back to article The real battle of Android's future – who controls the updates

Nothing in the new version of Android O, revealed for the first time at Google's annual developer conference yesterday, is as significant as the changes to the way Google releases code to phone makers. Put simply, Google has a problem. Seven months after the first Nougat phone shipped in volume, 92.8 per cent of the installed …

  1. S4qFBxkFFg

    I would not normally be defending Microsoft, but they managed (admittedly not perfectly) to update their OS despite it running on an enormous variety of hardware.

    Why can't Google just act like they did?

    I don't know, maybe Asus, Dell, HP, etc. actually blocked some updates behind the scenes, but my impression of what was going on in the days I was using XP was that MS released the updates when necessary and the hardware manufacturers just had to cope with it.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Microsoft Update process

      Has been a cause of much pain and anguish to millions of people over the years and still does.

      I hardly think that it is a benchmark for anyone to be proud of.

      I watched a Server 2012 system sit there for 4 hours 'preparing to install updates' recently. Only 4 updates.

      Halted the process, rebooted and did the same thing in two steps 2 updates then the other 2. Worked perfectly.

      Android updates have a different problem. For many users both the handset maker and carrier need to work together and even then the user might not download and install the updates.

      It seems that many handset makers don't give a toss about updates. There are countless posts on the internet where new phones stop receiving updates after only a few months yet those makers don't seem to suffer at the hands of the press or have their stock price drop. Yet if this was Apple we were talking about then it would be front page news. (even Apple bork things from time to time but their overall approach is light years ahead of Android)

      Google is right to focus on this area. I expect that Google are frustrated by the inability of the updates they release from getting to the end users. As for rolling out new versions of Android to users????? Are you having a larf? Handset makers care even less about new versions than they do about patches.

      1. illiad

        Re: Microsoft Update process

        The problem with android is NOT just google, but all the other apps that come with the phone, put on by the various sellers.... :(

        A lot of 'clueless' users bought the phone years ago, and do not know why it is slowing down, running out of battery quickly, etc...

        The main reason is that google is STILL blatantly downloading updates for many, many apps (without even bothering to check whether they apply to the old version of OS) that have NEVER been used or looked at due to many not even knowing of their existence, or how to manage them!!

        This is the main reason the average buyer just buys a new phone,

        * * I F * * they can afford it, or their contract will allow...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe not so much blocked but I have an inherited top of the line Dell PC that was on Vista. Dell would not support any later operating systems on it so the custom Dell drivers were never made available. It wasn't even that difficult as an enthusiast managed to extract the relevant drivers, get them to work on Windows 7 and collect some other drivers off the various 3rd parties.

      Microsoft have also abandoned old phone hardware like anyone else. WIndows mobile 6 -> Phone 7 -> 8 -> 10? how much success was there for most people trying that? I can't be bothered to look for the various facts on this or the exact name of Window Phone/Mobile etc but there were plenty of unsupported devices and non-upgrade paths.

      They were also very prescriptive with the hardware vendors for phones who couldn't do anything like the range of features that Android manufacturers can. They couldn't even change much (anything?) about the OS.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Other problem with a phone OS update

      Where do you store it if there is no SD Card slot and the Flash memory is full?

      Some cheaper phones and tablets only have about 1/3rd storage free when there are NO user files!

      The only solution would be a small separate bootloader OS that can erase all of existing OS and update via USB from either PC (slave mode) or external USB reader (USB2Go host mode). A software stack / USB simulation of JTAG. Some embedded systems do work this way. Most phones, TVs, Setboxes, Tablets etc today store a full copy of new OS on board and then overwrite the old copy.

    4. fandom

      "update their OS despite it running on an enormous variety of hardware."

      I guess that "PC compatible" now qualifies as a given value of 'variety'

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @S4qFBxkFFg - Google can't pull a Microsoft on handset makers (yet)

      Microsoft enslaved the hardware makers using the cost of Windows licensing. This is why with the exception Dell, no other OEM dared to even look at Linux or other alternative OS.

