The problem has been a thorn in Google’s side for years. Updating to a new software requires the compatibility in hardware. Smartphone manufacturers generally make it back compatible, creating new devices that still run on an out of date version of the software that still works, and so reduces changes that have to be made.
While this might not seem like a huge deal – most apps and many features remain consistent for several updates, at least – it has posed some sticky issues with Google. Namely in the security department, where vulnerabilities can’t be patched properly. Leaving customers who have old software versions of Android, even on newer phones, open to identity theft and other attacks.
Ending Android Fragmentation (Gently)
Google can’t just demand that partners take this threat seriously. They also can’t risk alienating manufacturers by making harsh demands. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t pushing their agenda.
First, they are pointing out their new features as mentioned at the Google I/O conference. Their Google Assistant, virtual reality platform, new messaging system, and video voicemail feature are only available with the newest Android release. Since these are all pretty big changes for an operating system that has been a bit stale for the last couple of years, customers are going to be wanting access.
Then there is the lack of consistency. Having numerous Android versions out there make security a nightmare.
Apple’s Edge Over Android
What it comes down to is Apple having an edge in this regard. The iOS platform is self-updating across all devices, because there are fewer options. It doesn’t matter if you have an iPhone 6+ or an iPhone 4S, it is still an iPhone. The software can be made compatible even on older devices, and updates are in the hands of the user.
But with Android, you have an expanded platform that can run on any number of brands and devices. So what are they to do when their partners don’t play ball? Get mean.
Google has released a ranked list of manufacturers based on their willingness to update devices. While it doesn’t straight up say it, consumers can infer which devices are safer, and more modern.
Partners are already responding to this pressure. So we may finally have Android ready devices in time for the new version roll out.