Will Samsung's track record with Android updates affect the adoption of the Droid Stealth?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: March 21, 2011

Back at CES, we were introduced to several phones capable of accessing Verizon's LTE network that will be heading to shelves during the first half of this year. The ThunderBolt was the first to make it to the market and it looks like the unnamed Samsung LTE device from CES might be the next. Now referred to as the Droid Stealth or Charge, it comes with a decent list of specifications: a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and Android version 2.2.

Specifications alone would lead to the assumption that the device should fare pretty well on and after its rumored April 7th release date. However, I feel the Stealth will face some major hurdles; the largest being Samsung's recent history with their Galaxy S line and  firmware updates.

There is no doubt that Samsung's flagship Galaxy S series has been a popular line of phones all around the globe. Evidenced by the 10 million Galaxy S phones sold worldwide, it's safe to say that Samsung struck gold. Unfortunately, that gold mine led them to a stock pile of dissatisfied customers and hate mail. It wasn't that Galaxy S owners were unhappy with their devices. Most Samsung owners I've ever known seem to be faithful and rather pleased with their phones.

The problem is, Samsung publicly announced in October via press release that stated “all operator versions of the software to be fully tested and downloadable by the end of November.” This was directly talking about every device within the Galaxy S series. Needless to say, this didn't happen and Samsung pushed their promise of Froyo to all Galaxy S devices back to the end of 2010. We're now a third of the way through March 2011 and some Galaxy S devices here in the US still have yet to receive their Froyo updates.

An obvious way for buyers to avoid a possible recurrence of the same problem is to steer clear of Samsung and to stick with a manufacturer that has a better reputation for speedy firmware upgrades. I fear many buyers will take this route. A report back in January revealed that HTC, topping the list, upgraded 50% of eligible devices to Froyo in 2010 while Motorola upgraded 15.4% and Samsung upgraded 11.1%. It only gets worse from there as Sony, LG, and Dell upgraded 0% of their eligible devices.

Samsung's poor firmware upgrade history isn't the only obstacle that the Stealth will face though. It may share many specifications with the ThunderBolt, but I fear this will only cause people to overlook it. HTC has a reputation for extremely high-quality hardware and can usually get away with middle-of-the-road specs, while Samsung tends to primarily use plastic and weak feeling chassis. Also, HTC's Sense UI tends to be a pretty big selling point for their devices where TouchWiz is usually a hit or miss with customers. Let's not forget about the Droid Bionic either. It's coming to market with a 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor, a qHD display, and a 1930mAh battery, three things that might make us forget all about Sammy's upcoming device.

Our polls are far from fact, but they usually offer pretty accurate foresight. After CES, we ran a poll asking which LTE Android device interested you guys the most. Out of the four Android devices listed, the Stealth ranked third with a mere 129 votes versus the Bionic's 513 votes and the ThunderBolt's 375. The LG Revolution apparently has a steep hill to climb as well with only 58 votes.

I don't want to say the Stealth is DOA, but this is not going to be a stroll in the park for Samsung as they're still licking their wounds from the Froyo debacle. What do you guys and gals think? Will the Droid Stealth/Charge surprise us all and share a pedestal with the ThunderBolt and Bionic? Or will it fall victim to fear-ridden customers who want speedy firmware upgrades?

Products mentioned