Android smartphones highly-fragmented; after-sale support lags Apple’s iPhone by wide margin

“A new breakdown of Android updates has shown that most American models have had far worse support than the iPhone,” Electronista reports.

“Looking at at models released 2010 and earlier, Michael DeGusta showed that most were abandoned by their makers quickly. Of the group of 18, 15 don’t run Android 2.3, 12 were current for weeks at best, and seven ran obsolete versions even when they launched,” Electronista reports. “It’s considered likely that ‘at least’ 16, though more likely all of them, will go without Android 4.0. Google just recently ruled out the Nexus One.”

“The worst offenders were Garmin, Motorola, and Samsung. Most of their phones shipped at least one version of Android behind, had very short support cycles, and were left two or more versions behind for the majority of an owner’s contract,” Electronista reports. “iPhone owners, meanwhile, have always had up-to-date OS versions for the length of a contract and often beyond. The original iPhone only stopped getting support in February 2010, over two and a half years after it went on sale. While iPhone 3G owners complained of slow iOS 4 performance, they were current up to November 2010. The iPhone 3GS is not only fully up to date almost two and a half years later but still runs smoothly and is very popular, according to AT&T, which noted that more new customers picked the 3GS than any individual Android model.”

Full article here.

DeGusta, who produced the chart for the understatement.com, writes, “It appears to be a widely held viewpoint3 that there’s no incentive for smartphone manufacturers to update the OS: because manufacturers don’t make any money after the hardware sale, they want you to buy another phone as soon as possible. If that’s really the case, the phone manufacturers are spectacularly dumb: ignoring the 2 year contract cycle and abandoning your users isn’t going to engender much loyalty when they do buy a new phone. Further, it’s been fairly well established that Apple also really only makes money from hardware sales, and yet their long term update support is excellent.”

In other words, Apple’s way of getting you to buy a new phone is to make you really happy with your current one, whereas apparently Android phone makers think they can get you to buy a new phone by making you really unhappy with your current one. – Michael DeGusta

“All of the even slightly cheaper phones are much worse than the iPhone when it comes to OS support, but it’s interesting to note that most of the phones on this list were actually not cheaper than the iPhone when they were released. Unlike the iPhone however, the ‘full-priced’ phones are frequently discounted in subsequent months,” DeGusta writes. “So the ‘low cost’ phones that fueled Android’s generally accepted price advantage in this period were basically either (a) cheaper from the outset, and ergo likely outdated & terribly supported or (b) purchased later in the phone’s lifecycle, and ergo likely outdated & terribly supported.”

“Also, at any price point you’d better love your rebates. If you’re financially constrained enough to be driven by upfront price, you can’t be that excited about plunking down another $100 cash and waiting weeks or more to get it back. And sometimes all you’re getting back is a ‘$100 Promotion Card’ for your chosen provider. Needless to say, the iPhone has never had a rebate,” DeGusta writes. “Along similar lines, a very small but perhaps telling point: the price of every single Android phone I looked at ended with 99 cents – something Apple has never done (the iPhone is $199, not $199.99). It’s almost like a warning sign: you’re buying a platform that will nickel-and-dime you with ads and undeletable bloatware, and it starts with those 99 cents. And that damn rebate form they’re hoping you don’t send in.”

See the “Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support” chart and read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you’re financially constrained enough to be driven by upfront price, you can’t afford a smartphone, droidtard.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Ergoman” for the heads up.]

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J.D. Power: Apple iPhone ranks highest in smartphone customer satisfaction for 5th consecutive time – March 17, 2011
J.D. Power: Apple iPhone ranks highest in smartphone customer satisfaction – again – September 23, 2010
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J.D. Power: Apple iPhone ranks highest in smartphone customer satisfaction – April 30, 2009
J.D. Power: Apple iPhone ranks highest in business wireless smartphone customer satisfaction – November 06, 2008

22 Comments

  1. A pox on journalists who don’t know the meaning of the words they use: “much worse than the iPhone” is saying both iPhone and Android are bad, but Android is “much worse.”

  2. This is true for almost all phones (except the iPhone). I had a moto flip phone for almost 3 years and it never received an update. It only got one after it stopped working and I had to take it into a shop for them to update so that it would be compatible with the network changes that had occurred.
    Most phones cannot update over the air and do not have an app to manage updates via a PC. I don’t know if Android has one but it can’t be working.
    This is also the price you pay for having carrier specific formats. Apple fought that battle to get ATT to forgo the usual setup on the iPhone. Turned out to be the best thing they ever did.