      Google on the other hand, conquered their market share by offering Android for free and even encouraging handset makers to customize it (at least in the beginning). Google didn't care about customization as long as traffic was driven to their servers and services. Ideally they should come up with a proprietary version of Android with a strong license that would shackle the handset manufacturers. Something tells me this will be met with a strong opposition and handset manufacturers could be tempted to stay with existing versions of Android long enough to cause Google some serious headache. Oh, and if Google tries to cut access to its services for the rebel handset manufacturers, then Microsoft might step in to aggravate it.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: @S4qFBxkFFg - Google can't pull a Microsoft on handset makers (yet)

        Google on the other hand, conquered their market share by offering Android for free and even encouraging handset makers to customize it (at least in the beginning).

        Android, or at least any meaningful version of it, is not free. You need the Google Play Services binary, and that comes with strings attached. It's one of the reasons they're being investigated by the EU.

        Microsoft made OS updates work on Windows Mobile by defining a minimum hardware standards. It was largely successful in that regard.

    6. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      The Android shipped on any phone is necessarily customised by the device maker to include the necessary hardware drivers. MS got lucky in the way PC market opened up through ISA so that the OS was as likely to be installed by the user as by a vendor.

      However, recent noises from MS about not providing updates of Windows 7 for newer chips and some of the device signing foreshadow future changes. And as for Windows 10 updates: how well are they working for you? Reversing your default settings re. preferred applications and telemetry?

      1. oldcoder

        Microsoft didn't get "lucky". Microsoft used unethical and illegal business practices to do that.

  2. ACZ

    Physician, heal thyself

    So does this mean that Google will support devices for longer? Will this mean that they end-of-life devices after *more* than 3 years?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/01/google_eol_for_nexus_phones/

    I know it's been said (many) times before, but this is something that Apple have got right. If this means that Android devices are supported longer then that would be great.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ACZ - Re: Physician, heal thyself

      There's no comparison. Apple controls both the hardware and the software of its platforms. Google might be tempted to do it too but Microsoft attempt at it and subsequent failure is a major deterrent.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Physician, heal thyself

      Google won't be able to leave the hardware abstraction layer alone, they won't be able to help themselves, there'll be something new and shiny they'll want to add. Android Q will be incompatible in some way with some Android O phones.

  3. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Google can't act the way Microsoft does due to the architectural differences. Windows doesn't normally run on Systems-on-a-Chip that have black-boxed internal workings protected by patents and NDAs and whose drivers are ONLY provided in binary blobs (for the same reasons) that are ONLY certified to work with whatever version of Android was available at launch. For phone manufacturers, they're DISincentivized to update their devices since their ONLY revenue stream 9 times out of 10 is selling new devices. Only the threat to not buy from them AT ALL is what makes some of them keep phones updated to some extent.

    And BTW, since Apple has full control over its whole ecosystem (hardware AND software), it doesn't have this problem. It can pick and choose as the circumstances dictate.

    Since manufacturers are actually disincentivized from keeping devices up to date, Google has to find a way around them, say by allowing phone OS's to be updateable IN SPITE of their recalcitrance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but Microsoft managed to update its (limited) phones, even if not running on Nokia hardware.

      As for black boxed and patented hardware, I promise you there is far more in the "computing" world than phones.

      How is the AMD processor, with your nVidia card, running on an Asus MB, with Crucial RAM with a Kingston SSD, using a Broadcom WiFi controller, overriding the Intel NIC connected to the ......

      There is no reason that the OS can't be more separated from the hardware and a simple "Hardware Check" before update would suffice.

      It wouldn't be that hard if the manufacturers supplied the drivers and Google did the OS.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Does the phrase ACPI ring a bell? The point is, PC architecture is based on enumerated buses because they wanted a unified front end. When a PC boots, it queries the common points via ACPI that tell it what's where. And BTW, you know what's one reason why support for modern graphics cards in Linux is hit or miss? Because AMD and nVidia will ONLY provide their cutting-edge drivers as blobs, fearing Giving Information To The Enemy.

