Why is your Android phone never up to date? 

If you own an Android phone, it ain’t running the latest and greatest version of Android. What I just said is almost certainly true, because as of June 2016, just about 10% of all Android users were on Android M. It’s been a year since M was launched, they’re already out with a preview version of N, and yet only 1 in 10 users are anywhere close to up to date.

Why should this be so? Why haven’t all phones updated to the latest version? It’s presumably better, more stable, packed with the newest features and what not, and well, I want! So gimme already!

The reason your phone hasn’t updated to the latest version, and probably won’t update at all after a couple of years is because your phone manufacturer finds updating your software a very expensive, time consuming affair. And the reason it is expensive is because the software on your phone has been customized by your manufacturer. It isn’t what Google calls “stock Android”.

Stock Android is easier to update because there hasn’t been that much tinkering around done with it. But with every layer of customization (TouchWiz by Samsung, Sense UI by HTC and so on), you add a level of complexity that makes software updates more difficult to manage.

So why customize in the first place, dammit? Two words: product diversification.

Essentially, your phone manufacturer wants you to think that the phone you just purchased is like no other in the market. And all phone nowadays come with more or less the same features at a price point: you know that at the 15,000 rupee mark you’re going to get so much memory, such and such camera, this chipset, that screen definition etc. So what’s different: unique version of Android!

It’s like a car that’s priced around 5 lakh rupees. Since you, I and everybody else knows more or less what to expect, the salesman is going to try and convince us that the extra cup holder at the back is the one unique feature that should totally make us buy his car. TV’s that have OLED panels, washing powders that have active atoms, water that has more oxygen (that one’s my favorite, by the way. Screw chemistry!) – these are all examples of companies trying to convince you that this is the product you’ve been waiting for all your life.

So why the need for product diversification? Because “itna paisa mein itna ich milenga”. You’re not willing to pay more, as a consumer, for a product that other companies offer you at a lesser rate. So build the same thing as your competition, but try and convince the consumer that it’s different.

That’s product diversification, and it explains why your phone will almost never be up to date. So why build the same thing as your competition? Two words: perfect competition. And that’s what we’ll talk about in our next post!

3 thoughts on “Why is your Android phone never up to date? 

  1. Couple of problems with this post…

    Firstly, OLED is not comparable to extra oxygen is your water at all. The technology allows individual pixels to be turned off or on, which translates to truer blacks and far better contrast ratio than any LCD TV ever made. Yes, these differences are a bit hard to spot for lay viewers, but OLEDs are also far more power efficient, which I think everyone can appreciate.

    Secondly, the reasoning that OEMs don’t offer stock Android because they want their product to be special is too simplistic. While that is one of the reasons, there are a whole bunch more. Some do it because they make a ton of money from loading your phone with a bunch of third-party apps that they’ve tied up with. Some because they would prefer if your phone was obsolete from the moment you bought it so that you’d have to upgrade sooner. Some because they are locked into a never-ending power struggle with Google (looking at you Samsung. Kill that bastard Tizen pls). In fact, in a market full of customised interfaces, stock Android is actually the killer differentiated feature as Moto found out to its benefit a couple years ago.

    • Good to know about the OLED thing. I’d certainly fall in the category of a “lay viewer”, but I’l keep that in mind the next time I’m in the market for a TV.

      About your second point, sure it ain’t the only reason. It’s hard to write about all the reasons in a 500 word post, so I focussed on the one that was relevant to the point I was making.

      Thanks for writing in.

    • I don’t think this post is about the techno-babble. It is primarily about the economics behind everything , for everybody! So there’s no comparison being done between the specifications. Let me put it this way — Just like there are TVs that feature LCD, there are TVs that use OLED panels; Just like there is water with the basic chemical structure (I.E. just the natural water), there’s packaged drinking water that is passed through channels of oxidizers to give you a tagline “Gives you more oxygen”. So there’s this differentiation within the same basic product — TVs, water, or in this case the mobile phone OS: Android.
      I guess you missed this point!! 🙂

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