The anguish of updates


Here we are, another year almost gone, and I am weeping into my Cheerios. Not literally, mind, but a proverbial stream of lost opportunities cascades to the ground, one for every unconsummated Android update.

Overall, this has been a relatively good year for OEMs: HTC brought Android 4.3 to the One in relatively good time; Samsung, too, initiated updates across its entire flagship ecosystem, including the Galaxy S3, S4 and Note 2. Sony gave the gift of Android 4.2.2 to the Xperia ZL after it shipped with 4.1.

But that’s it, really: the Sony Xperia Z is stuck on Android 4.1.2, waiting for a jump to 4.3. The LG G2 won’t see Android 4.4 until March, and there are a number of Sony devices, including the ZL, Z1 and Z Ultra, that are at the whim of the carrier.

The ultimate tragedy, though, and the reason those tears assaulted my cereal, is with Motorola. Shortly after the release of the Moto X in August, Motorola promised quick updates to its new flagship. It happened, too: Rogers pushed out an update to fix some of the device’s more frustrating issues, including an inconsistent camera. Then the Moto G arrived in Canada, before it even went on sale in the US, with Android 4.3 on board. We were happy; things were looking up.

No longer. Motorola worked with its US carriers to push Android 4.4 KitKat almost immediately after the Nexus 5 launched. Even regional providers like US Cellular and Republic Wireless issued the update. But in Canada? The Rogers version is stuck on Android 4.2.2, same as in August. As a result, customers are missing out on some of the phone’s best features, including greater control over the camera, better app performance, smoother Touchless Controls, not to mention the basic upgrades included in KitKat itself. You had one job.

And then there’s the Moto G, a phone that sells for around $200, with an Android experience as plain as they come; Motorola barely had to make any changes to AOSP to get this one out of the door. While unlocked and international variants of the Moto G began receiving KitKat last week, our version sold by Koodo and TELUS languishes on Android 4.3.

No word from either carrier, nor from Motorola Canada, as to the reason for the delay. Usually, delayed updates on Canadian variants, such as the incredibly long wait Galaxy Note users experienced before receiving Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, are due to issues with the US version. But in this case, Motorola is not to blame — they’ve done their due diligence. The blame lies squarely on the carriers, who have provided neither an estimate nor an indication as to when the issue will be resolved.

The story continues as it has for years: if you want Android updates, buy a Nexus device. Otherwise, expect little, and then expect even less.

  • Phil the Trainer

    Here here!

    • Matt Henderson


      Btw, LG is the worst offender. They’ve dropped the ball on LG Optimus G
      which was their flagship device. This mean that manufacturers will screw you regardless and all the promises from the PR team mean diddly squat.

      Never buying an LG phone again.

  • Lorne

    Nexus 5 in hand,rooted,unlocked,running CM 11 nightlies and a world of things to do on it daily….for a pretty good price..have not been happier in years.Merry Christmas.

    • The Guy

      Was the CM 11 nightlie hard to add to the Nexus 5? Did you do it yourself or have someone else do it and suppose if you mess up trying to do it yourself, you could brick your phone.

    • Lorne

      Can’t brick it…did it myself with this simple program…google “wugfresh nexus toolkit,download it,follow youtube instructions.

    • Balls O’Steele

      Wait for CM11 stable version. In the meantime use CM 10.2 stable

    • Super_Deluxe

      How stable is it for a daily driver. Thinking of jumping on board since I have so much free time for now.

    • Lorne

      I love it…zero issues….also,im not a geek and never done that kind of stuff and was really nervous starting the procedure,but man,it was simple..I love it.

    • Super_Deluxe

      I great I’m gonna give it a shot sometime this week. Thanks!

    • Henry

      I didn’t bother with CM although I did flash TWRP. Switch to the new ART runtime and this phone is insane fast, no need for a custom rom.

  • Cameron Jensen

    Carriers have no incentive to update phones. No update saves the carrier development costs and it doesn’t matter to the carriers either, because the original device purchase ensured a guaranteed customer for 2 years (in most cases), regardless of future updates. Unlocked or Nexus the only way to buy phones

    • ScooterinAB

      Yeah, but this is terrible business and is shooting yourself in the foot. If you p* off your customers, they are just going to switch carriers after their term is over. No company is that short sighted.

