When an Android upgrade goes nowhere but down

You get the sense that Motorola sympathizes with customers suffering from bad upgrades, especially after reading the phone maker’s terse blog statement.

Never has so much been ruined by pressing the Menu button. But that’s what I did. I once had two friends who were fairly happy with their Droid X Android phones. But after I showed them how to grab an official, over-the-air upgrade to Android 2.3, or “Gingerbread,” they were much less happy with their phones, with Android in general, and almost certainly with me.

Bugs, quirks, and battery drain are common experiences among those who upgrade their phones through unofficial methods (“rooting” and then “flashing” software like CyanogenMod on their phones). This, however, was an official upgrade to Android 2.3: built at its core by Google, reviewed by Motorola, tested by Verizon, and sent out, supposedly after serious testing. Immediately after rebooting their phones, apps that had been working fine for months would crash upon opening, or report themselves as “not installed” when summoned through the recent apps list (by holding down the Home button). The moments in switching between apps and launching actions felt notably longer, and the lag on the camera activation ruined quite a few photo moments. It felt, in other words, like a computer that had been upgraded from Windows ME to XP to Vista to 7, without ever getting a clean wipe.

You get the sense that Motorola knows how this felt for their customers, especially after reading the phone maker’s somewhat terse blog statement. Here’s the crux of what they said about their decision process on upgrading their phones:

You may be wondering why all devices aren’t being upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Here’s the deal. We work very closely with Google and cell phone carriers for every software update. And, obviously we want the new release to improve our devices. If we determine that can’t be done—well then, we’re not able to upgrade that particular device.

On the one hand, it’s something like Exhibit J in the case that the “Google Update Alliance” is dead. But, on the other hand, the one that you hold your phone with, good for Motorola, assuming they’re serious about their intent. It would be easy, of course, for a manufacturer to stick to the short view of the market, expecting custoemrs to buy a new device every two years or sooner and assuming every Google upgrade is unnecessary. But Motorola is device-by-device specific in what they’ll be upgrading, and what stage those upgrades are in. That kind of straightforward upgrade information is hard to come by with other manufacturers. (On a related note, HTC actually made a phone named “Status”? Seriously?)

If you needed more proof that Google was looking to have a stronger hand in the initial release of devices for each new Android version (as noted in last week’s Rumor Roundup), consider that now one of their most stalwart partners are openly noting that their software upgrades are not upgrades, and that it’s just that one partner who’s being vocal about it. Something’s gotta give.

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
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