Oct 28 AT 12:56 PM Taylor Wimberly 30 Comments

Sprint rolls out flawed Android strategy at developer conference

I’m not the only one who is worried about the Sprint OTA problem. Check out this blog post from developer Rick Scherle who attended the Sprint developers conference.

Unfortunately, the phones are running Android version 1.5 while the rest of the world is on 1.6. This means that a lot of newer applications (including the new version of the Android Market) won’t run. With everyone else talking about releasing 2.0 next month, Sprint is saying “2010″ for version 1.6. That’s bad.

Worse is the fact that Sprint’s network doesn’t support OTA (over the air) upgrades for the Android. This means that, while other carrier’s customers get their phones upgraded automatically, Sprint users will have to visit the Sprint store or go through some complicated software installation procedure using their PC and a USB cable, a gymnastics exercise which is beyond most users.

So, bottom line, is it time to move back to Sprint? They have snappy data speeds and really broad coverage in most of the country, plus a lot fewer dropped calls than T-Mobile, and I’ve been really happy with their customer support. A lot of people should be really happy with Sprint’s new Android offerings.

But I can’t do business with them if they don’t have the products I want, and what I want is the current version of the Android operating system and all the latest software. After all, what would my friends say?

A tipster from our last post suggested that Sprint might skip Android 1.6 and jump right into Android 2.0. However, that might not occur till 2010.

According to a report from AndroidGuys, HTC will indeed be skipping Android 1.6 for the European Hero. If HTC skips Android 1.6 for their phones with Sense UI, then I guess it makes sense the the Sprint Hero could also skip this update.

When I was at CTIA, a representative from Samsung said their Moment phone might not receive Android 2.0 till Q2 2010.

Am I making too big a deal about this? The hardcore user could probably care less about OTA updates, but we only make up about 5-10% of Android phones sold. Do you really think your little sister or Mom is going to hook their phone up to a PC and perform these updates as they are released?

Some might argue that the average Android user can do without updates, but that is naive. Since Android is built off a Linux kernel, it is vulnerable to the same security exploits and it is important to receive regular updates and patches.

If you own a Sprint Android phone, please sound off.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • Miguel


    Dear HTC customer,

    Thank you for contacting our Customer Support Center. We are dedicated to providing you with the best quality service and answering all of your questions and concerns.

    The Hero will not be receiving the Android 1.6 upgrade, it will however get the 2.0 one. Do note however that we do not have a confirmed release date for this upgrade, all I can recommend at the moment is that you keep yourself updated by visiting our website regularly as the latest information will be available to view from there.

    Best regards,
    HTC customer support team
    HTC Corp. Global Service Division

  • adil

    i think the writer is making a larger deal of connecting something to a computer. most people (ESPECIALLY people with smartphones) can accomplish the task of downloading software and plugging something in with a usb cable. they do it with cameras, mp3 players, and the like, so why not with a phone.

    provided the software that is given is straightforward, i don’t see it being an issue.

  • David

    I am at a complete loss as to how Sprint is expecting to sell phones, which they now admit at this point in time, are unusable to the point that items in the market, being created now for 1.6 and 2.0 will either only work part of the time/way or not at all. Isn’t the point of installing Android on their phones so that customers can download new applications and run them? By default, not allowing them the upgrade to either 1.6 or 2.0 really soon just locking the phone, and leaving their customers out in the cold? I mean, why buy a Sprint Android phone with 1.5 when you can get a Verizon Android phone with 2.0, as well as a faster processor? Certainly Sprint has much better plans for pricing the phone itself as well as calling plans/data plans that are lower priced, but if you phone cannot get the newest applications and run them, what use is the phone, one short step away from being a dedicated phone call device?

    • Colin

      I am a happy owner of a Sprint Hero, and, while I wish Sprint would let me update to 1.6 or 2.0 soon, the phone is in no way unusable. Sure, I am missing out on the cool new features and optimizations that Verizon customers will be able to enjoy with the Droid, but there are plenty of apps that do still work with 1.5. It can do much more than just make calls.

    • Daniel

      Wow, way to blow things out of proportion here. Most of their consumers don’t even know or care about Android 1.6 or 2.0 at this point, so you don’t need to worry so much about them making no money. Android 1.5, particularly coupled with the Sense UI, is really far from being “unusable” — just ask any Cyanogen user who preferred to wait for a stable release, nobody died for staying with 1.5. As for “items only working part of the time”, I don’t think you understand how the Market works. If an app requires a feature your phone doesn’t provide, it won’t show up for you.

      Also, if things were as simple as “why would anyone ever buy their phones when Verizon has a technically superior choice”, why would ANYONE at this point sell anything other than the Droid? All carriers could just leave and file bankruptcy, since they’re so obviously not going to make any money. Oh, wait — if the main purpose of the phone is to get the newest and trendiest app, Verizon could give up as well, since the iPhone is a clear leader in this area.