    • Sam Wiggans

      The carriers dictate how/when the phones can be updated, and manufacturers can’t change that. Smaller manufacturers like Motorola, LG and Sony can’t afford not to do what the carrier wants because if they argue then the carrier simply won’t carry their products.

      Companies such as Apple and Samsung have more control and carriers need to carry their products. Realistically, Samsung has no excuse for their updates taking so long, generally.

    • Alex Henry

      You’ve likely noticed how Google has pushed more and more of their core updates through the Play Store to help work around this. The fragmentation of Android over the past years has been a thorn in Google’s side for a long time and I am really liking how it’s progressed so far. If nothing, rollouts at least FEEL faster.

      How Google handles upgrades internationally does confuse me though. Maybe I’m just being whiny but you would think that Google would really put a lot more attention to getting their services across the boarder (Google Music Canada- COUGH COUGH). Motorola seems to be following suit in this “we’ll get to them sometime later” attitude towards us as well and that’s extremely disapointing. Yes, things may get better but I would really like to know what the route cause of this is.

  • Deli

    Or buy international devices. The updates are way quicker.

  • The Guy

    Buying a Nexus device does not get you updates. I have a Galaxy Nexus and I am still on 4.2.1. Will this phone ever get an update from the 4.2.1 ???

    • Walter

      Unless your going to modify your phone then no.

    • blobie (blob-ee)

      google commits to proving updates for a phone for two years. the galaxy nexus is over two years old and google said they will no longer provide updates for it. there are still unofficial updates out there. check xda.

    • selonmoi

      The Galaxy Nexus is a freak in this regard. For some reason that no one knows (why hasn’t any enterprising journalist asked?) Google let Samsung have control of the updates for non-US versions sold through carriers. And Samsung behaved as Samsung does.

      It’s exactly the same hardware, so if you really care about updates, you should replace your firmware with the Google-updated version and run 4.3.

      Not that that’s an excuse for the debacle, just a way out. At least Google seems to have learned its lesson and has not repeated the mistake.

    • Anaron

      Did you buy it from Google? If so, the update to Android 4.3 was released last summer (July 2013).

    • Henry

      That’s weird, my wife’s Gnex was updated to 4.3 while on Rogers earlier this year. What’s the deal there?

  • Balls O’Steele

    Quit whining and either root your phone or get an N5

  • Super_Deluxe

    After releasing a great phone, this was LGs chance to up their updates game but sadly they still haven’t realized that updates are essential. CM11 it is then.

  • TomsDisqusted

    If you buy an Android from a carrier, you should keep in mind that you might want to move to a 3rd party distribution (ROM’s) after a year. For many this means getting a friends’ help, though CM is working hard to make this an option for most users.

    And MobileSyrup should include a new scoring category in their Android reviews: support for 3rd party distributions. This would comprise the ease of bootloader unlocking, and the degree of vendor cooperation with the community (resulting in stable ROM’s that are suitable for average users).

    • thedosbox

      Not gonna happen unless you want to wait a month or two after the phone is released.

      Anyhow, In the case of the Rogers Moto X, the bootloader is unlockable via motorola’s site, and early builds of CM11 are available. However, the big issue is that you lose the signature feature – Active Display.

  • Handheld Addict

    “The story continues as it has for years: if you want Android updates, buy a Nexus device. Otherwise, expect little, and then expect even less.”

    But international unlocked versions of some phones like Samsung also get updates more often? I know that it’s not as fast as the Nexus devices, but still better chances then having to wait for the big 3 Canadian carriers to issue updates.

    So the REAL story should be “if you want Android updates, don’t buy Bell/Rogers/Telus branded phones”?

  • hinds

    This one is all on rogers no doubt! but did anyone expect anything different!? Nexus for updates that’s all!

  • thedosbox

    The only “bloat” on the Moto X were three shortcuts to Rogers apps – which took you to the play store. Unfortunately, I assume that Motorola’s contract with Rogers stipulates that Rogers must approve any updates before they get rolled out.

  • Ken

    Just got 4.3 update for Sony Experia ZL yesterday Dec 23/13

  • Trebor E

    Telus have’t release updates for the HTC One.What’s the delay?

  • realitycheck

    and even the nexus devices only gets official updates for max 2 years….

    • Unorthodox

      2 years is eternity in the phone’s life. Almost every OEM phone I had only seen 2 major updates tops, normally only 1 update – if Google happens to release a new version within 2-3 months after the phone starts to sell.

