Android 5.0 is coming later this fall, which, if you’re a Verizon customer with a Samsung phone, probably means Android 5.0 is coming… eventually! Verizon customers always tend to be the last to get the OS updates, but why is that? Why do some people get the OS update within a month or so of its release while others wait more than half a year? The answer is middle men. Lots of them.
So here’s a really basic explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes. Bear in mind it’s a lot more than what I’m about to explain. First, Google releases a basic version of the OS to a phone hardware company like Samsung or HTC so that they can evaluate it and begin preparing for the update. Google provides the code for the OS to manufacturers of computer chips for the phones, so that they can ensure the phone hardware of both current and new phones will support the OS. This usually takes a month.
Next, Google releases the OS to phone manufacturers like LG, Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. They take the OS and ensure it works with their various phones and tablets. But they don’t do just that, they also add on their own features on top of the base OS. For instance, Samsung adds on it’s TouchWiz UI (a launcher, basically the “theme” or look of the phone) plus extra features and apps like S Health and their own camera app. This takes about a month or two.
After that, it goes to the phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. These companies all feel it’s necessary to add even more bloatware onto the phones, like Verizon’s VZ Navigator. The worst part? Sometimes carriers or phone manufacturers have to go back to Google to work out a problem with compatibility, so it can take even longer. Verizon is notorious for taking forever with releasing updates.
Luckily parts of these steps can happen at the same time, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of factors that come into play. There are a lot of chip manufacturers, a lot of phone manufacturers, a lot of different devices from each that the OS needs to be compatible with, plus there are a bunch of phone carriers.
Now look at Apple: Apple is a hardware and software company. It designs the OS, it designs the phone. It has a small number of different devices, so ensuring compatibility on the chips is not as difficult. Apple is also notorious for demanding near-full control over all aspects, so pushing the update through the carriers simply goes faster. It’s a much shorter process.
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