Being the first to upgrade software isn't for everybody

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| July 18, 2013

With news of Android's Jelly Bean 4.3 making a lot of noise this week, presumably because we may be seeing it with the Google event scheduled for next Wednesday, it seemed like a good time to bring up this particular topic. Android 4.3 seems to be a highly anticipated update from the Android community, and why not? A software update is a software update, and generally that means that the platform is making improvements.

Of course, as with any new software version release, you can expect to see it featured on the Nexus line of devices before any other device. But after that, it's anyone's guess as to who gets the update after that. Will it be the Samsung Galaxy S 4, the LG Optimus G Pro or the HTC One? They're all questions we would like answered, but regardless of who gets the updates when, it's important to evaluate whether you're the type of person who should update as soon as the notification pops up saying that you can.

There was a point in time when I would anxiously await software upgrades from Android. This was back when the builds were a little less stable and had a lot more problems to be fixed - software versions were important in fixing these issues. At least, that's what I thought. I remember being one of the first for to receive a software update rollout for my HTC MyTouch 3G Slide, and as excited as I was to get that puppy on my phone, I was not as excited after experiencing one of the most nightmarish phone experiences in my life, and at risk of sounding like those crazy whiny customers you see in retail stores, I'm going to share what happened after I updated to FroYo.

My battery life was shot, presumably because my phone spent so much time trying to pick up a network signal. No matter where I went, I was lucky if I got one tiny bar. 3G was a no-go; I was constantly using Edge. My device had a new habit of rebooting itself every once in a while, and it no longer enjoyed being tasked with making applications usable. My phone was about as useful as a brick. Fortunately I already knew how to root devices at this point so it didn't take much to get it up and running again, but it was after that point that I was pretty wary of updating my software before reading about others' experience of the update first.

I think a lot of people don't realize that being the first to test or try out software isn't for everybody. When manufacturers release a new version of software, they do it by a process called "rollout", which means that certain groups of people are given the option to take the upgrade if they want. Out of the people who choose to take this option, they pretty much serve as testers to see if any issues come up that need to be addressed. It is much easier for a manufacturer (and the corresponding carriers that sell the device) to send it out in groups instead of everybody at the same time. This way, if there is a problem, they only have a fraction of their entire userbase to take care of.

There are people that love to deal with issues in a software version - these are the people that take one for the team. They're the problem solvers. They're the ones that you want to get these software rollouts first because their job is to help make sure that those of us who don't do so well with buggy software versions don't get all up-in-arms and bring our torches and pitchforks to our nearest carrier retail store. Now, this isn't to say that every time a new software update rolls out that you're going to have major issues. In fact, the MyTouch 3G Slide was really the only device that I ever had experience with that cause me any issues personally. The only other big issues I ran into with a software update rollout was with the LG Optimus S rendering the SD card useless and not accepting a battery charge, to which a horde of angry Optimus S owners would usually turn up at the Sprint store I worked at every day. So that's two that I remember out of a pretty large amount of phones that I've dealt with, which isn't a lot. But there is still a chance that something goes awry between the final testing and the initial release of a software; my personal rule is to wait about a week to see what kind of experiences others who have received the update are reporting. This way I know exactly what I'm getting in to.

Readers, what are your feelings on software rollouts? Are you the kind of person that likes to be the first to experience new software, even if that means dealing with bugs? Or are you the kind that would rather wait until most of the issues are resolved? Let me know your thoughts!

Images via Android Guys, Google