in the United States and Canada. Google added an important caveat that the Update Alliance was only applicable “when technology allows,” so we set aside low-end and midrange phones. This is not an all-encompassing look at updates; it is a focused look at the best and brightest of Android phones that were released with pre-Android 4.0 software. (Chart as of June 25, 2012.)

Launch Version Release Date Current Version ICS Release Date
HTC Amaze 4G 2.3 Oct 2011 4.0.3 May 2012
HTC Droid Incredible 2 2.3 Apr 2011 2.3.4 TBD (Not promised)
HTC EVO 3D 2.3 Jun 2011 2.3.4 Promised (July)
HTC EVO 4G Design 2.3 Oct 2011 2.3.4 Promised (July)
HTC Inspire 4G 2.3 Aug 2011 2.3.3 Will not arrive
HTC Mytouch Slide 2.3 Jul 2011 2.3.4 TBD (Not promised)
HTC Rezound 2.3 Nov 2011 2.3.4 Promised (July)
HTC Rhyme 2.3 Sep 2011 2.3.4 Promised (July)
HTC Sensation 2.3 Jun 2011 4.0.3 May 2012
HTC Thunderbolt 2.2 Mar 2011 2.3.4 Promised (August)
HTC Vivid 2.3 Nov 2011 4.0.3 Mar 2012
Launch Version Release Date Current Version ICS Release Date
LG G2X 2.2 Apr 2011 2.3.4 TBD
LG Nitro HD 2.3 Dec 2011 2.3.5 Promised (TBD)
LG Revolution 2.2 May 2011 2.3.6 Will not arrive
LG Spectrum 2.3 Jan 2012 2.3.6 Promised (TBD)
LG Thrill 4G 2.2 Sep 2011 2.3.5 Will not arrive
Launch Version Release Date Current Version ICS Release Date
Motorola Atrix 2.2 Feb 2011 2.3.6 Promised (Q3 2012)
Motorola Atrix 2 2.3 Oct 2011 2.3.6 Promsed (Q3 2012)
Motorola Droid 3 2.3 Jul 2011 2.3.4 Will not arrive
Motorola Droid 4 2.3 Feb 2012 2.3.6 Promised (TBD)
Motorola Droid Bionic 2.3 Sep 2011 2.3.4 Promised (Q3 2012)
Motorola Droid RAZR 2.3 Nov 2011 4.0.4 Jun 2012
Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX 2.3 Jan 2012 4.0.4 Jun 2012
Motorola Droid X2 2.3 Jun 2012 2.3.5 Will not arrive
Motorola Photon 4G 2.3 Jul 2011 2.3.4 Promised (Q4 2012)
Launch Version Release Date Current Version ICS Release Date
Samsung Droid Charge 2.2 Apr 2011 2.3.6 Will not arrive
Samsung Epic Touch 4G 2.3 Sep 2011 2.3.6 Promised (TBD)
Samsung Galaxy Note 2.3 Feb 2012 2.3.6 Promised (TBD)
Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T) 2.3 Nov 2011 4.0.3 Jun 2012
Samsung Galaxy S II (T-Mo) 2.3 Oct 2011 4.0.3 Jun 2012
Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket 2.3 Nov 2011 2.3.6 Promised (TBD)
Samsung Infuse 2.2 May 2011 2.3.6 Will not arrive
Samsung Nexus S 4G 2.3 May 2011 4.0.4 Apr 2012
Launch Version Release Date Current Version ICS Release Date
Sony Xperia Play 2.3 May 2011 2.3.4 Will not arrive
Sony Xperia Arc 2.3 Feb 2012 2.3.4 Promised (TBD)
Sony Xperia Ray 2.3 Nov 2011 4.0.4 Jun 2012

It doesn’t take a genius to look at the most recent Android developer stats and see that with only 7 percent of devices running Android 4.0, the alliance probably hasn’t exactly accomplished its mission. You could almost give Alliance members a pass on that because those stats include legacy devices that no one realistically expects to receive the latest firmware. But when looking at the devices that should have been updated and weren’t, it’s harder to come up with excuses.

Keep in mind that this was a cherry-picked look at some of the better Android devices that by reasonable measures should have been updated to Android 4.0 by now. It’s been more than 6 months since ICS was available, and only a handful of phones have been updated so far. The alliance is delivering for some people in a literal sense, but this can’t really be the progress that Google had in mind.

In retrospect, is the Android Update Alliance a hollow promise?