Does it really matter if you're one version behind?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| July 10, 2012

Fragmentation. Say it in your head with a bit of emphasis. I think that’s how you’re supposed to say it, anyway. After all, it’s a scary word, right? Scary words are supposed to be said with emphasis so they can scare people around you. And for someone trying to talk another person out of buying an Android phone, fragmentation is indeed a word that could make that happen. If someone tried to put enough of a spin on how evil fragmentation "really" is, there's no telling the damage he or she could do!

But, come on, is it really that bad?

I’m sitting here, only days after succumbing back into the Android fold, and wondering about fragmentation. Actually, it started last night when I was talking to a friend of mine who owns a Motorola DROID RAZR. He was asking me what Google Now is, and why he should want it. I explained what it is, and what it does, and after it was all said and done, the reply was kind of eye opening:

“I can wait.”

He can wait. What a crazy idea, right? Actually waiting for something, instead of pounding his hands against his chest and demanding that Google, or Motorola or Verizon issue him the update right now, and give him his Google Now . . . Right now. Waiting for a piece of software is the key to peace, folks. I’m sure of it.

The Galaxy S III is indeed an impressive phone, but it’s launching on Verizon’s network in two days (not counting you folks out there who pre-ordered, because I’m jealous) with outdated software. It hasn’t been that long that Google unveiled Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but obviously the Verizon-branded version –or even the US Cellular version, for that matter—aren’t going to be pre-loaded with the latest version of Android. They’re launching as brand new smartphones for their respective carriers with software that is, for all intents and purposes, old and not current.

But it isn’t the end of the world. As we’ve seen with the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for the DROID RAZR and RAZR MAXX (which my friend received on the very day that Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was announced! I-r-o-n-y!), being a full version behind the latest and greatest isn’t a terrible thing. In fact, depending on your phone, it may not even be worth noticing. Yes, Google Now is great and the company’s Project Butter is probably the greatest idea they’ve ever had (in a little while, at least), but it is worth waiting for.

Waiting isn’t the end of the world. Not by a longshot. It is hard to hear the Internet cry out that you’re running an old version of your favorite operating system, no doubt about that. And it is hard to see some people you may know using a phone that is running the newest version of your favorite OS while you’re stuck on the old version, but that’s just the way things go. There are ways around it, and if you’re really that needy that you have to have the newest and greatest piece of software on your phone –right after launch—then go ahead and download it and put it on your phone on your own.

That’s a risky move, though, and probably a last-ditch effort for most people. If you purchased a Galaxy S III, you should just feel happy that you have a pretty safe bet that the device is going to be getting the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean upgrade in the future. Some folks can’t say that about their phones, now can they? So that’s a good thing! Unless something crazy happens, you will get the update, and everything will be hunky-dory then, right?

Well, unless you get the update on the day that Google announces another version of Android. Then there may not be any helping you.

I don’t fragmentation is a big deal anymore. I think it’s just the way the ecosystem works, and it’s the way that the market is going to continue. We just have to accept it. Why? Because we obviously can’t change it. And hey, you like new phones, right? New phones with new software? Of course you do. If we keep up this whole, “If you want this new feature you need to have this phone,” then it just means you keep getting new stuff. I know that doesn’t really work for everyone (I can barely stomach it), but I like new things, too. As long as manufacturers keep it under control (like HTC is trying to do), then we should all be okay with it.

Not perfectly content, but at least happy. It’s a step in the right direction, anyway.