  • Eluder

    The real question is why does it really matter?
    I get if the phone is running something prior to 4.1.2, but anything there and up the changes aren’t that big for the majority of the user base. It only really matters to the geeks like us, and we’re likely on handsets that are running newer software already. I for one have a Nexus 5, but I also have an HTC One running 4.3, and the Moto X running 4.2.2, but again, the difference to the majority of customers is unnoticeable… It’s not like Apple that does an update once a year and adds a bunch of features (mostly catchup to Android). Google’s updates aren’t as massive to the end user every time because they update more often than Apple.

    • Barrie McLachlan

      In the case of the Moto x, it matters because there are numerous individual app updates in the play store available, but you need 4.4 to get and use them. Basically the carrier has screwed up the functionality of the device by not allowing the firmware update.

    • Eluder

      I get that, but are any of them so critical that you can’t be patient for the kit kat update? I don’t think so, but I’d like to hear of the examples of which of these app updates is a game changer.

    • Barrie McLachlan

      Active notification updates………motorola assist,…motorola camera…….motorola boot services …..motorola contextual services………motorola connect…….touchless controls, basically most of the applications which made the phone attractive enough to buy.
      Are they life threatening…no but I did pay for them

    • Eluder

      Yes, but the updates aren’t critical, it’s not like the services have now don’t work. The updates are improvements, but again, not so much so that your phone in its current state is broken. The Moto X is a fantastic phone, even on 4.2.2 and it will get kit kat early on in the new year I’m sure for Rogers. This is the problem with some folks, they complain that they’re not getting updates, but can’t pinpoint what about the update specifically they really want from it.

    • Barrie McLachlan

      I disagree, the individual app upgrades are required to fix problems with those apps that shipped with 4.2. for example I cannot get motorola assist to work when I am driving…..it apparently has been fixed but I cannot install the fix because it requires 4.4 this is also the case.
      Motorola connect does not work correctly due to Hangouts re-release but I can’t get that fixed neither
      I didn;t say the phone is broken, I said the functionality has been compromised.

    • Eluder

      Good, at least you know what you’re looking for. The majority of folks out there are clueless as to why they want an update. Since I haven’t used the moto x in a while, does connect not still work with the default SMS client, or was it completely replaced by hangouts?

    • Barrie McLachlan

      Connect now only works with hangouts……or supposed to with the new update.
      Motorola has done a great job of putting some of the smaller updates on the play store which allows them to upgrade without requiring intervention by the carrier…….but major firmware is still an issue and as we all know the carriers are very slow at this even when there is no bloatware.
      Anyway, it was nice chatting with you, have a great Xmas and holiday season

  • jingle bells

    Motorola has an awful Canadian support system. Are you really surprised? Every single Moto Canada device has lacked support or updates.

    • Barrie McLachlan

      No I am not really surprised, just disappointed, I expected better especially since Motorola released the 4.4 updates so quickly. I am beginning to understand why the Government runs ads blasting the telecom companies in this country. They have forgotten how to service customers, they act just like a Monopoly

    • Clinton Hallahan

      My discussions with Rogers produced the tidbit that Moto hasn’t even submitted 4.4 to them for testing on the Moto X. Sad.

  • Omineca

    Never mentioned in these update complaint stories is security. How long can android go without updates and remain secure? My linux distribution issues security updates fairly frequently. The support for my android tablet (a Sony Tablet S1) is a joke. It received its last update in September 2012, a year after it was released. Microsoft would never get away with that kind of support. It was my first and last android purchase.

  • WarRaven

    Nexi ftw.

  • WarRaven

    To add, yes it’s the carriers that delay it all.
    To the point, people move on to a new phone before updates are released.
    My opinion is that OEM should sue the carriers to release on a calendar schedule date.
    Sales here do not threaten OEM, but for customer opinion it’ll matter down the road if someones phone is left behind a long time.

  • Lyndon Boychuk

    Anyone here old enough to remember the good old days when we bought something for what it could do right then and there? Now it’s “Oh man…I bought a Toyota but now I want it to magically turn into a Lexus, and if Toyota doesn’t do anything about this I’m gonna be pissed!!!”

    • thisiscjay

      Granted, but we definitely do not live in an age dominated by the “feature phone” any longer.

  • mike

    Received the KitKat 4.4.2 update for the MotoG on Telus/Koodo today!

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