Why your Android device has not been updated

Posted by Emmanuel Olalere

The one evil that has always been associated with Android has always been fragmentation. Though the same fragmentation to some extent is what has given Android the foothold that it has today, it most times frustrate end users.

Almost all Android manufacturers have a track record for slow update to the latest Android version with some even denying flagship devices that have the capacity to run the latest OS the update. A very popular example is Samsung that denied the original Galaxy S an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice cream Sandwich) all for the fact that it cannot run their skin (Touchwiz) on top of Android 4.0. Another example is Sony with the exemption of the Xperia Play from the upgrade bandwagon.

Android being an open source software is free for practically anybody to pickup and customize leading to several devices with varying screen sizes, processors and memory space.

Every manufacturer wants differentiation so when they take the code, they customize it with their own proprietary skin and load custom apps onto it.

As such, when the latest version of Android is released, they first have to take the code line by line and then customize it to whatever skin that they have on the device. Google phones/The Nexus series are always the first to get updates because they run a pure/un-skinned version of Android so they have no update delays.

As an example, consider that a manufacturer like Samsung that has 6 variants of the Galaxy S2. First they have to customize Android to the different variants and then implement whatever defining features that they originally shipped with the device.

By the time that they are through with fixing bugs and making sure that everything works properly, 6 months may have passed and the end-user will be angry at the fact that the phone hasn’t received the update yet. That is an example of what goes on behind the scenes.

Highlighted below are short points for why I think that your shiny device isn’t running the latest version of Android.

1. Custom Skins. This is part of what I explained above.
2. Long development cycle/Laziness of manufacturer. The manufacturer of your device might simply just have decided its not worth it to update your device.
3. Lack of RAM/hardware incapability. Your device may lack the hardware to run the updated OS.
4. Low-end device/Not a flagship product. If your device is not a flagship, it isn’t likely on the manufacturer’s priority list.


  1. So aside from the laziness on the part of Samsung and possibly the custom skin issue which they were said to have fixed, what other things could possibly be delaying the ICS update for the Samsung Galaxy Note?

  2. Nice viewpoints there.

    Read somewhere that the quantum of devices running Android ICS is now up~ to above 10%’. Slow, but steady rollout to devices.

    For those not fortunate to get the ICS update, going the third party route is a viable strategy.

    For instance, there is an app that implements the new “eyeTracking_Screen On” feature.

    Many other features of ICS have been implemented as third-party apps.

    I am quick to admit this is not a route for everybody.

    This, of course leads to the question of whether an OS update is preferable to the third-party app route ~ given the irreversibility of a firmware update vs the reversibility of an app update.

    ICS update has been available for my Sony Xperia Pro, but I haven’t bothered to upgrade, preferring the “third-party app route”

  3. @deoladoctor:

    So aside from the laziness on the part of Samsung and possibly the custom skin issue which they were said to have fixed, what other things could possibly be delaying the ICS update for the Samsung Galaxy Note?

    One I can think of is so that it does not affect the sale of the newly released Galaxy SIII. Some people may decide to forgo the purchase of the SIII and wait instead Galaxy Note 2 to upgrade. The update may come when Note 2 is about to be released with Android 4.1 so people could still have a reason to upgrade to Galaxy Note 2.

    Business strategy. Good for them, bad for you. But at least you have your freedom.

  4. @John Onwuegbu:

    And the chilling news that just got announced, Adobe Flash support will be lacking in this latest version, Android 4.1, how sad?

    HTML 5 will soon swing into full gear and there would be very little to miss about Adobe Flash and so much to be thankful for.

  5. @deoladoctor
    “what other things
    could possibly be delaying the ICS
    update for the Samsung Galaxy
    Note ?”
    You don’t have to wait for an OTA update. Just get your odin and flash any of the European N7000 firmware from Sam firmware.com. They are official ICS stock firmwares from Samsung. My brother has been running official ICS on galaxy Note for months now.

  6. @belushi,

    I know that. I even have the Odin and the British firmware on my laptop ready to go but had to hold the brakes and wonder if it is worth the trouble after a friend’s SG II crashed due to ICS upgrade via same route.

  7. Yes o, I am also being wary about the unofficial route to ICS because of the hidden dangers. As a Galaxy Note owner, I have accepted my fate that I may never taste Ice-Cream; I will be munching my Gingerbread contentedly and wait for Galaxy Note 2 for the serving of Jelly Bean delicacy. Meanwhile, the option of going for the new S3 is out of the question for me; I have handled the phone at Ikeja City Mall Samsung Store but found its screen too small for comfort. Thus my reflexes are already adapted to the Note screen and can only move up to future iterations of the Note, not anything less (no matter how more specs-powerful). That’s where the danger is for anyone who uses or wants a Galaxy Note: you can’t go back to any other device. What it means, for me, is that even if future Galaxy Notes cost a fortune, I have to cough out the money for them all the same. No looking back! It’s better not to have gone the way of GALAXY NOTE than getting on the plough and looking back.

  8. @deoladoctor and @biyi
    It’s ok to have cold feet. I did my first time. However, using odin to flash stock firmwares is the easiest thing to do. Easier than rooting your smartphone in fact. You run the odin, place your tar file (and any other one that accompanied your download) into the right positions and you click just one button. The rest is done for our automatically. In another 2mins your Note is running brand new ICS stock firmware. That’s all.
    One good thing about android devices is they hardly brick out on you. Even if you experienced crash due to a bad flash, you can always re-run it.
    I will be upgrading to the Note in a few weeks from my s2. A gift though. However, I have been saving up for the Note 2 as well whenever it shows up. The only other device that might be getting my attention to on then is the windows phone 8.

  9. I think the thing missing here is that the “variants” of a phone like the SGS2 exist in some markets more than others, like North America. In Europe you won’t often find that many variants.

    What you will find is that after Samsung has customised the code, the mobile phone network will also do the same, adding their bloatware to the manufacturer changes. So in the end it’s left to the network to push the update to phones. Therein lies the problem – it has to go through too many hands before it gets to the user.

    With all the talk of fragmentation, most people are simply not that fixated with updates, because in the end it becomes a waiting game.

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