  3. The situation helps to explain why, for many reasons, used iPhones are incredibly valuable. I just sold my wife’s black 3G 8 gb, in nice shape with box and accessories and a silicone case, for $130. Phone and case cost $137 nearly two years ago. Try doing that with ANY Android phone.

    1. Nice! I’ve got a couple of old 3G phones at home. Rather than sell them, my daughters are enjoying using them as an iPod Touch. The 8 GB one is still holding up very well; the 16 GB only reasonably well (it still works, but the mute switch is starting to short out). Battery life on both of them is not stellar anymore, but is perfectly adequate for use as an iPod Touch.

  4. This is funny. So most Android phones have outdated software, but iPhones don’t. Hmm. From the article, it sound like only the iPhone 4 and 4S have current software on the Apple side. And they’re currently selling the 3GS with outdated software. Hmm. Not sure that’s really that much better than Android is doing.

    I switched to an Android phone from an iPhone 3G back in March. That was shortly after Apple released iOS4. It was an absolute disaster on the 3G. I ended up jailbreaking and reverting back to iOS 3.1.3 to make the phone usable again. From that experience, I’m not so sure it’s always wise to try and update an old phone with the latest software (regardless of whether it’s iOS or Android).

    On my current Android phone, it shipped with 2.2 and has since been upgraded to 2.3, so no complaints there. I do believe my phone will be updated to Android 4.0, as my phone was the first smartphone released with a dual core processor and has 1 GB RAM. Hence, it’s easily got the horsepower to run 4.0. We shall see how Motorola supports a 7-month old phone. Since it’s got the power to easily run it, if they choose not to update it then it will obviously be that their support for older hardware is subpar. Should know soon after 4.0 is released.

    1. Maybe you should re-read the article again.

      “The iPhone 3GS is not only fully up to date almost two and a half years later but still runs smoothly and is very popular, according to AT&T, which noted that more new customers picked the 3GS than any individual Android model.”

      Confirmed this at the Apple website – iOS 5 runs on the 3GS.

      “We shall see how Motorola supports a 7-month old phone. ”

      Yes, we shall. And if the article is any indication you may be in for a disappointment.

    2. The current stock of 3GS sell with iOS5 (http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC555), so if that’s what the site says it’s wrong.

      I was wary of iOS 5 on my own 3GS after seeing what iOS4 did to some friends’ iPhones 3Gs (<- plural of 3G, ack I hate Apple's using "S"), but performance actually is still very responsive. It does drain the battery faster though.

      The site is also wrong about the original iPhone and 3G being "on current major version." The original is clearly 2 major versions behind (last supported iOS was 3.x) while the 3G is one behind (4.2.1 was the last to support 3G).

      Based on this major flaw, I won't be sharing their results with my social circle, since there's the clear appearance of a bias towards iPhone.

  5. Either Wall Street or the media honestly don’t get that one thing many people are buying Apple products for is the customer support. Anytime a company tries to build products with really thin margins, one of the things to get cut is good customer support. Wall Street’s attitude is that as long as a company moves a lot of product to consumers, that’s the end of it. They’re too stupid to understand what it means to build customer loyalty. Wall Street’s thinking is just too short-term.

    Another thing with Android is how quickly their product cycles run. Since they’re competing with one another I suppose their thinking is just keep pumping out newer and more featured smartphones every few months to beat their rivals. I guess they don’t concern themselves about how long older smartphones serve past customers. Android smartphone sales must really be vicious with really short production cycles for any one device. A smartphone should serve a customer at least the whole period of a two-year carrier contract. Six month smartphone product cycles are just too rapid. Ignoring updates on older smartphones in less than a year is criminal.

    Still, there are iHaters complaining that it’s Apple that forces consumers to constantly buy new products by not putting every feature possible on earlier devices.

  6. And therein lies the key distinction between Apple and its smartphone competitors – when one buys a phone from the former, one is assured of getting timely OS updates, even for older models. With the latter companies, they pocket one’s cash and go on their merry way, leaving the end-user to his/her own devices as far as frequent updates are concerned.

    1. IMO, this key distinction is based on the fact the Apple is still, at heart, a computer company. It makes sense that they’d be best at creating and supporting what is, let’s be honest, a full-featured computer you carry in your pocket.

      ——RM

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