  • mmark27

    I really think these tips are wrong and the updates will be OTA. The Sprint developers have already said they will push updates OTA. Someone has commented that the OTA is limited by file size, however it has also been noted that the Pre WebOS updates have all been OTA and they are huge files. We will see when the update comes through. I hope it is sooner than 2010 to keep pace, but it will come nonetheless.

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      the tips aren’t wrong. we heard this in person at CTIA from many people in the know. things could always change, but they were definitely saying no OTA updates.

    • David

      David Owens, VP of consumer marketing, in a Sprint Community online forum chat answered the following question today “Will the Android updates to 1.6 and 2.0 be over the air, or will I have to go into a store for the update?” David: “Likely to be a wired update (due to size) but you will be able to do online at sprint.com”

  • rjholla2003

    I’d rather have an OTA update, and have the latest OS, but connecting to the PC isn’t too big of a deal…for me. It only sucks when you have a non-techie with a smart phone, something MAJOR (think new BlackBerry Messenger) comes out, and you need the newest OS to run it. Then it becomes an issue when people don’t even think of installing the desktop software to perform the upgrade. Now those users get upset because they wanted to do something that seemed simple, but it’s way more complicated than what they want to do.

  • fdot

    I have the sprint hero. Love it, honestly 1.6 would be nice, would fix bugs & improve a lot of features. However the device is not un-usable, it functions just fine. I am excited for 2.0 though.

  • Greg

    “Do you really think your little sister or Mom is going to hook their phone up to a PC and perform these updates as they are released?”

    Uhh, millions of iPhone users do exactly that. Perhaps Sprint should look into offering something like doubleTwist.

    • http://www.thesearethedroids.com Android 1

      Exactly what I was going to write. The iPhone can only be upgraded by iTunes by plugging it into your computer. What’s the big deal if you have to do the same thing for your Android? Sure, OTA updates are great, and more power to those who can get them, but I really don’t see the big deal.

      On the subject of Android 1.6 not on Sprint phones, I think it’s a matter of the fact that 2.0 is coming out so closely after 1.6 that it just makes sense to work on 2.0 only and skip 1.6 for things such as Sense UI. Samsung, well, they may be behind the curve, which I agree is horrible, and if they really think not having 1.6 or 2.0 on their phone until next year will be ok, let’s watch the sales numbers on the Moment.

  • Rolefourlife

    OTA updates aren’t the most important thing to me. I got my Hero on release day and no regrets so far. If Sprint and HTC want to skip 1.6 and move down the buffet to 2.0 that’s cool with me. And if i have to plug it in to a computer to update the beast, that’s also fine. I’d rather have quality work come out in the next few months rather than rushed / buggy software. Since its not stock Android, its gonna take a little more time. Simple users of the phone won’t even notice or hear about an upgrade. Heavy users will have heard about the update 6 weeks in advance and be checking everynight to see if the update is ready. If it takes til 2010 for 2.0, so be it, because that’s better than nothing. I’ve often thought about how much sprint is committed to android (still haven’t seen a commercial on tv or an add yet), so I hope they treat their customers right and give us the update sooner than never.

  • brandon

    I have a Sprint Hero and I’ll probably return before the 30 days are up. There are a ton of bugs that need to be addressed and Sprint isn’t saying anything about it.

    • pete

      Agreed….Too many ifs and no solid answers…Its getting old.

  • http://peerpressureforum.co.uk Markus

    I love my Sprint Hero. I would really like the 1.6 update, to push the Hero to be just a tiny bit more snappier. I really hope HTC/Sprint gets out the 2.0 update ASAP, but if we really solely on Sprint, it doesn’t look good if the Android users get the same experience the BlackBerry users did/do.

    And really having to hook the phone to do updates, is not a huge deal, since iPhone & BlackBerry users have been doing it for years, though the BlackBerry updates are a bit of a pain.

    I really hope the Sprint Hero gets root access soon, so someone can at least attempt keep us techies up to date.

  • Dave

    To me this is a big deal. I’m a mac user and do you know how often they release this kind of update as an .exe only? Suffice to say it’s pretty much every time. Asking me to plug in the phone isn’t too bad but make a piece of software that works on all the machines.

    • http://peerpressureforum.co.uk Markus

      Mulit-boot problem solved :P just kidding

      But ya hopefully they will release for all systems all around the same time. And I really don’t think it should be a huge issue due to Android being Linux at it’s core…

      • Dave

        You would think since it’s Linux based that the updaters would be multi-platform but it’s HTC/Sprint that release this update so it’s less likely.

        I do have Windows machines around where I can do this but honestly it’s just sloppy/lazy to not support all the platforms. Oh, and the people that say the whole “macs are too small of a market to make special utilities” drive me nuts. By that theory Firefox is in the same boat, or Android compared to the iPhone.

