Samsung's Galaxy stuck in history
This isn't the Android I was looking for
Comment It seems no one will be updating the Galaxy to Android 2, annoying customers whose purchase decision was based on what it would do rather than what it could do.
The Galaxy was launched in September and has been updated a couple of times since, but it seems that the handset won't be getting an upgrade to Android version 2 despite the new OS coming less than two months later. This is a decision that some customers see as a betrayal of the Android promise.
Version 2 of Google's Android OS provides an enhanced user interface as well as support for Microsoft Exchange and a better web browser. More critically the new version includes tweaks which make the OS run faster and smoother.
O2 support appeared to provide confirmation of the decision with an e-mail sent to a customer that laid the blame firmly at the feet of Samsung's South Korean HQ:
"Samsung HQ are currently not supporting a migration path to upgrade Galaxy to Android 2.0. Samsung UK continue to push for this but confidence on the change is low as Samsung HQ will be launching new devices on Android 2.0 in Q1."
O2 later told us that this e-mail shouldn't have been sent, and that we'd have to take the issue up with Samsung. Samsung promised to get back to us before Christmas but is probably hoping the issue will disappear over time.
The G1, T-Mobile's foray into Android, can run Android 2, though it's hardly equipped for the task as one user demonstrated. Both devices have ARM-based Qualcomm processors running at 528MHz, so getting Android 2 to run on a Galaxy might be a technical challenge, but it's one that Samsung should be more than capable of managing if it wanted to.
But why should Samsung devote resources towards porting and testing Android 2 on a handset it's already launched?
Samsung isn't going to get any more money out of those customers, and the company wouldn't want punters confused by old handsets running new software so there's no real incentive to update.
But some customers bought a Galaxy on the basis that they'd be able to run any version of Android, more akin to the desktop PC model than a mobile phone: "That[']s the whole point of buying this phone, the android system evolves so it doesn[']t date", as one disgruntled customer puts it.
And this seems to be part of an ongoing trend for early-adopters to buy kit on the basis of what it might be able to do in the future, rather than what it can do today. Over at Hard Reg they've been looking at the latest DAB radio and concluded that a firmware update will be necessary before it's usable - so the manufacturer seems to be asking customers to buy now and hope for the best.
Earlier this month Americans who'd got their hands on a Motorola Droid got an update adding vital functionality as well as fixing bugs, which begs the question - would they have bought those handsets if it wasn't for the belief that it would improve over time?
Manufacturers have no obligation to issue updates, the only motivation to do so depends on maintenance of their reputation and if they don't sell a lot then any damage will be minimal (despite Facebook protests and on-line petitions).
Perhaps one day we'll enter into a rental agreement with our hardware suppliers, or get used to Apple's policy of paying $10 per update*, but until then we're dependent on the largess of the manufacturers who may not be as generous as we'd like. ®
* On the iPod Touch - iPhone users are still getting their updates for free, though we don't know for how long.