Why it takes so long for an Android rev to makes its way into the wild

Great infographic (via BGR) on the HTC web site details the number of hoops an individual device manufacturer needs to jump through in order to clear an update for release.

Here’s the link to the infographic page. Look for the text “To see a diagram of the full process”, then “click here”.

The process is complex, as it needs to be, and as it is for Apple and iOS. The difference lies in the cost of communications between all the moving parts. Software development is done in cycles, with that cycle repeated any number of times until the new version is tested and certified as complete and correct. When Apple builds a new version of iOS, all the back and forth between developers and testers/certifiers is done in house. The loop is tightly controlled and, because all the communications are within a single company, that loop is brutally efficient.

When the development and testing cycle spans multiple companies, all with different priorities and agendas, there’s just no way to maintain that efficiency. Even with the best of intentions, parts of the process are out of a particular manufacturer’s control.

Take a look at the infographic. It shouldn’t be hard to see why it takes so long for a new Android release to make its way from the developer’s hands into the customer’s device. It’s also clear why the Android marketplace is so incredibly fractured. With so many moving pieces, there’s just no way to avoid that marketplace inefficiency.



  • djbressler

    One of Apple’s real innovations, and not nearly as easy as it looks in retrospect to make happen. Carriers seem to prefer the Google model.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      Carriers don’t give a crap about the model. They only want cheap handsets that they can bundle in deals to get customers to keep signing up for contracts. Given that many if not most Android handsets are abandonware, carriers “prefer” the Google model in that they prefer to ignore it.

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      It actually is the carrier model, not Google’s. Google doesn’t like messing with carriers, hence the Nexus 4/Verizon drama and the Nexus 5 being unlocked by default.

      But yeah…Apple bypassing it from jump ticked off the carriers. They love power and Apple took that from them.

  • EVula

    Open is better, Apple is doomed, yada yada yada.

  • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

    How is the marketplace fractured?

    I agree on the process being extra long due to too many cooks with different priorities. This is exactly why I went Nexus. I get updates within a week or so of release and with no carrier involvement.

    • Dave Mark

      An incredible number of devices, all of them need to be tested by app developers. Very different than building for iOS where you need only support a handful of devices.

    • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

      if nexus is google’s product, why does it still take a week to get updates?

      • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

        Companies like Google and Apple announce new updates then announce the release of them at different times. For KitKat, it was about a week from the date of announcement.

        That help?

        • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

          No because what you’re saying makes no sense — an announcement is not a release, and a release is not an announcement. When an update is released, it’s available — now. Not a week later.

          Rewrite for clarity?

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            I don’t get your issue kryon. Speak directly vs fishing to make points. It’ll help the conversation.

            As for a rewrite, no. I’ll just paste again for you to re-read. There are 2 announcements: 1) hey, here’s our new stuff. 2) hey, get our new stuff.

            “Companies like Google and Apple announce new updates then announce the release of them at different times.”

          • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

            dude, are you this much an ass when you talk to people in real life? you realize it, right?

            i wasn’t “fishing to make points”, whatever that means. i point out your complete lack of clarity. a release is a release. an announcement is an announcement.

            the two are not the same. durrrr

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            Only to people who clearly have an agenda. To all others, I am far from it.

            I seriously don’t know how to make it clearer. Companies announce a new version [vNext] then announce the release of that version. Both are announcements of different things.

            Again: “Companies like Google and Apple announce new updates then announce the release of them at different times.”

            You’re arguing nothing. Clearly I’m saying there are two separate announcements: the new version and the release of it.

    • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

      Also, why does a 2-year-old Nexus phone (google) not get KitKat (google)?

      https://support.google.com/nexus/answer/3468085?hl=en

      • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

        They have an 18 month policy. Why? No clue. Initially I thought it was because they were dev devices mainly [not dev units but mostly for devs] but no clue now.

        My guess is they will backtrack this one at some point in the future, especially with KitKat’s improved memory management.

        • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

          sure they will. just like all those other android phones that said theyd get updates, but…well, didnt.

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            Google isn’t responsible for all Android phone updates, only the Nexus line. Other manufacturers have definitely failed to provide the latest as promised in many cases though.

            The Handset Alliance was a Google fail though for sure, which was to correct the update woes.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      I agree on the process being extra long

      “Extra long” meaning “never completed”.

  • http://tewha.net/ Steven Fisher

    The lack of major carrier input into the OS is why I will use iOS as long as I can.

  • No Name

    What’s interesting, HTC makes 21 different phones? Question 1, why? Question 2, how many can be upgraded. From I can see Google has made a mess out of smartphone. Too many models, terrible upgrade path and they lack innovation. Kit Kat looks like iOS 7. Question 3: Next year Android phones will have a 64bit processor but not an OS to run it. Is Google over their head or lack the talent. I’ll stick the real deal, iPhone 5s and iPad Air.