        Phones don't have that same commonality. Instead, everything's memory-mapped and not by any common standard. Unlike in the PC world, that settled on the peace treaty and accepted the open standard of a common bus, ARM SoC makers are competing cutthroat for each other's business which relies on complete control. That's why you can't do something like a Linux Live CD that can work in most PC configurations out of the box. No, each image you build for an ARM system only works with that specific design.

        "It wouldn't be that hard if the manufacturers supplied the drivers and Google did the OS."

        That's part of the problem. Those drivers to them are trade secrets, potential Information For The Enemy, which is why they're ONLY provided as blobs.

        PS. To add to what Malcolm said, Microsoft was actually closer to Apple than it was to Google in terms of hardware control. They dictated terms and laid down minimum hardware specifications, thus allowing them more control over the environment.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          @Charles 9

          Maybe, then, they need to be forced to provide a software version of ACPI. Or, at least, a common set of low level routines. I don't know what's the right level: provide routines to alter the state of the I2C bus directly, or routines to read and write whole bytes, or routines to read and write chunks of data.

          But it doesn't seem beyond the wit of Google to create a reasonable abstraction layer. We would could call it the Android basic input/output system. The problem is political, not technical.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: @Charles 9

            Work on using ARM processors in servers is actually providing inroads into a common enumerated bus for ARM-based systems (look up SBSA or Server Base System Architecture).

            As for trying to force cutthroat SoC manufacturers to comply, it'd be easier for Google to do what Apple did and take out their own ARM license and roll their own silicon. The likes of Qualcomm, Rockchip, and Mediatek get enough business from other sources that, if push came to shove, they could simply walk away.

      2. Jason Bloomberg

        As for black boxed and patented hardware, I promise you there is far more in the "computing" world than phones.

        Perhaps but its the way things are black-boxed which makes a difference. In the PC world most things come as pre-installed or provided apps and drivers, or overlay onto what the default behaviour was. For phones it seems that suppliers dig much further down, tweaking the default software or replacing it with their own. Changing from below rather than adding on top.

        There's nothing wrong with that per se. But it does make it harder to ensure it all still works with a new release, and it is predictable that some would prefer to forget all that and just make it work for new models.

        I would probably do the same; make it work for the new first, then consider going back to fix for the old, and probably disinclined to do that when there's that new to sell.

        What Google seems to be proposing is more a 'plug-in' solution as a way to separate the core from mods which should help improve things.

    2. Malcolm 1

      Windows on ARM

      Microsoft actually did quite a lot of groundwork in this area a few years ago to support Windows RT across multiple SoC vendors. I managed to locate a Sinofsky-era essay on the subject - search for "Booting the core of Windows"

      In essence it brings the x86 model to ARM - providing the necessary UEFI and ACPI interfaces that the OS can use to bootstrap itself. It would still need drivers of course.

      It will be interesting to see how much of this survives in the upcoming Snapdragon 835 based Windows 10 devices.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Charles9 - Correction

      |Hardware| manufacturers are actually disincentivized (as you call it) from keeping |software| up to date.

      Heck, even software vendors would like you to buy the latest version instead of supporting the old one.

      And also don't forget software is not the strongest skill of hardware manufacturers, just look at the dismal security of IoT stuff.

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    No Skins please.

    If the manufacturers would simply stop adding their "improvements" then there would be no problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Skins please.

      They want to differentiate themselves. Why would Samsung willingly give up their branding and experience to offer exactly what everyone else does?

      The "I want unskinned Android" crowd is about the same percentage as the "I want to use alternate app stores" crowd on iOS - a few percent of the userbase at best.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: No Skins please.

        "Why would Samsung willingly give up their branding and experience to offer exactly what everyone else does?"