  • knowledge

    Rest assured 2.0 will roll out rather soon. Sprint is taking a short amount of time to gather feedback from it’s customers. Ex: what are the popular majority of issues to tackle first. , this is a new endeavor for sprint and maximizing the usefulness of android is the goal.

  • shane

    I think this is a issue Sprint needs to take care of one way or another. At this point after hearing this I want to take my Hero back to the store. I don’t have a issue with using a USB cable and no one else should either, its the rate at which we will get updates and how long it will take for bugs from updates to be reported.

    Again, its not a OTA issue. Most Android users were likely at one time a WM user or a iPhone user so we are fully cabable of using a USB cord, so no one should be crying about that..

  • Tim

    Sprint just doesn’t get it. I was pulling for them to turn that ship around but it’s taking on water like I don’t know what. Abandon ship!!

  • http://edtechdev.wordpress.com/ Doug

    I was really leaning to the Samsung Moment phone, and I like how Sprint is pro-net neutrality too (unlike the Verizon CEO).

    But if you can’t upgrade it to Android 2.0 until the middle of next year that’s pretty bad. I probably will just go ahead and get the Droid if their data plan is unlimited and doesn’t try to nickel and dime you to death for each megabyte over 20 megabytes or something like that.

  • b

    ota not available yet ? Not a big deal for me. The phone kicks ass.

  • Tim C.

    I see the OTA issue as a economy of scale problem. Historically, the “flagship” smartphones from Sprint – the Palm OS based smartphone line – did not do OTA. I had a 300, a 600 and a 700, and never got any OTA updates. I always had to plug in an download major updates.

    The Pre has so far been an anomaly but they positioned that differently in the marketplace, going after the LG and Samsung users instead of the Palm/Windows Mobile/Blackberry users. This is becasue the PalmOS/Windows Mobile/Blackberry userbase is MUCH smaller than their candybar and flip phone market.

    I am now a very satisfied Hero owner – and I quickly agree and support all who say it’s an amazing device. As for Android 1.6 or 2.0, I think once Sense is ported and released for Europe, either Sprint will follow fast (to placate their early adopters) OR someone will figure out how to Root the Sprint hero and people will install it that way. Either way, the Hero user base that wants 2.0 will go to 2.0 – my guess before Christmas.

  • Aaron

    Well.. After reading all the comments… I’m going with loving the phone. I am finding myself invying the droid from verizon that will have the 2.0 on it tommorow, but I was listening to a blog about android, and they mentioned that sprint will be starting advertising on the 29th. They also mentioned they plan on spending more than Coke a Cola spends on adds.. Now that being said, and if true, I would assure you all that we will have the 2.0 OS on our phones very soon.

  • 2.0now

    To HTC: you state that you have had 2.0 for awhile…then what’s taking so long to update Sense UI?? Next you state no android on the LEO aka HD2 hardware. WTF?

    To sprint: the moment HTC gets it’s Sense UI updated you better release that mofo, I don’t care how…pc or OTA, just freaking release it the second it’s ready so us hardcores will shut up OR we’ll all blog and tweet how embarrassing it is to be sprint and jump ship to Verizon! You have had 2 flipping years to prepare for android phones…what? you didn’t plan on so many updates because in the pass you NEVER updated phones…BS welcome to the future and I want my flipping 2.0 and every other release the DAY of the OS release…

    please with sugar on top

  • Matt H

    I was really excited for the Hero to come to sprint. I never liked crackberries, the pre was too ‘chicky’, and I wasn’t buying an iPhone that doesn’t multitask(which is why its so snappy). I waited patiently for the Hero and even got it 2 days early; thru best buy rewards card. And let me tell you it is an awesome phone.
    Some ppl may say it ain’t snappy enough; and sometimes it is a little slow; but as a ‘smart’ phone user I know that I just need to ‘TaskKilla’ a few programs and voilla good as new. There were some battery issues but I found the work around by using the HandCent SMS app instead of the one that comes with it. I was a little angsty that they didn’t do anything to resolve the battery issue right away but figured that when 1.6 came out all would be fixed and forgiven. Now that they want to wait for 2.0 in 2010…I’m kinda pissed. I’ve been w/ sprint for years and have never had any trouble with their service and customer support has always been top notch.
    But I think(hope) that Android will make them turn around and say, “Huh, looks like the bloggers noticed were sitting on our collective ass’s, again. Maybe we should be on the ball with this whole update thing so they’re not so angsty.” To which the bloggers go, “YEA!” and all is forgiven :)
    My point is as the technology gets better the average user is also more adept at using the device and notices when things don’t work well. No OTA, fine thats why its called “Universal-SB”. the big end goes in the computer and the other goes in the phone; no rocket science there people. But like I said, I’ll be pissed if they take too long to update the Hero to 2.0.

  • http://Website Roger

    HTC Hero will not sync with Windows 7. HTC is aware, but will not give an answer as to when this might be fixed. I have seen some work arounds on the net though.
    Otherwise the phone is great.

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