As we count down the weeks till Gingerbread is released the majority of our audience has a phone with Android 2.1 or older and some of those devices will never see a software update again. Many Android handsets have the necessary hardware to run the latest version of Google’s mobile OS (example: myTouch 3G with Android 2.2), but several carriers have decided not to upgrade them in order to provide “the best combined hardware and software experience”.
So what exactly decides which phones get updated? Looking at the Top 20 Android devices report from analytics company Chitika it appears that the phones which sold the most units were among the first to get updated. Check out the best selling phones after the jump.
Top 10 Android devices by traffic from Chitika:
- Motorola Droid: Android 2.2, Verizon
- HTC EVO 4G: Android 2.2, Sprint
- Motorola Droid X: Android 2.2, Verizon
- HTC Incredible: Android 2.2, Verizon
- Samsung Vibrant: Android 2.1, T-Mobile
- Motorola Droid 2: Android 2.2, Verizon
- LG Ally: Android 2.1, Verizon
- HTC myTouch 3G: Android 2.2, T-Mobile
- HTC Droid Eris: Android 2.1, Verizon
- HTC Hero: Android 2.1, Sprint
They don’t say what period of time this data was sampled, but Chitika serves “over 3 billion monthly impressions across more than 100,000 websites“. Based on our analytics data and Google’s own Platform Versions report it seems pretty accurate.
Four of the top five phones have been updated to Android 2.2. Samsung is updating the Vibrant and LG is updating the Ally, so pretty soon that will mean 8 out of the top 10 Android phones will be on Android 2.2.
The software support you receive on your phone has little to do with the hardware specs or the manufacturer. We have 1 GHz phones in the U.S. that are still on Android 1.6 (Dell Streak, Sony Ericsson X10) and every handset maker has phones they left behind because they didn’t sell well (Backflip, Garminphone, Aero, Cliq XT, etc).
However there is one exception to the rule and that is the Nexus One, which was made by HTC and supported by Google. It was the first device with Android 2.2, which was easily available after Google announced the update in May at Google I/O.
We should also point out that AT&T does not have a single phone in the top 20 and they are not selling any phones with Android 2.2.
So if you want to own a phone that is highly likely to receive software updates just:
- Buy the most popular phone for your carrier
- Avoid AT&T
- Get the Nexus S
Many Android users have been experiencing some frustrating times as they wait for their carrier to provide an official software update, but it looks like the overall situation is starting to improve.
Samsung might extended the wait a little longer for some, but HTC and Motorola have demonstrated they can deliver updates in a timely manner when the carriers really push them. Sprint and HTC rolled out Android 2.2 in July (just two months after it was available) and then Verizon and Motorola announced their update for the Droid on the following day. It took T-Mobile a little longer to send Android 2.2 to the myTouch 3G in October, but at least they came through on their pledge to keep it updated.
We can often predict when phones are going to perform well (Verizon’s dual-core Droid 4G will be HUGE), but the average consumer walking into their wireless carrier has no clue what version of Android any of the phones run or if they will ever be updated.
So next time your friend ask you what smartphone to buy, just point them towards one with the latest version of Android or tell them about the Nexus S instead.