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Why can't older Androids receive new OS updates?

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by Double44, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. Double44

    Double44 Member
    Thread Starter

    I know it is not possible to get new OS updates on certain Androids due to hardware/storage/memory/manufacturer restrictions, but not all Androids have these issues. I mean.. aren't these software updates designed to make Android run more efficiently than before? The only significant changes i notice are all visual, not to mention the added bloatware.

    Taking the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 as an example; it's not a very old phone, only about 1-2 years.. I can only assume it sports some very good specs. Wouldn't the Note2 be more than capable of handling an OS like Lollipop? ...assuming it will not receive the update to Lollipop, i have to ask, why not? If it was able to receive Kitkat like the Note3, what differences prevent the Note2 (or even the Note1) from upgrading alongside it?

    I own the first-gen Nexus 7 tablet, and over the 2 years I have used it, it is still a very competitive tablet. It has done everything I've wanted a tablet to do (emulation/gaming/videos/etc). So much so, that i ultimately have no interest in purchasing another tablet for many years to come. Why must i sacrifice on updates, if i love the product too much to need anything else?

    Finally, i can never understand why one or two years of age somehow makes a device ancient. I think manufacturers need to slow it down and give it a couple years. Samsung keeps on releasing these S/Note devices as if the older ones are going out of style or something.. even worse, people continue to feed this frenzy by pre-ordering the next one as soon as they can.

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  2. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    There are three basic reasons why phones stop receiving updates. The first, and the one you've mentioned, is that the hardware no longer support the newer features. A Nexus device will receive updates up until the hardware is not compatible. Now, what criteria they (Google) uses to determine that, i don't know because some ambitious developers have gotten some newer versions of Android to run on very old hardware (Can't say it runs well or reliably, but it runs)

    The next is cost. While Google develops the core OS, for it to get to your phone officially, it must come from the carrier or phone manufacturer depending on model or contract (Yeah, it's a little complicated and convoluted). Taking a plain version of Android and adapting it for a handset and testing and supporting takes $$$$. Even if the hardware might support it, it the update will cause more problems than it fixes, then they most likely will put their resources into the latest models. After all, no updates are guaranteed. When you buy the phone, you are only promised the OS that's on it and any bug fixes if they are needed.

    The final reason is one of marketing. As a phone is surpassed by newer models, the old models usually become discounted or available through refurb or pre-owned channels. Of course these are still very usable devices but manufacturers make zero revenue from them and it costs them in support even if it's only basic customer service calls, there is a cost associated. People what the latest at point of sale. If older models for much less were available with the latest OS, many people might opt for those rather than buy the latest flagship device, which makes everyone greater profits.

    Now, if you buy a popular mainstream device and you have the desire to update past the official final supported update, more than likely rom developers will have newer versions of a workable OS for your device. Many times two or more versions passed the official final update.

    Eventually, however your hardware will become slow and buggy simply by not meeting the current spec's for acceptable performance and you'll start looking for that new and shiny upgrade.
    funkylogik and mikedt like this.
  3. Hadron

    Hadron Smoke me a kipper...
    VIP Member

    The answer is that android updates are provided by either the manufacturer (for an unbranded, off-contract model) or the carrier (for a model sold by the carrier and where the carrier has modified the software - even if that modification consists only of adding bloat apps). Only Nexus devices have the updates provided by Google.

    So, whoever provides the updates has to decide not just which devices are technically capable of receiving them but which ones it makes sense commercially to put the effort in to provide an update for. Remember that Android needs to be customised, built, tested for every device, so it costs staff time and hence money to do this. So at some point, for various reasons, the manufacturer might decide not to support further updates for a particular device, or even if they do the carrier may decide it's not worth their doing so (which happens: you get cases where the stock international version of a handset gets updates but some particular carrier's version does not).

    Sometimes older models may get the update but not as quickly as the newer ones, which probably means that the development team only turned to them after the newer and more commercially important devices were done.

    Bottom line: though in some cases it's hardware, it's often a commercial decision, but not by Google and not necessarily even by the manufacturer.

    Before anyone makes the inevitable comparison with Apple, they don't have many devices to support and don't allow network customisation. But even so they stop providing updates on a fixed timetable rather than necessarily when the device cannot support them, and also leave out features in the older devices, only some of which are hardware related (as in some cases people with jailbroken iPhones have enabled features which Apple claimed the hardware doesn't support). So again, we're talking commercial decisions here.
    funkylogik, lunatic59 and mikedt like this.
  4. Crashdamage

    Crashdamage Android Expert

    Just as an addition to the informative answers already posted, are you aware that the 1st-gen Nexus 7 definitely will get updated to Android 5 Lollipop, and possibly even more after that? So will the 2 year old Nexus 4. So the situation is maybe not as dire as you might think, especially if you stay with devices with less manufacturer customization.
    funkylogik, zipred and mikedt like this.
  5. mikedt

    mikedt 你好

    Despite what it may seem, Samsung has actually only released one flagship Galaxy S and one Galaxy Note a year. They do many other Galaxy phones as well, such as the Ace series and Mega series, but these are phones in different price, feature and size ranges, to suit various pocket, customer and market requirements. Not all of Samsung's phones are available in any one country. Different Samsung phones can be released in different regions, e.g. the Galaxy Trend and Galaxy Young are only available in Asia, countries like China and India.

