Dec 07 AT 1:28 PM Taylor Wimberly 89 Comments

Motorola details the 4 steps to Android 4.0 updates


Curious why it takes half a year for most handset makers to release major software updates? Motorola just shared a blog post that details the four steps they must go through in order to release an update to customers. We already knew that Google released the source code for Android 4.0 last month, but Motorola customers should expect a wait of at least 4-6 months minimum.

Motorola said the following steps must take place before a release hits your device:

  • 1. Merge and adapt the new release for different device hardware architecture(s) and carrier customizations:  This means that we take the source code and incorporate it into upgrades for devices on which this can perform well, along with making sure the carrier requirements are met.  Silicon partners such as Qualcomm, TI, and nVidia adapt this to their chipsets in parallel and we incorporate these as they become available. This is also the time when we begin integrating all of the Motorola-specific software enhancements into the source code.  Features like MotoCast, Smart Actions, and our comprehensive enterprise solutions are integral parts of our device experiences, and we want to make sure we continue delivering differentiated experiences for our consumers with these software upgrades.
  • 2. Stabilize and ‘bake’ the result to drive out bugs:  This means that we will prepare the upgrade to meet the quality and stability requirements to enter the wireless carrier’s certification lab.
  • 3. Submit the upgrade to the carriers for certification:  This is the point in the process where the carrier’s lab qualifies and tests the upgrade. Each carrier has different requirements for phases 2 and 3. There may be a two-month preparation cycle to enter a carrier lab cycle of one to three months.
  • 3.5 Perform a Customer pre-release:  We may perform some customer testing before a final release is delivered publicly to our user base.
  • 4. Release the upgrade:  We are planning on upgrading as many of our phones as possible.  The ability to offer the upgrade depends on a number of factors including the hardware/device capabilities, the underlying chipset software support, the ICS support and then the ability to support the Motorola value add software.

To recap earlier news, Motorola is still planning to upgrade the Droid RAZR, Motorola RAZR, Motorola XOOM (including Family Edition) and Droid Bionic to Android 4.0. They are still evaluating other handsets, and you should check the Motorola Android Software Upgrade News page for more information.

As Kellen of Droid-Life points out, Verizon is very thorough when it comes to testing new software updates, and he estimates June or July of 2012 as the time period when the newly released RAZR and Bionic could see Android 4.0.

Hopefully after Google completes their acquisition of Motorola, we will see the time to market for major software updates shrink. How long of a wait do you think customers should endure for major updates like Android 4.0?

Update: Sony Ericsson has also detailed their path to Ice Cream Sandwich, from source code to software upgrade.

Via: Droid-Life

Source: Motorola

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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  • YellowDucati

    5th step. Wait. We need to fix more stuff.

    • jasonlee

      Ha classic

    • oddball

      You forgot the other steps

      6. Make sure the bootloader is still locked
      7. Pull the update after realizing we missed a bunch of glitches
      8. Release a new update that has a different set of glitches and still doesn’t fix the one that drives everyone nuts
      9. It’s not Blur stop calling it that

    • Sean the Electrofreak

      1. Take a perfectly good vanilla build of Android and ruin it with our branded crapware.
      2. Fix all the stuff we broke during Step 1.
      3. Ask the carrier to put all their branded crap on the device too.
      4. Leak the build to XDA so their community can find and fix the other stuff we broke.
      5. Release the update right after a new version of Android has been announced, driving our customers into a jealous rage so they’ll go out and buy new phones.
      6. Profit!


    • 15dberg

      Still dont see what takes so long for my atrix to recieve updates!

      • superusermode

        The above comments really sum it up. The sad part off is although they may be a bit sarcastic, they really aren’t far off from the truth at all. We currently have a 19 page discussion on Motorola’s support forums on this (see Atrix 4G with Ice Cream Sandwich) and quite frankly, the conversation is pretty much 1 sided and not going anywhere. Also the video AT&T just released saying how Gingerbread was the latest and greatest Android version really doesn’t inspire confidence when it comes to their intentions in terms of pushing for updates for existing devices or even getting newer ones with updates. But they’re probably tied up with the whole federal investigation into Carrier IQ on top of their failing T-Mobile merger on top of a few class action suits against them.

  • Bryan Stoner

    I had no idea it required that much coordination. I’ve earned a bit of patience knowing this. Thanks for the article!

    • mikesuds

      Patience or not, with custom skins and whatnot, it will always take a lot longer than it should. For reference, see: all custom rom developers.

  • Anthony Domanico

    “This is also the time when we begin integrating all of the Motorola-specific software enhancements into the source code. Features like MotoCast, Smart Actions, and our comprehensive enterprise solutions are integral parts of our device experiences, and we want to make sure we continue delivering differentiated experiences for our consumers with these software upgrades.”

