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11/18/2013
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Android OS Updates: Don't Hold Your Breath

Google has started making KitKat, the latest Android update, available to some mobile devices. But if you've been promised an upgrade, prepare to wait.

Google Barge: 10 Informative Images
Google Barge: 10 Informative Images
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Last week, Google said it had begun seeding the Android 4.4 KitKat system update to the Nexus 7 tablet. So far, few Nexus 7 owners have received the new operating system. If you're wondering where the update is, keep in mind that Google doesn't operate like Apple. Android system updates are rolled out gradually.

For better or worse, Apple has set the standard for providing system-level updates to its iOS devices. When Apple says iOS X.x is ready, pretty much every iOS device owner can download and install it right away. This is why such a huge percentage of iOS devices are running the latest version of the operating system. iOS 7, for example, saw incredible uptake in late September and early October after it was made available -- the adoption rate was estimated at about 60 percent in the first month or so. Apple deserves kudos for this, because it sidesteps manufacturer and carrier approval processes and gets the newest software to users in a timely fashion.

Android just doesn't work that way.

Google announced the Nexus 5 smartphone a couple of weeks ago. It shipped with Android 4.4. KitKat, which is the newest version of Android available. Google promised to provide Android 4.4 KitKat to the Nexus 4 smartphone as well as to the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets within a few weeks. True to its word, the company said that KitKat is ready for the N7.

[ For more on Google's KitKat launch, see Google Pushes Android KitKat To Nexus Tablets. ]

I own both the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 tablets. So far, neither has received the update. When Google offered Android 4.3 Jelly Bean to the 2012 Nexus 7 tablet earlier this year, the update didn't hit my tablet for several weeks after Google made the announcement. For whatever reason, Android updates trickle out; they don't gush. The same scenario is likely to play out when Google makes KitKat available to the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10. In other words, a bit of patience is required if you want to install the update over the air.

There are options, however. Users with a little command line know-how can download the factory image of KitKat for the Nexus 7, which is available directly from Google, and install the new operating system manually. The Android 4.4 factory images for all the Nexus-branded devices (including the Nexus 4, 5, 7, and 10) can be found here. If you want directions on the best way to do it, you can find some here. (Please do this at your own risk, InformationWeek assumes no responsibility if you brick your device.)

Android 4.4 will hit some other devices soon. For example, Motorola said that it will push Android 4.4 to the Moto X handset within weeks. Keep in mind, however, that wireless network operators, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, will need to approve the update for their individual versions of the Moto X before the update is actually delivered to end users. This process can take from days to months.

Same goes for the HTC One. HTC committed to delivering KitKat to its One smartphone, but all the carriers will need to approve the software first. If you're using the Google Play Edition HTC One, KitKat will arrive a bit sooner. HTC submitted its build of KitKat for the Play Edition of the One to Google last week. Assuming the code is clean, Google can begin pushing KitKat out to the Play Edition One shortly. Google hasn't made any such announcements just yet.

The upshot: When the manufacturer says an update is on the way to your Android device, don't expect it to arrive immediately -- or even soon.

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samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 3:43:51 AM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
I appreciate apple on this for making latest available OS to all its end cutomer within defined duration, i recently realised that through some on www, Fairsearch, a lobbying organization supported by Microsoft, Oracle and others, filed a complaint regarding Android with the European Commission, alleging that its free of charge distribution model constituted anti-competitive predatory pricing.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 8:06:49 PM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
@Michael: Thanks, I've heard the same about Android in the enterprise although I have a feeling BYOD policies are going to be forced to stretch eventually to accommodate user demand given the consumer popularity of Android devices, just as they did the iPhone before it. The most common BYOD scenario will allow greater access to corporate apps for those devices that are deemed more corporate-friendly ( it seems the iPhone now falls into that category after years of being derided by IT.)

Mobile Device Management alone isn't enough--I think we're looking at a future of where Mobile Data Management is the priority, and the management of devices are just part of a broader solution for enterprise BYOD.

I look forward to hearing more from the community on this topic.

 
anon9219050630
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anon9219050630,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 8:01:16 PM
Tired of Verizon
As a Verizon Galaxy Nexus user, I'm pretty disappointed with my carrier for not even rolling out 4.3. My GN is in dire need of an update, with frequent sudden reboots, slowing speed and lag crippling the device. I'll be moving to T-Mobile in January in the hopes of a better model of Android updates.
mwagner919
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mwagner919,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:59:41 PM
Sidestep
Google has been sidestepping the need for carrier support by making key OS updates available as apps in the Play Store, such as the Keyboard. 
mwagner919
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mwagner919,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:59:04 PM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
I would expect that Android would be more agreeable to MDM solutions, because of Android's deeper support for multitasking. Is that the case?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 5:03:52 PM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
@snunyc, it affects enterprise deployments to some extent. I've spoken to several sources, both IT professionals and industry analysts, who say Android fragmentation is a legitimate reason to ban a lot of devices from corporate BYOD policies.

That said, I've seen more and more companies offer at least the high-end Android devices (e.g. Samsung Galaxy) as a choice for corporate deployment, often alongside iPhones and other options. I wouldn't say it's anything close to the norm, but I've heard more and more about companies giving employees a range of approved options from which to choose. It's a kind of middle ground between the IT hegemony of the past and the potential chaos of an all-out BYOD program. As someone who's only used iOS and Windows Phone smartphones, I can't say how satisfying Android is in an enterprise scenario, especially if corporate MDM clients are involved. But I'm sure others have experience with Android in the workplace though-- anyone want to chime in?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 4:50:10 PM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
@eric: yep, the inconvenience of waiting. So, it's worth it in your view to wait versus using a different smartphone OS?

why--what do you like best about Android over others?
kmarko
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kmarko,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 3:19:51 PM
Re: Why is this so?
This is the main reason I opt for unlocked Nexus devices straight from Google; no carrier standing between you and software updates. Although you still don't get them as fast as on iOS where Apple blasts it out to everyone at once (still waiting on KitKat for my Nexus 10).
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 2:07:50 PM
Re: Android OS updates make me hungry
Which inconvenience, waiting? If that's what you're referring to, then yeah, just wait it out.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 12:45:09 PM
Android OS updates make me hungry
Why do they always have to name their upgrades after my favorite snacks?

:)

OK, in all seriousness, this is one of the reasons I haven't yet tried an Android phone.

@Eric: Do the benefits outweigh this level of inconvenience? And what kind of havoc does this create for enterprieses re. their BYOD policies?

 
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