Do you have to have the latest software on your phone?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| January 30, 2013

For the longest time, I would never settle for anything but the latest and greatest on all mobile fronts. I had to have both the latest hardware and software in any scenario. I never waited for official software updates, and the minute new hardware was released, I started trying to sell my current phone to spring for the new one.

This started back in 2006 when I truly broke into the BlackBerry realm. Unofficial software updates for the BlackBerry Curve 8330 abounded in late 2006 and I would skim the forums every night before bed to make sure my phone was running the latest version. If there was a new version – with or without new features – I would download the update and fire up BlackBerry Desktop Manager (now BlackBerry Desktop Software) and flash the update.

I will never forget the torture I put myself through over updates without changelogs. I would take 30 minutes to be among the first to flash an update, wait another 20 to restore all my data and spend an hour or two setting up my home screen and applications again. The vast majority of the time, the updates would be for a single bug fix or for some other slight alteration that no one would ever notice in day-to-day operation.

Nevertheless, I always flashed the updates just to be on the bleeding edge of BlackBerry software updates. I remember flashing BlackBerry OS 5 to the Curve 8330 months before it was officially available for the device. I did the same for BlackBerry OS 6 the BlackBerry Tour 9630, and again with BlackBerry OS 7 with the Torch 9810.

This very same need to be on the forefront of software updates carried over to every other smartphone platform I have ever tried. Windows Mobile, iOS, Android and webOS – Android more so than the others, obviously.

I didn't do a ton of hacking on my first Android phone, as that stint only lasted about two weeks. But Android phone number two through the Galaxy Nexus (sorry, I lost count about two years ago) in late 2012 were hacked on a weekly – and sometimes daily – basis.

My Nexus One had Froyo (Android 2.2) long before the device ever received an official update. And the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus also ran the latest software versions before official updates arrived. Other odds and ends Android devices underwent excruciating amounts hacking and modding. I would venture to say some devices spent just as much time in recovery or plugged into my laptop for ADB than they did in actual use. But that's neither here nor there.

What I want to know is how adamant you, our faithful readers, are about having the latest software on your phone. And by that, I don't necessarily mean, "Do you hack your phone to get the latest software update ahead of time?"

Google releases Android distribution updates at the beginning of every month. At the turn of the year, Google's latest numbers show that the vast majority of users – 60.7 percent, to be exact – are at least two versions behind the current Jelly Bean 4.2 version. To be completely fair, the numbers are constantly improving: 29.1 percent of users are on Ice Cream Sandwich (just one major version behind), nine percent are on version 4.1 and just over one percent are running Android 4.2.

Hop over the fence and there's a totally different story to tell. We learned just two days ago that nearly 300 million iOS devices, roughly 60 percent of all iOS devices ever sold, are running the latest software. But comparing these two isn't even like comparing two different fruits to one another; it's more like comparing a fruit and vegetable. I digress.

I've long said you can't buy a device expecting to ever be updated. Sure, it's the right thing for companies to do. But it doesn't mean that's what will always happen. Android manufacturers' updating practices have done a full 180 since 2010 and 2011. Still, hundreds of millions of users are several versions behind.

I have come to a point in my life where I don't care too terribly much about the version of software I'm running. Like Mr. Chavez said on Twitter last night (see image above), I am much more lenient about what software I am using. Of course, if I have a Nexus, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be on the bleeding edge of software updates at any given time – that's sort of their selling point. But I no longer have to have the absolute latest software to be content with a device.

Take my Galaxy Note II, for example. The software update for the AT&T Galaxy Note II including Multi-Window and several other features and fixes was finally pushed over the air. Normally, I would have tried to download the update ahead of time, rooted my device and flashed an unofficial update, just to get the features. But I waited at least a week after the update went live to even update my own device.

I have had a badge notification on the Settings icon on both my third-generation iPad and iPhone 5 for at least two months now, yet I continue to run my iOS devices on old software. There is even another update available as of this week. (I guess I should probably update soon.)

Point being, I no longer care to be at the forefront (excluding when I own a Nexus). I'm much more lenient towards manufacturers who update a little more slowly, and I'm not even on the ball when updates finally roll around, unless the update is a major one, of course. Also, it's worth noting that I refuse to buy a device that launches with old software, too (i.e.: imagine a new Android phone launching today with Ice Cream Sandwich on board, which isn't terribly unlikely).

So tell me, readers. Are you conscious about what software version your phone is running? Do you hack and mod to get your phone as up-to-date as possible? Do you wait on official updates? Or, like me, are you a little more lax about minor updates these days?