        Wow. You mean they'd then have to compete on actual FEATURES, like a decent size replaceable battery, removable SD card, nice camera, waterproofness, etc instead of whether their icons are flat-colored or not?

        I've never seen a skin add value. It's usually clunkier and uglier, with more bugs. Thus, I have never bought a Samsung phone.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No Skins please.

          "You mean they'd then have to compete on actual FEATURES."

          Except the Feature War's pretty much hit a stalemate. As much as you like the features you've mentioned, you've been outvoted by the bling-lovers who will outpay you for less features, meaning you're out of luck. Anyway, all the manufacturers have pretty much hit the peak of what they can pack into their phones while keeping them slim (remember, in the REAL phone world, slim sells). You've seen one phone, you've pretty much seen them all, so the war moves to the software front. Sad, but true.

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: No Skins please.

        Who knows how big the I want vanilla android crowd is .. because it is hard to get if you want other features on a phone (e.g. removable battery, SD card etc) .. I tried a Nexus back in the day but was irked by no sd, so since then generally get phones that are as near stock as possible (so e.g. tend to avoid Sammies) but have features I want

        I'm sure very few people want / appreciate all the (non removable unless you root) bloat apps vendors chuck on a phone and would sooner have the extra storage space instead.

        What Google ought to do is make a way to get rid of junk (this includes installed Google apps that are never used) without rooting your phone.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No Skins please.

          "Who knows how big the I want vanilla android crowd is .. because it is hard to get if you want other features on a phone (e.g. removable battery, SD card etc) ."

          Econ 101 tells me that if there is no supply, then odds are the demand isn't there. Otherwise, someone would jump on the chance to steal a march on the big boys.

          "I'm sure very few people want / appreciate all the (non removable unless you root) bloat apps vendors chuck on a phone and would sooner have the extra storage space instead."

          Wanna bet? Credits to milos they don't even notice. The rest? They actually USE them! Remember, if there were real demand, they would've filled it before someone else did. Yet what are the best-selling phones on the market?

          "What Google ought to do is make a way to get rid of junk (this includes installed Google apps that are never used) without rooting your phone."

          They'd instantly lose manufacturer support (because guess what was one condition of using Android), leaving Google with no way to compete with Apple. The market would've become a one-horse stable without Google's aggressive tactics.

          1. nijam Silver badge

            Re: No Skins please.

            > Econ 101 tells me that if there is no supply, then odds are the demand isn't there.

            Or that the supply side is an effective monopoly. Or the distribution side is an effective monopoly.

            With most phones sold via carriers, it's probably both of those. Manufacturers spec their product not for the end user but for the carrier, in practice.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: No Skins please.

              There's more than one manufacturer, so there's no real supply monopoly, and since the manufacturers come from different countries (Taiwan, South Korea, etc.) with different economic incentives, they're unlikely to act in a cartel.

              As for the carriers, there has always been a market for carrier-free phones, particularly in regions where common settled frequencies have been established like LTE Band III, allowing for easier carrier-jumping. Areas with more prepaid rather than postpaid carriers tend to encourage carrier-jumping and thus carrier-free phones. Even in America that trend is growing with increasing numbers of "Bring Your Own Smartphone" MVNO carriers. Most of the headliners for the past ten years or so have been offered carrier-free in some form, plus there was the iPhone which carriers were SO desperate to carry that they let Apple dictate terms for a while. So I doubt there's a real monopoly on the distribution end, either.

              No, I think the real demand is strictly with the customers. Thin is in, and simplicity sells, thus closed-in slim phones win out over thicker and easier-to-grip phones with removable battery packs and expansion slots.

  5. tedleaf

    As usual,a problem that Google were warned about by hardware makers and the public TEN+ years ago is still not fixed,who would believe it..

    Android used to be tiny,sub 500mb,now it's 6 gb,what is all that extra code doing that earlier versions didn't,your trying to tell me that lte modems or cameras have driver packs of a gb each !!

