Why are most Android phones still shipping with Froyo?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: May 31, 2011

Back in December, Google showed off and released the latest version of their phone-based platform. Gingerbread, or Android 2.3, brought several changes like NFC support, an interface overhaul, better power and process management and several other overall performance improvements. But the showcase in December was just a ploy to arouse the inner nerds in us all. Anyone who knows how Android operates when it comes to firmware upgrades knows that the process is far from quick and painless.

Based on previous accounts, we figured it would be several months before any phones started to receive their Gingerbread updates. The upgrade from Eclair to Froyo kick-started with the EVO just three months after Froyo was announced back in May of 2010. That said, nobody thought it would take half a year for Gingerbread updates to start rolling out. Rumors of the 2.3 update heading out to HTC, Samsung and Motorola phones have all circled the web a few times now, but nothing has actually happened on a large scale yet.

Android version 2.3 is nearly six months old and very few phones have been graced with the holiday treat. The only phones that officially have Gingerbread at the moment (save for the Nexus One) are phones that released with 2.3 like the Nexus S and the Xperia Arc – all of which came with little to no changes to stock Android. On top of that, phones are still being released with Froyo. It is rumored that the Droid 3, among other upcoming phones, will initially be equipped with Froyo instead of Gingerbread.

Google is allegedly taking control of the situation and has claimed to be battling both fragmentation and the lackluster update process. They are supposedly minimizing and monitoring every change that manufacturers make to their Android skins and will be enforcing much quicker updates from manufacturers across the board.

In theory, all of this sounds great. But why are new phones – that are being released over six months after the latest firmware announcement – still shipping with old software? It should be a priority to both the manufacturers and Google to have these phones ship with the latest firmware. Instead, we are brought new hardware with outdated software, forced to wait months for a firmware update to bring the phone up to speed. By that time, a new software is likely to be around the corner – and this whole process beings again.

Truth is, Google needs to enforce some type of policy that manufacturers have to agree to; it should require every newly released phone to be running Google's most current software. Realistically, manufacturers will need several weeks or months to have the new software working smoothly, so there should obviously be some leeway. But two to three months should be ample time for manufacturers to have most of the kinks worked out. And let's be honest, even after they take six months to a year to push these updates out, they will still be as bug-ridden as usual.

The next Google phone – expected to be running the upcoming version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich – is rumored to launch sometime before the year is up. Considering we are approaching the midway point of 2011 and no major roll-outs of Gingerbread have started, we are probably going to be dealing with a serious backlog of Android updates.

They say fragmentation is waning and turning to a non-issue. Just wait until the majority of Android users are stuck on firmware that is two versions old, with no word or foresight of any update. Let's see if users think it is a non-issue then. I don't know about you, but the Nexus line is looking better and better with every passing moment.