    To be frank most people don't do that. They tend to keep phones for maybe two years, because that's the length of their carrier contracts, especially in western markets like the US. And Samsung usually does support their devices with updates for a length of two years. Same with other major manufacturers as well, like HTC and LG.
    funkylogik likes this.
  6. pinappu

    pinappu Newbie

    Because, otherwise you will not buy the latest devices.
  7. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert

    The better OEMs for support seem to be Motorola and HTC. Samsung supports their devices for a while too, but they take their damn time to push them out. LG seems to be on the bad side of upgrades...as in you buy a phone and it's likely you may not see an update. I remember when KitKat came out and they refused to update the Optimus G, which was only 1 year old at that point(and the Nexus 4 was based off of it).
  8. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Extreme Android User

    Actually, if i'm not mistaken, it's Notes that get once-a-year upgrades, while the S-series get one every six months. the S5 came out a mere few months after the S4 launched.

    As for the issue of older devices getting newer versions of the OS, i would bet on the same reasons it's a bad idea to run Windows 98SE on an i486/33. it can be done, but the results are not pretty. Does anyone remember when the iPhone 4 got iOS 7 and then complained about lag, battery life and so on?
  9. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert

    While it does seem like Samsung releases a new flagship every couple months, I checked the release dates and the S line is really once every year.

    S1 - June 2010
    S2 - May 2011
    S3 - May 2012
    S4 - April 2013
    S5 - April 2014

    I have an S1 on my shelf running CM 11. It's still pretty damn laggy. So there is a point when it doesn't make sense to update devices. Especially given that most people are on a 2 year contract plan and are just going to replace the device anyway.
    funkylogik likes this.
  10. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Extreme Android User

    Then my case is simply my town being late to the game on everything. i got my S4 just after it launched (here--around July 2014) and i saw the launch of the S5 just after that (around September 2014). the Note 4 has yet to arrive as is the iPhone 6. the demos are about it. i am sure both have launched though everywhere else.

    I got the LG G3 just after it appeared on the Best Buy shelves--last month. i know that particular phone has been out a while now. but we just got it.
  11. mikedt

    mikedt 你好

    I can confirm that the Note 4 and iPhone 6 have launched in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. I've seen them here, and my friend in Ulan Bator says he's seen them as well. So I guess that leaves just Pyongyang, North Korea and Owensboro, United States as not having them yet. ;)
  12. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor

    Note 4 and iPhone 6 are out in the Philippines and Singapore as well.

    Anyway, I am using a Note 2 which is running official Samsung Kitkat, and Samsung already announced that it will receive Lollipop via official update channels. Likely it's the last update it will get. Typically, the Notes and S series from Samsung gets an update or two after their 2year younger revisions get released. The Note 1 got an update after the Note 3 as it's last IIRC. Of course at this point it will depend on your carrier if you'll get an update or not.
  13. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert

    Ouch, Nick. Looks like KY is behind Mongolia :p .

    I come from a small town too, so I know what it's like to have to get everything from elsewhere. We did have reliable high speed internet though, until last year when the local ISP got bought out by a regional cable company who turned it all to garbage.

    Now I'm in the city with a crappy internet connection :D
  14. mikedt

    mikedt 你好

    Singapore can be like Hong Kong, always seems to get the latest tech very quickly. In fact the only time I've seen a Google Glass for real was in HK. And the internet is usually very fast and reliable as well.
  15. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Extreme Android User

    due to the anti-tech anti-progress mindset of people around here (they still refuse to even bother with cleaner energy and hold to coal mining as if it were life and death) there are a lot of things we never even saw period. inductive wireless charging mats? nope. NFC? nope. QR Codes? dying and all but gone from public view. the most popular phone is an iPhone, albeit a few generations behind. the younger set and children tend to have Samsung or some off-brand cheap Android phone. a few adults have S3's or S4's.
  16. starkraving

    starkraving Android Expert

    In a nutshell we'd love to blame it on hardware limitations and leave it at that. However we all know in technology its upgrade or perish...
    A phones viability commercially is about a fiscal quarter.(3 months or so) It'd be very difficult for the average consumer to justify shelling out $500 plus on the "next big thing" if their 90 day old phone was getting updated to the latest software. So that being said most tech junkies will get the latest hardware to have the latest software...which is the service providers and manufacturers intent. Luckily we have a wonderful development community that keep phones current and viable long past their intended shelf life.
  17. bjacks12

    bjacks12 Android Expert

    Yep. Or if you insist on having 3 year factory updates, switch to Apple and enjoy your phone slowing down and getting left behind in features despite getting updates. Ask any iPhone 4 user that's on iOS 7.
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