    Android is no more secure now than.it was years ago,in fact it still has some gaping holes that are 12 years old,and won't be fixed until android dies off is totally re-writen from the bottom up..

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      A LineageOS firmware for Android 7.1 weighs in about 350MB so no, it's not 6GB. It doesn't include Google Apps but you can download a 50GB nano GApps package.

      I expect some firmware updates are larger depending on how much crapware they contain or other superfluous stuff like additional image resources, languages, videos etc.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google don't even Support Nexus

    Google are so full of BS. They don't even support their own Nexus devices as pointed out by ACZ. I have a Nexus 4 and it never got Marshmallow never mind Nougat (officially). The hardware is more than capable and I am running Nitrogen ROM giving me the very latest 7.x (even got it before the Pixel Phone). But this also has may issues as I have had to root and many apps relying on Widevine won't work. Have yet to look a Magisk or un-rooting, but it just makes it difficult.

    If unpaid devs (thanks devs) on XDA can make the Nougat ROM why can't Google do it officially?

    Google need to shut up about manufacturers not updating when they themselves do not update.

    However, this is all just a con to make people have to buy new phones and this is BS. All capable older devices should be supported by Google AND the manufacturers.

    1. Baldrickk

      Re: Google don't even Support Nexus

      It might make it easier for them to support Nexus, if a phone is a phone is a phone, then the updates should be more universal. This /should/ apply to Nexus and other phones equally.

      If this is the case, then "a proprietary Android." or not, I'll be happy to have an OS on my phone that doesn't become obselete before the hardware.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google don't even Support Nexus

        You can have a proprietary OS that gets updates for 4-6 years already. If you are willing to turn Android into iOS in exchange for security, why not just buy an iPhone?

        1. aks

          Re: Google don't even Support Nexus

          Or a Windows phone. Works for me on my Lumia 640 XL Dual SIM. Latest Windows 10 release and only one app has failed, but Barclays are working on it. Started as Windows 8 three years ago.

        2. Baldrickk

          Re: Google don't even Support Nexus

          Because every time I have tried apple gear for myself, the result has been a sense of expense beyond what you are paying for.

          My iPod Touch (1st Gen) bought brand new didn't receive updates after the first year - not even the copy&paste update. Of course, all the apps in the store were updated and it very quickly became useless for anything beyond music - which, if that was the sole reason I had bought the thing, I would have gone for something about £250 cheaper that just did music. (yes, I bought the 32GB one - I wanted to put videos etc on it)

          Speaking of Videos - it could output to the TV! great! Only they cut out the 3.5mm port support the iPod video had, didn't they, where any £1.50 cable off amazon could link it to the TV. Instead you needed a cable for the dock connector, which required a special chip to authenticate the cable, which wouldn't be so bad, except that at the time, that cable was £60. F* that.

          As for Windows Phone, we all know that is dead now.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    borrowed from Apple, who made a great fuss about its introduction in 2015.

    Eh?

    Been on desktop OSes since, well before 1998 (when Smart Phones started). Hardly innovative.

    Updates on phones have always been a problem as the HW is so variable and till recently performance changing like PCs from 1982 to 2002, when it slowed down.

    Not a problem unique to Google. Inevitable that mostly only new phones have the new OS version. It's likely that now as HW features have stabilized there will be a more standard specification and easier Android updates to exist phones, made after 2016 / 2017.

    I can't see Sony or Google releasing updates for four year old Xperia Android phones.

    There are sill new tablets on sale with ancient versions of Android. That's tantamount to dishonest marketing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: borrowed from Apple, who made a great fuss about its introduction in 2015.

      When Apple does something before Android "big deal, it was on desktop years before". When Android does something before Apple, even if it was likewise on the desktop years earlier "Apple is always copying Android innovations!"

  8. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    and it's not going to get any better ...

    "Android" (like Google search) is fundamentally flawed, as things stand.

