Putting OEMs On The Naughty Step Won’t Fix Android Updates
If you believe the rumours, Google is planning on playing Santa with Android OEMs, but not in a ho-ho-ho way. The creation of a list, telling buyers whether a particular OEM has been bad or good is designed to speed up the delivery of updates to devices.
That seems like a particularly ham-fisted way of trying to get OEMs to fix a problem that isn’t really theirs.
Google has rushed out Android version updates at a breath-taking speed, with no concern for OEMs who need to handle updates on old phones whilst also planning new ones. Given that most of these Android OEMs aren’t making money anyway, it’s a problem they’re probably very keen to make go away.
Google needs to take to steps to make things easier: slow the pace of its updates and extricate security updates from the OEM / carrier delay cycle.
The first should be obvious. At I/O recently Google went all in on Android 7. At the same time the current Android 6 version had achieved just 7% market penetration. Slowing the updates down removes some of the perception that Android phones are perpetually out of date.
The second will almost certainly be necessary to see off the concerns of government bodies, wary of the risks that out of date Android phones expose their owners to. By pushing these updates out through the Play Store, rather than the OEM process, Google can at least offer customers a reasonable measure of security.
Apple, and to a lesser extent Microsoft, can offer a much quicker, more complete update process, which allows them to iterate through versions much more quickly. In the case of Windows 10 that’s proven to be as quickly as Microsoft’s test process can allow.
Google doesn’t have the same end to end ownership nor the relationships to allow it to do the same. As a result it must slow the rate of change for the benefit of all concerned.