Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I am Disappoint: No Love for Froyo on Galaxy S

Based on an anonymous post on the XDA Developer Forums, the reason behind the lack of a Froyo update for Samsung Galaxy S phones in the US appears to be because Samsung is greedy.

The following quote is the entirety of the message as it appears on the forums for your convenience (with added emphasis by me).

Hello,

I’m going to step across the NDAs and explain the issues behind the Android Froyo update to Samsung Galaxy S phones in the United States. I think most of you have come to this realization yourself now: the withholding of the Froyo update is a largely political one, not a technological one: Froyo runs quite well on Galaxy S phones, as those of you that have run leaked updates may have noticed.

To explain the political situation, first, a primer on how phone firmware upgrades work for carriers. When a carrier decides to sell a phone, a contract is usually written between the phone manufacturer and the carrier. In this contract, the cost of updates (to the carrier) is usually outlined. Updates are usually broken into several types: critical updates, maintenance updates, and feature updates. Critical updates are those that resolve a critical bug in the phone, such as the phone overheating. Maintenance updates involve routine updates to resolve bugs and other issues reported by the carrier. Finally, feature updates add some new feature in software that wasn’t present before. Critical updates are usually free, maintenance updates have some maintenance fee associated with them, and feature updates are usually costly.

In the past, most phone updates would mainly consist of critical and maintenance updates. Carriers almost never want to incur the cost of a feature update because it is of little benefit to them, adds little to the device, and involves a lot of testing on the carrier end. Android has changed the playing field, however – since the Android Open Source Project is constantly being updated, and that information being made widely available to the public, there is pressure for the phone to be constantly updated with the latest version of Android. With most manufacturers, such as HTC, Motorola, etc. This is fine and considered a maintenance upgrade. Samsung, however, considers it a feature update, and requires carriers to pay a per device update fee for each incremental Android update.

Now, here’s where the politics come in: most U.S. carriers aren’t very happy with Samsung’s decision to charge for Android updates as feature updates, especially since they are essentially charging for the Android Open Source Project’s efforts, and the effort on Samsung’s end is rather minimal. As a result of perhaps, corporate collusion, all U.S. carriers have decided to refuse to pay for the Android 2.2 update, in hopes that the devaluation of the Galaxy S line will cause Samsung to drop their fees and give the update to the carriers. The situation has panned out differently in other parts of the world, but this is the situation in the United States.

Some of you might have noticed Verion’s Fascinate updated, but without 2.2 : This is a result of a maintenance agreement Samsung must honor combined with Verizon’s unwillingness to pay the update fees. In short, Android 2.2 is on hold for Galaxy S phones until the U.S. carriers and Samsung reach a consensus.

Some might wonder why I didn’t deliver this over a more legitimate news channel – the short answer: I don’t want to lose my job. I do, however, appreciate transparency, which is why I'm here.

Having bought a Samsung Galaxy S phone back in August with the expectation that it would get the Froyo update soon, I am disappoint.

This is just one more annoyance added to my growing list of annoyances about Android-based phones and my Galaxy S phone in particular.

Bitch and moan about Apple being evil all you want, but even Apple doesn't do this to their users. I will never ever buy another Samsung Android phone again. This really rubs me the wrong way.

Update: People have been commenting that Android devices have gotten better OS update support than iPhones. This is simply not the case. The iPhone 3G came out ~6 months before the Android G1 and the G1 stopped getting updates (latest update was Android 1.6) looooooooong before the iPhone 3G stopped getting updates. Apple at least kept providing updates to the 3G through iOS 4.1.x, latest update being this past fall. So even though the iPhone 3G is older than the G1, it got OS updates until long after updates stopped coming for the G1. My point is that to even compare the G1 to the iPhone 3G in terms of time supported by new OS upgrades, the G1 would have to at least have Android 2.2 (which came out how long ago?? I mean, even 2.3 is out now). In other words: Apple pushes all OS upgrades for their iPhones for at least 2 years (length of a contract) while no Android handset maker ever has - the G1 got OS upgrades for what? 6 months?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Bitch and moan about Apple being evil all you want, but even Apple doesn't do this to their users."

Er, Apple doesn't charge for updates?

http://www.reghardware.com/2008/01/15/macworld_expo_ipod_iphone_update/

http://www.engadget.com/2009/06/08/apple-shipping-snow-leopard-in-september-29-upgrade/

HalfNelson said...

hey relax, android phones are more like PC's and not consoles, so just upgrade yourself. Pretty dang easy and you have already found the right place to do it (xdadevelopers).
Samsung just didn't make it easy for you, but then again neither does windows (you still have to buy the cd for the next version). So think of your little (fastest phone on the market) samsung galaxy S as a little linux box, and maybe you won't get so annoyed. Each to their own though. (also look at OCLF or equivalent)

jpobst said...

What exactly is "this" that Apple doesn't do to their users?

You cannot get the latest version of iOS on every generation of iPhone, only the ones Apple deems they will still support.

Matej Knopp said...