    Google search - whichever way you dress it up, and whatever pixie dust you sprinkle over it - is a keyword based search. Fine when looking in the first few thousand sites we had in 1998. Completely useless in 2017 - and that's before you factor in the advertising/sponsored cruft that gets returned.

    "Android" is already fragmented. I have lost count of the different permutations and combinations of "settings" I have had to juggle with, as each vendor customises each iteration of their version of Android.

    It might have seemed a great wheeze in 2008, but as Microsoft and Apple have shown, you really need to nail down the core of the system. I stand to be corrected, but no matter *who* you got your PC from - manufacturer or retailer, "Control Panel" was the same (obviously corporations could then apply Group Policy, but that was still onto a vanilla install).

    On an aside, WTF does MrsPages Android require an internet connection to answer the voice command: "What time is it ?"

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: and it's not going to get any better ...

      Because you DON'T want to hear the voice reply that comes out when the device is left to its own resources. Good text-to-speech still requires cloud levels of resources.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: and it's not going to get any better ...

        err, you can do decent text to speech with a puny dsp...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: and it's not going to get any better ...

          But you said, "DECENT," which to my ears means something out of a Votrax chip. By GOOD, I'm referring to speech playback that actually sounds darn close to coming out of an actual person. The difference between the built-in TTS and the cloud TTS is like night and day and will remain that way for a while yet. Just compare by trying the system in Airplane Mode so it can't access the cloud.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: and it's not going to get any better ...

            Then how come Dragon STT does it fine without being online? Google started building STT the only way they knew how, collect lots of data.

            And as for offline TTS, that's fine too. MacOS's built-in one or CereProc don't need an Internet connection and sound better than Google's TTS.

            (I get the feeling there are people saying TTS when they mean STT....)

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: and it's not going to get any better ...

              No, I mean TTS: Text to Speech: the computer saying things out loud. When you say STT, I tend to call it "Speech Recognition," which I will admit is improving considerably. It just so happens that, with Google, TTS and Speech Recognition are rolled into the combined Speech API.

              Like I said, it's very each to hear the difference. Simply test Google's text to speech system first with an online connection, then without. I can assure you the offline version will sound a lot worse: more like what I heard out of computer TTS systems in the 1990's than state of the art.

              PS. As for CereProc, I believe SVOX produced a better result, and I'm strongly of the opinion Google's cloud speech trumps SVOX.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theres a thing - I saw this article and wondered if there were any update(s) for my phone and lo, a security update for 7.0 !

    I suspect the availability of an update indicates the "meh-ness" of the update, so plenty of phones bought with 6 will get 7 ("meh"), but a lot fewer starting at 5.0 or earlier ever got 6

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Maker's update

      There is a Sony update for my phone. You need to first install a windows application. Which either doesn't work, or is for some flavour I don't have (I do have old PCs with various versions for such purposes as I use Linux for real work now.).

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    The convenience of OTA

    Does not seem very convenient.

    Let me see

    Google --> phone maker --> Network --> Customer phone.

    And yet.

    The phone in the users hand has not changed. Why don't the phone mfg leave their drives be and just pass through the upgraded Android? Or does Android have "clearly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty" in it?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Updates are not always trouble free

    Even though Apple has total control of both hardware and software, and has only a small number of models to worry about, there are still occasional problems with updates (along with various complaints from a few for every update that it "killed my battery life" or whatever)

    Even if Google overcomes the hurdles and starts delivering updates more often, given their lack of control of the hardware and the massively larger number of models, the odds of issues are obviously much higher than with iOS. The more updates they do, the more problems there will be. That might keep OEMs from pushing updates even if they have the option - not to mention the incentive of obsoleting phones sooner so people have to buy another.

