Samsung Must Come Clean on Android Updates


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Simmering resentment over Samsung not issuing upgrades for its Android phones is turning into rage.
This is really getting out of hand. A user revolt is starting among the tech blogs and on Twitter about Samsung's absolutely shameful lack of communication on updating its U.S. Galaxy S phones (including the Captivate, Epic, Fascinate, Mesmerize and Vibrant) to Android 2.2.

The simmering resentment came to a boil this week thanks to a conspiracy theory promulgated by an unnamed T-Mobile employee that Samsung is purposefully avoiding upgrading the phones so they can sell more of their next-generation phones. This story has absolutely zero credibility, but it's been widely cited just because people are so confused and annoyed. I'm not going to link to it.
When the spectacularly successful Galaxy S phones first came out with Android 2.1, Samsung said they would be promptly updated with 2.2, but six months later (for some of them), there's still no 2.2 to be found. This isn't just about bragging rights; Android 2.2 is much faster than Android 2.1, so the upgrade should bring significant benefit to consumers.
It's obviously possible to upgrade a Galaxy S. My personal phone right now is a generic European Galaxy S which I upgraded to 2.2, and then to 2.2.1 using official Samsung firmware. It's only the American models which are left out in the cold.
It's also obviously possible to upgrade a U.S. Android phone. Motorola's phones on Verizon have gotten upgrades; ditto for HTC phones on multiple carriers. So adding that carrier bloatware clearly isn't an impassable roadblock for upgrades.
I'm not letting Google completely off the hook. Google's utterly laissez-faire attitude towards updates to Android phones has meant there seems to be no sense of urgency in the industry to get phones onto the latest version. For instance, I only saw one phone at CES, Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc, running the latest version 2.3 of Android.
The main problem here is Samsung's silence. Rather than engaging with the tech world, the company continues to spin out a vague statement about how "Samsung is working to make the Android 2.2/Froyo upgrade available to all U.S. Galaxy S phone owners as soon as possible." That's what they've been saying for months.
You could argue that the average consumer doesn't know or care what version of Android they're running. That's true. But opinion leaders—the type of people who recommend phones to others—do. Opinion leaders have pretty much no influence on whether people will buy Apple products, but they have influence over whether their friends and family will go with a Motorola or a Samsung for their Android phone.
Since they promised the upgrades in the first place, Samsung needs to take a more consumer-friendly stance. If they're not going to release updates this week, send out an email. Make a statement. Explain why. It may be that the software updates aren't a big priority for Samsung, in which case the company deserves to take some heat. It may be that the carriers are holding things up. In any case, if we don't hear anything from Samsung, we'll all assume the worst—and the company will lose some trust from critical opinion leaders.