"Not even Apple"? Are you using Apple as a measure for screwing customers with firmware updates? Just look at how long iPhone and iPhone 3G were supported, no manufacturer with android is even in same ballpark.

mholsather said...

I am in the same boat. I finally gave up and rooted my phone and loaded the Cognition ROM (2.2). It seems to be working great with perhaps a bit shorter battery life. It's doing the trick though. I will NEVER buy a Samsung device again until they see the light on software upgrades.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Bob,

When I got my iPhone 3G, it came with iOS 2.0. I've gotten updates all the way to whatever the current version is for free.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

HalfNelson,

Unfortunately, if I install a new version of Android myself, then it voids the warranty. So it's still pretty annoying.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

jpobst,

Sure, they don't support iOS4 on iPhone <=2 but Apple still supported iPhone 2's up until the very last iOS 3.x version which was >= 2 years (as long as a carrier contract lasts).

The Galaxy S phones only came out 6 months ago and already unsupported. In fact, the latest update was 3-4 months ago, so really they only shipped updates for like 2 months after they were released.

2 months (Samsung) < 2 years (Apple)

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Matej,

You're right, the Galaxy S phones are not even in the same ballpark as the iPhone 3G's. Apple supported them for > 2 years (I'm running the latest iOS4 on mine). No Android handset maker has supported their Android phones that long.

Timo said...

Just FYI, I bought myself a galaxy S in Germany in December 2010 and it shipped with 2.2 Froyo installed out of the box. A friend of mine bought the same galaxy S last summer short time after the release-to-market and could recently update it via the Samsung Kies software to froyo. No rooting or custom firmware were involved, all supported by samsung (maybe EU market only).

Given this fact which is obviously no secret, you would not necessarily need an insider to point out that the missing US update is due to economical reasons, not due to technical ones.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

mholsather,

If this dispute between Samsung and the US carriers doesn't get resolved soon (or if they try to charge me for the upgrade), I'll be installing a Cognition ROM too.

I just really prefer not to void my warranty so soon after buying this hardware.

Anonymous said...

Again, I share your frustration even though I did go through the rape that is the samsung kitchensink for windows to update the firmware.

Still dreaming of having galaxy s hardware with webos. I hope they will be selling them palms here.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Timo,

Yea, that's why this post doesn't surprise me (normally I wouldn't take an anonymous comment at face value).

Jimmac,

Yea, I'm happy with the hardware, just wish I had 2.2 or 2.3 which would fix at least some of the problems I have with it.

trampster said...

If you buy a google experience phone (Nexus One or Nexus S) you will get updates as soon as Google releases them. Thats because Google controls the software on these phones. They do not control the software on the Samsung Galaxy s.

It was known long before the galaxy s was released that the only way to get fast updates was to buy a true google phone. (Nexus One at the time)

You should have known that but you still went ahead a purchased a phone from Samsung who had a very bad record of updating phones.

So its your own fault really.

Go buy a Nexus S. Its almost the same hardware but it is guaranteed to allays run the latest android.

Claudio M. Camacho said...

Hi,

I agree with most of your post. However, regarding the very last part of your post, it is not comparable the information you give about updates between iOS and Android.

The reason for Android being sooooo late with updates is because there are many different phones running it. Apple is working with just two or three different hardware sets (iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4). In contrast, phone vendors using Android have to adapt the standard Android to fully support all their phones.

Best regards,


--Claudio

Anonymous said...

I didn't say Apple charged everyone for operating system updates. Neither does Samsung. Just that it has been known to happen...

I agree the maintenance policy for iPhones is pretty good.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

trampster,

"If you buy a google experience phone (Nexus One or Nexus S) you will get updates as soon as Google releases them."

Then why is it that Gingerbread (2.3) hasn't been pushed for NexusOne? Google isn't so timely after all, eh?

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Claudio,

They have to write those patches before they release the phone in the first place. The only patches required are driver changes in the kernel and when a new Android comes out, all they have to do is re-apply those very same patches (because the base Linux kernel has not changed so drastically that the patches won't still apply - trust me, I've looked at the diffs and applied them to newer Android kernel sources).

In other words, utter nonsense. I understand that the way things work right now, Google phones will get the updates prior to 3rd party phones, but the third party phones should be able to get them fine within a month or so after Google releases the source for their own phones.

Of course, if Android was a more community-driven open source project rather than being a "throw-over-the-wall-when-it's-done" open source project, then Samsung, HTC, etc could all get a head start on making sure their drivers worked with the new version before Google made a final release and then all of the phones could get upgrades at the same time.

Just because there is such a variety of 3rd party phones on the market for Android doesn't make it any harder for them to all get the update at the same time, it's the lack of cooperation between Google and the 3rd party vendors (along with the carriers).

Alan said...

The HTC Desire was released late last April. It is already EOL. HTC supposedly have no plans to release Android 2.3 for this device.

If I had splashed the extra cash I could own an iPhone now which would (based on historical events) receive frequent updates for at least the next 18 months.

From now on my only option is to root the device and install non HTC roms. This is not the experience I expected from a modern smartphone.

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