    If Google was able to bypass the OEMs and carriers entirely and push OS updates directly like they do for the apps, each bungled update that caused problems for owners of certain phones would diminish consumer goodwill until people simply stopped updating to avoid the risk, and all the work to get to this point would be for nothing.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who are they kidding?

    therefore Google's revenues which on Android remain half of that generated on iOS

    The implication is that Google could double their revenues if Android weren't a festering swamp of fragmented code. How does that work? How exactly would Google make more money from pimping my data if my ageing Sammy S3 were running Noughat, Orangesauce, (or next year, Poop), instead of Jelly Bean?

    And even if it is true, it doesn't fix the central problem for Google (which they have carefully ignored) which is that too many phone makers aren't making money from Android phones, because all the profits accrue to Google, with Samsung just about washing their face.

    Now, in some parallel universe, less fragmentation might mean double the revenues, AND in that parallel universe, the Google equivalent says "hey, lets share all this revenue with the handset makers to encourage a healthy and sustainable ecosystem". Back here, nope, ain't going to happen.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Who are they kidding?

      therefore Google's revenues which on Android remain half of that generated on iOS

      Considering iTunes (30% to Apple?) and inability for most users to transfer files without it and also Apple's massive "brand" fuelled obscene rip off profit margin on the HW sale (which Google gets almost nothing from), it's hard to see how Google can even be doing as well as half.

      Google & Facebook profits almost entirely rely on [illegal in EU and other countries with close ties to EU] exploitation of privacy rather than actual sale of services. Yes, there is the Google Play Store, Google's legal equivalent of iTunes. So I expect Google profits to fall unless they get very clever. The EU is waking up and soon won't have UK disrupting action against USA businesses ripping off European privacy.

  13. arctic_haze

    A question about "experts"

    If one needs a quote saying "Apple is doomed" or "iOS is doomed", she phones Rob Enderle. That's simple.

    But whom one should ask for a good "Android is doomed" quote?

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: A question about "experts"

      Steve Ballmer

  14. ScissorHands
    Mushroom

    Sometimes it's not really the OEMs fault

    Qualcomm simply refused to update the Snapdragon 80x drivers to Android 7. And the 80x was a flagship chip. It killed a lot of of phones, even a Sony phone that had an OFFICIAL Nougat beta ROM that had to pulled in the 11th hour.

  15. handleoclast
    Trollface

    What is it going to be called?

    Forget all that technical crap. What is Android O going to be called? I'd have suggested Opal Fruits, but that was rebranded years ago (no marathoning at the back).

    1. Lamb0
      Childcatcher

      Re: What is it going to be called?

      Oreo

    2. DropBear

      Re: What is it going to be called?

      Obnoxious Oompaloompa. ...Oh, wait - wrong species, wrong OS, wrong naming convention; brainfart, was thinking of somebody else...

  16. To Mars in Man Bras!

    Re: "no marathoning at the back"

    I see what you did there!

    1. TheTor
      Joke

      Re: "no marathoning at the back"

      /snicker

  17. Randall Shimizu

    Pixel updates ends after 2 years is ridiculous

    While I agree keeping Android phones is a good step. Why are they doing this while limiting Pixel updates to 2 years after the phone has come out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pixel updates ends after 2 years is ridiculous

      To be like the rest of their own market; ship a new shiny to support the new OS, cut off support about the time the Li-ion battery will die anyway, repeat. It's great kit for muggles, if you can find enough muggles to fall for the whole scam. The scam starts to break down when the muggles hold onto their shiny-shiny for too long and are left running Kit-Kat and don't notice any problem with that. Replace the battery, keep going until the carrier stops supporting the cell radio/data protocols. A win-win for the lazy, muggle consumer, and hackers. :P

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weird

    A quick survey of 20 office android phones at work ranging from cheap to expensive, new to 3 years old, running various versions of android all but one of them showed patch levels after Jan 2017. So where are all these not updated since 2015 phones???

    I call horseshite on this article.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Weird

      My LG G3, which came out in 2014, is on Android 6.0 and patch level 2016-08-01.

