When Android upgrades go bad, users are left in the lurch [Infographic]

by Avinash Saxena
There’ve been complaints for a few months on the Web about problems encountered by users when upgrading their Android smartphones from the “Eclair” 2.1 version to the “Froyo” 2.2 version, particularly involving Samsung and Sprint. Of course, both brands are popular Android sales channels, so this could simply reflect market share. Additionally, a percentage of the population always has upgrade problems, no matter what the operating system or device is — the vagaries of hardware, OS, and applications mean unexpected gotchas sometimes surface.

But what the steady drumbeat of complaints shows is the flawed nature of how Google handles its Android updates. Given that Google updates its mobile OS about twice a year (coming soon isAndroid “Gingerbread” 2.3, already in Google’s own smartphone), the problem will only worsen as more people buy Android smartphones.

What’s happening today is that each carrier and device maker has to work out when to issue an upgrade for each model, which means that upgrades can happen six months after Google releases a new Android version — or never. Often, the device makers don’t really understand the OS well enough to know that something they (or, more often, the firm they subcontracted to) did to customize their device or the Android UI will break under the new OS, so there’s greater risk of user problems surfacing with an upgrade.

Sometimes, users get alerted to an Android upgrade (presumably via Google), only to discover that the upgrade hadn’t been tested by the device maker or the carrier. When that upgrade breaks, the device maker and carrier blame Google, which has no human beings to provide support, just email systems that spew back pointless replies. Users are bounced among the three parties, none of which takes the responsibility.

The result: Customers are left in the lurch, often forced to restore their devices to the factory condition — and lose all the apps, music, and so on they loaded into them. The Android Market does track what a user bought, so you can re-download paid apps at no charge. But the free apps aren’t saved, and all your other settings are gone.

When Android upgrades go bad, users are left in the lurch

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