Why your Android phone probably isn't upgrading to 4.0

None of the many parties who make your Android phone want to shoulder an upgrade. So none of them do.


If you pick up a cheap Android phone or tablet--from a little-known overseas manufacturer, for example, or maybe as the free option on a contract--you probably expect to be out of luck when it comes to upgrading your phone to the latest version of Google’s smartphone operating system. But what if you bought a version of the most popular Android smartphone of 2010, the Samsung Galaxy S? Or the first Android tablet to really make a splash, the Galaxy Tab? Wouldn’t you kind of expect that a phone made by a leading Android partner, picked up by every major international carrier, and owned by more than 30 million people worldwide would make a software upgrade worth Samsung’s time and effort.

Obviously, you, the person who thinks companies want to engender a sense of trust, support, and care for buyers of $200-and-up devices with long-term contracts have it all wrong. Samsung will not upgrade the Galaxy S or Tab to Android 4.0, or “Ice Cream Sandwich.” The stated reason, translated from a Samsung statement on a Korean forum, is that the devices lack both storage and application memory (ROM and RAM) to support a 4.0 upgrade that includes Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, carrier-specific applications, and, for some models, mobile television streaming and video calling. As tech site The Verge points out, that’s a very specific hedge. The Galaxy S has nearly the same internal hardware as the Nexus S, a phone which is receiving over-the-air updates to Android 4.0 right now. But Samsung wants to give customers its own customized and redesigned version of Android (or “skin”), TouchWiz, and wants to deliver the licensed apps that Verizon, Sprint, and all the others pack onto their phones.

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