The Mobile OS Upgrade Over-Promise

googleio2011.gifWhile reading the news about the handset unity initiative at Google I/O, I thought back to what I wrote last January…

"I am questioning why consumers have come to expect upgrades. I can understand the expectation of updates for bug fixes but why do consumers presume there will be upgrades for significant OS updates? I think this has come about due to Apple upgrading iPhones and due to Google rapidly creating new versions of Android. In the case of Apple, this can only go on for so long; we can already see that older iPhones are already enshewing newer features (such as multi-tasking). There must come a time when old devices won’t be able to be upgraded. In the case of Google, there will be less frequent OS updates and those that occur will be mainly for new form factors. Both Google and Apple are in their early years and it’s only a matter of time before they succumb to ‘legacy drag’ that prevents phones from being upgraded." 

If you want to read further, I also wrote about the difficulties (Sony Ericsson had) re-building and shipping new versions for older devices. 

Google and partners are now looking for solutions to the problem or at least ways for partners to promise a level of service that defines how long people have to wait.

People might say that it’s only an Android problem. However, iOS also has upgrade problems. Only yesterday my wife tried to upgrade her iPhone and it went wrong and ended up in recovery mode. I tried what I could (with 3rd party tools) to reset the recovery mode but it was in a state that insisted on a full restore wiping out all the media on the phone. Even the restore wouldn’t work (strange error) on her PC so I ended up having to do it on another machine. Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy with ‘Apple losing her photos’. Yes, she should have backed things up – but who does? And why didn’t the upgrade initially suggest backing up the phone? 

I am increasing believing the real solution is to abandon major upgrades and only provide bug fixes. If a person buys a phone, maybe that’s what they should get for the life of the phone. Prior to iPhone and Android, it was mostly done this way. This would free up human effort to work on new rather than old software and prevent considerable consumer anguish. Consumers currently have expectations that aren’t viable. Maybe the real challenge is how to reverse those expectations?