One of the biggest problems with Android phones is that they rarely, if ever, receive timely software updates whenever Google releases a new version of the operating system.
Many users may not notice, but for those who care about always having the latest and greatest smartphone features, it can be a big bummer. According to Google’s own stats, only 1.1% of Android users are running the latest version of the OS called KitKat. Most Android users (about 54%) are still on version a version called Jelly Bean, which Google released in 2012.
Compare that to Apple’s iPhone. Right now, more than 74% of iPhone owners are running iOS 7, the newest operating system that launched just under four months ago.
So why is there such a big discrepancy?
There are a lot of moving parts, but it boils down to the fact that hardware manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and HTC modify Android so heavily with extra features, graphics, etc. that it takes them a long time to incorporate new versions of Android. Even after they do that, carriers must test the manufacturer’s changes to Android to make sure everything is compatible with the network.
Now for the real mind-melter. HTC, which makes some of the best Android phones in the world, put together the following epic infographic that details just how crazy the Android update process is. Between different types of hardware, internal testing, and carrier testing, it can take months before a manufacturer like HTC is able to update your phone. Often, manufacturers stop supporting Android devices after a year or so because they don’t have the resources to keep up with the process.
Apple, on the other hand, has it a bit easier. Since it makes both the software and hardware for its phones, its testing process is much faster. Plus, iOS is a “closed” operating system, meaning other manufacturers can’t go into the code and modify it like they can with Android.
One solution if you love Android and want the latest updates: buy a Google Nexus phone like the new Nexus 5. Google’s Nexus phones run a “clean” version of Android without any modifications, so you can get software updates as soon as they come out. Motorola, which is owned by Google, is also pretty good at pushing the latest Android updates to users because it doesn’t heavily modify Android like its competitors do.
Here’s the graphic from HTC, which we first spotted on Apple Insider. Click for a larger version:
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