Why your smartphone is still waiting for Android's Ice Cream Sandwich update

A new version of Google's Android software has been released, but why will it take so long to come to your phone?

Android's Ice Cream Sandwich update: a case of playing the waiting game

Android's Ice Cream Sandwich update: a case of playing the waiting game

A new version of Google's Android software has been released, but when will your Android phone get it, and why does it take so long? We explain the process.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus review
Top rated Android phones: January 2012

In October last year, Google unveiled its latest Android software, dubbed 4.0 and better known by it's codename "Ice Cream Sandwich". In case you didn't know, Google likes to call each major revision of Android after a delicious desert. Previous versions have been called Honeycomb, Gingerbread, Froyo (short for Frozen Yogurt), Eclair, Cupcake and Donut.

The latest software version, Ice Cream Sandwich, is widely regarded as Google's best yet. It adds a number of new features (yes, like every software update does) but it completely transforms the look and feel of the user interface, which in my opinion is the best aspect of the update. We've used Ice Cream Sandwich extensively on two devices — the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, where is the software is included out of the box, and the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet, where it is available as an over-the-air update. On both devices, the software represents a significant leap forward over previous versions.

Galaxy Nexus Samsung's Galaxy Nexus was the first Android device to ship with Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box.

The problem with Android updates, however, is that it means an agonising wait for both device manufacturers and carriers to push out the update to smartphones that are already on the market. Take a HTC phone sold by Telstra, for example. HTC manufacturers the phone, but the software is provided by Google and the phone runs on the Telstra network. Any software update needs to be tested by HTC first to ensure compatibility with its hardware. HTC will then release the update to the carriers (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) where each will check and test the software to ensure all works well. Only then can the update be released to consumers. If you own a Samsung Galaxy S II on Optus, for example, you might receive the latest software update earlier or later than somebody with the same phone on the Vodafone network.

The whole update process is fragmented. It is long and tiring due to the multiple parties that need to come to the table. There are clearly too many steps involved for an Android update to go through before it can be officially released. Some older Android phones may not even receive the update: manufacturers update each model on a case by case basis and whether or not a phone will receive the latest update depends on its technical capabilities and its stage in the product life cycle.

ASUS Transformer Prime The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is one of the first devices to receive the Ice Cream Sandwich update, but most others are still waiting

Apple has none of these issues with the iPhone because a) it produces both the hardware and the software for the iPhone, and b) because all software versions are the same regardless of carrier. On Android phones, carriers often slightly alter the software to include specific apps or settings. As an example, a Telstra Android phone will usually come pre-loaded with apps to access the telco's services like Mobile Foxtel. Apple doesn't allow this software tweaking on the iPhone so it can push out updates simultaneously, regardless of carrier.

In the coming days, we'll let you know which Android phones have been promised the Ice Cream Sandwich update from all the big manufacturers. We'll also try to provide a rough time frame as to when your phone can expect to receive the update.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

10 Comments

Carol

1

Why would Google make an OS that doesn't work with so many phones and needs months of "testing" even after it's complete?

Why would device manufacturers make a device that doesn't work Android and needs months of "testing" even after it's complete?

justin

2

@carol. It's not Google's fault. If the manufacturers didn't insist on applying their own skins we wouldn't have this problem. My advice... buy yjr galaxy Nexus or any other pure Google Android phonecand and you won't have this problem.

Justin

3

@carol. It's not Google's fault. If the manufacturers didn't insist on applying their own skins we wouldn't have this problem. My advice... buy yjr galaxy Nexus or any other pure Google Android phonecand and you won't have this problem.

Ross Catanzariti

Staff

4

Hi Justin,

The Galaxy Nexus is not immune to this problem either, unfortunately. Some versions are updated directly by Google but others have to go through the carriers just like any other Android phone.

ActiveTouch

5

I like this post..you might receive the latest software update earlier or later than somebody with the same phone on the Vodafone network.read more takeallonline dot com.

Laz

6

What I hate is I buy a phone outright (HTC Incredible S) say from allphones and slip in my prepaid optus sim card. And the next thing you know optus has claimed the phone as their own and uploaded all their useless apps which you cannot uninstall. (RE: optus Call buddy).

If I own the phone outright shouldn't I get a say on what crapy apps get uploaded to the phone.

Mark

7

This is bloody wtrong! My phone, my money but Optus have commandeered it with their crappy Call Buddy, Weather and other apps I dont want and cant uninstall. I went to the Optus site and its FAQ tell you hw to uninstall Call Buddy - probem is - you cant access the Uninstall or the Launch by Default - Optus have blocked them. Id encourage everyone to make noise about this. I rang Optus and Consumer Affairs - lets all do that!

Nexus S

8

All these Vendor/Carrier skins are designed to send useage info and trickle drain your data with useless app load. Your phones will be faster with a vanilla Android OS. Why don't you all just delete the modified OS from your phones (back up to an external disk) and load a fresh copy of Android. If there are any warranty issues, just restore the original skinned version.

Howard

9

I have a Galaxy Note. I bought it off ebay. I actually thought I was buying from an Australian Company ut it turns out it is from Hong Kong. I am using it with my Vodafone sim. All is ok. I found that I cannot register the phone with Samsung Australia. That's not a real problem at the moment but I am worried that when Vodafone releases Ice Cream Sandwich I will not be able to install it on my phone.
What are your views?

FC360

10

Myproblem with this article is its not entirely correct or rather misses something. what about all those tablets running android that aren't tied down to a network? I have a Samsung galaxy 10.1 and it tookthem ages to release 3.2 on it and will probably take just as long with 4.x too. The delay in getting the update has nothing to do a network as I have a wifi only tablet so going by this article it should have received a update by now as all it has to do is pass the manufacturer, in this case Samsung. I would say updates have less to do with the networks and more to do with the manufacturer. My android phone took ages to update and that wasnt due to the network it was due to the manufacturer, when they did finally release the update it wasavaiable from the network within a couple of days. I know this because they kept posting on facebook, twitter and their web forums.

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