      Doubt LG will bother with any more updates, even though it's very fast and doesn't have some of the issues of their later replacement models.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weird

        So it has 2 years of updates then?

      2. Baldrickk

        Re: Weird

        I do wish that I hadn't smashed my G3 - I was planning on going SIM only and keeping that phone.

        Having the volume and power buttons on the rear was, for me, great UI. Easy to press when you wanted to, hard to press by accident.

        Shame that they have reverted to the standard form factor again with their newer phones.

  19. bazza Silver badge

    Kernel Version?

    I do wonder what this all means for the continued use of Linux underneath Android. Keeping proprietary drivers up to date within Linux can occasionally be a bit of burden. I've no problem with that; no one has the right to tell the Linux community to freeze their device driver interfaces, it's their software after all.

    However, I can see this new initiative doing is making it even harder for Android to move on to more recent kernels. Being able to easily keep up with the fast rate of kernel development is kinda essential - no one wants to be left back-porting security patches forever more.

  20. Planty Bronze badge
    Megaphone

    Untrue and you know it - let's stop with the lies

    "Put simply, Google has a problem. Seven months after the first Nougat phone shipped in volume, 92.8 per cent of the installed base still runs software from 2015 or older"

    Measuring big version android adoption numbers is flawed to the extreme and nothing more than lame clickbait. Google security patch every month all versions back to 4.4. Pretty much all major manufacturers are picking up those security patches to older versions, some are switching to newer OS, but either way, saying they are running software from 2015 is a basically a total lie.

    So if phones are getting security updates, the android API is very mature, what precisely is the problem with a phone running the Android version it shipped with? The answer is, as long as you are getting patches from your manufacturer, and Google continue to add features via Google play services to all phones in the field, then there is absolutely nothing wrong, in fact you are likely better off, and will maintain your phone's performance and battery life.

    So I am calling out anyone saying otherwise a liar that has an agenda, or really doesn't have a clue what they are talking about

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Untrue and you know it - let's stop with the lies

      I do not get regular security updates from a manufacturer (Motorola - not sure if you deem them major) and they will not give 6 or higher for the phone.

      Llast security update was not long after stagefright

      2016-04-01 - reads my phone Android security patch level

      If you want to keep a phone for a few years (or, in my case, buy a phone after it has been released a while so it is better value than at release high price) then vendors screw you as their couple of years of updates if you are lucky tends to run from release day of phone, not when the phone was no longer readily available in shops.

      So, people claiming no patches for ages are quite likely, in my experience , to not be lying.

      NB Phone is often on home WiFi, so not an issue of there being pending updates I have not received due to cellular data only & phone needing WiFi for updates.

      1. Planty Bronze badge

        Re: Untrue and you know it - let's stop with the lies

        Perhaps you might want to tell us more about what Motorola phone, as clearly it's possible that several reasons are playing out here:

        1/ It's really old and truely past the point where the manufacturer should support it it.

        2/ It's a really cheap phone that due to it's low price, you are expected to crush it and buy a new one each year

        3/ It's a network locked phone, and your phone network has device to not sent out patches.

        None of these problems of course are ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOOGLE.....

  21. Zorg

    Samsung S3 Currently Running Nougat 7.1.2

    I have a Samsung S3 that has gone through Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow & Nougat. I believe the run is over, but I can't complain. I have gotten the latest security updates every month. I did have to update the modem firmware for Nougat. I also don't have all of the Android gapps bloat installed. Not even gapps lite. I downloaded the .apks from the play store that I want and just reinstall them directly.

    I don't believe there is a way to fix the OS update problem, because there is a strong disincentive for manufacturers and vendors to participate. They are in the business of "selling" phones after all. I had an agent from Verizon saying that the S3 wasn't powerful enough to run Marshmallow so we know the company line.

  22. Col_Panek

    My 6 year old

    .... PC runs the latest Ubuntu MATE. If only it could make phone calls .... and fit in my pocket...

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