Aug 30 AT 8:52 AM Justin Shapcott 55 Comments

At this year’s Google I/O to much excitement in the crowd (and, no doubt, the thousands watching online), Google announced the Android Update Alliance. This partnership between Google, manufacturers and carriers set the noble goal of keeping Android devices updated in a timely manner for a duration of at least eighteen months.

Details were scarce at the time of the announcement, however. We were given a list of the companies involved in the partnership and little else about how the Alliance would go about its business. Unfortunately, in the past three months not much has changed on this front.

Things we still don’t know about the Android Update Alliance:

  1. Is Google working with the manufacturers and carriers to get these updates out the door? Or is Google merely setting forth a guideline and expecting adherence?
  2. Are devices released before this announcement that are still within this eighteen month update time frame intended to be a part of this agreement?
  3. Are there any guidelines relating to how long it should take for devices to receive an update after a new version of Android is released?
  4. Are minor version updates (which often include important security fixes) intended to be released as part of this agreement?
  5. Who determines if a device is capable of receiving an upgrade?

We have seen a lot of devices getting updates lately, so we can reasonably assume that the Alliance is, in fact, doing what it has set out to do… for the most part. There are a number of devices released early this year that are still running outdated versions of Android. Some are even being released now with outdated versions. Perhaps the answers to the above questions can shine some light on the situation.

Report Card

Not content with merely estimating how the various carriers and manufacturers were doing with their updates, we set out to determine the actual update status of each phone available from the participants in the Alliance. We gathered details about each device and its current version (including some devices from carriers and manufacturers that are not part of the Alliance) for comparison. Some devices included in the Alliance are no longer being sold by carriers (but most are still within their 18 month time-frame). In order to visualize our findings, we’ve built a few charts to share with you.

The first gives an overview of the number of phones running 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 grouped according to their manufacturer:

And then we determined which phones from each manufacturer were getting updates:

We could see it’s kind of a mixed bag when it comes to updating devices that were already out at the time of the announcement. For instance, the oldest phone available for purchase (the HTC EVO 4G) has been able to jump from 2.1 to 2.3, and the HTC MyTouch 3G Slide, which is around the same age, has only taken one step up from 2.1 to 2.2 so far. Of those manufacturers participating in the Alliance, HTC has been the most successful in updating their preexisting devices. LG, Motorola and Samsung have some work to do here.

On the bright side, though, the majority of devices released after the announcement have been launched with some form of Gingerbread. At the front of the pack are HTC and Sony Ericsson; all their newest devices are on the latest and greatest. Motorola and Samsung have launched a few devices on older versions, but this may be due to them being lower-end. In other cases, the carrier didn’t request the latest version.

When looking on the carrier side, only Sprint in the US and Vodafone in Europe are currently carrying more up-to-date than out-of-date devices. AT&T has promised to update all their 2011 lineup, so expect their numbers to change soon. T-Mobile and Verizon aren’t really making the grade so far, but we’re still hoping they’ll turn that around.

Of course, a lot of these stats hinge on the answers to the above questions about the scope of the agreement. If the expectation is indeed that all devices within their eighteen month window will be updated, then it boils down to what the expected time frame to release updates is. It has been over three months since Google I/O  and the announcement of the Android Update Alliance, and while we are seeing movement in the right direction, we’re not quite there yet.

What do you guys think about the lack of information on the Android Update Alliance? What do you think is a reasonable timeline for updating? If you want to see the massive list of versions for almost every Android phone, check out the epic listing below:

Justin is the founder of and lead developer at nEx.Software.

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