    This is the part that doesn’t sit well with me.

    • vitriolix

      And this is why I will never buy a Carrier/Manufacturer customized phone. Nexus all the way.

      • twospirits

        Really, and what say you of the latest Verizon decision not to include Google Wallet on the latest Nexus? Only because they have something similar and pass the excuse that Wallet isn’t ready yet.

    • Ironzey Lewis

      Say what you may about “specific software enhancements” I think they are great. A lot of those enhancment worked their way into ICS. I’d like to see Smart actions (basically Tasker) baked into future versions of Android.

  • Kevin Amundson

    I would love to see a wait period of 1-2 months, but I’m afraid we won’t see that unless there is more hardware standardization among the android devices.

    • WarDrake

      actually if 1 person can bake a functional major OS update into a device in 2 weeks… carriers who have all their hardware profiles and proprietary libraries ready should be MORE than able to do it in 1 week including testing.

  • LukeT32

    Just root… or give my OG Droid ICS! :)

    • Lane Montgomery

      Even the CyanogenMod team is signaling the OG Droid won’t be supported for CM9 (aka ICS).

      • Alex

        Although some other developer may find a way of porting it over; the G1 has a gingerbread rom even though I’m pretty sure that Cyanogenmod dropped it after FroYo

        • Homncruse

          The G1 even has an ICS ROM, it’s just slow to the point of being unusable. That’s the problem – each major OS upgrade takes a little bit more resources, and it eventually reaches the point where it’s just not feasible.

  • halo0

    Step 2 isn’t even a step! It’s part of step one! 6 months is beyond ridiculous.

    • YellowDucati

      They have never heard of continuous integration.

      • Homncruse

        They don’t have the opportunity for contiguous integration. Except in rare circumstances (like a Nexus phone), they get the whole source code drop just like we do.

  • jakymiwm

    Why is it that the people that make the phone take longer to put software out then the modding community?

    • WarDrake

      Because they like their excuses…

    • Bryan Stoner

      Seems like you didn’t read the article. They have to pass carrier certification and perform tons of pre-testing. And they have to balance workloads between multiple devices as well.

      • jakymiwm

        Hire more people!!!!

  • fwtx

    The thing is, they really didnt tell us anything we didnt already know. They just pointed out the stuff that everyone hates; that even after they have ICS working on a device it will still take a lot more time because moto and the carrier have to mess with it. not cool moto

  • DroidSamurai

    It’s time for Google to expand the Nexus program. Let all top-tier smartphone makers make ONE Nexus of their own. Motorola can have their Droid Nexus, Samsung makes a Galaxy Nexus, Sony makes a Xperia Nexus, etc. 1 for each, every year. If the ODM wants to mess with the UI, goes do it on all the other phones they make, but we the hard core Android fans will have a small set of pure Android phones to choose from, all running the latest Android OS, and release at the same time each year.

    • Drew

      I’m not sure why no one has ever mentioned this, but that is a GREAT idea!! Then, you get competing Nexus devices, forcing them to make the Nexus the best phone that it could possibly be, future proofed against unreleased phones.

      The only problem with this, is the “idea” that the Nexus phone is what sets the bar for the following year in smartphones. But after this years Galaxy with a 5mp camera and no removable SD card and last years Nexus S released with a single core and 5mp camera, they might as well just forget that idea and adopt your new one. It’s brilliant!

      I know specs aren’t everything, but I can’t be the only one who was underwhelmed both years. Although I do want ICS, if 4 or 5 companies made a Nexus, the results would be far superior to what we have seen in recent years, especially if they are all released at the same time.

    • desean

      Actually this should be how Google should have realised to the manufacturers. All phone should be released as AOSP. Any UI customisation should be done as an overlay like an app.

      This should solve the long upgrade cycle problem!

      • twospirits

        I actually like that idea by Drew.

  • Futureboy

    Motorola needs to revise their business model so that then can narrow it down to one step:

    1. Push the newest version of vanilla Android.

  • zyphbear

    I don’t mean to sound annoying, but isn’t this what they already do with every other headset that goes through android upgrades? I notice they still haven’t even said what devices will and won’t get updated.

    Too bad the only way you can get an upgrade without the ‘special software’ (like MotoBlur), is rooting, guess many should get used to doing it.

  • Lane Montgomery

    It sounds like most of the time is taken up with carrier testing.

    This is the problem with Android, it is tied to carriers.

    I think the only way we’re going to begin to see fast updates is if the price of devices comes down enough for people to buy them outright and independent of their carrier. I know, I know, a lot of tech savvy people do this already but the behavior is far from mainstream in the U.S.

    When device manufacturers have to serve customers first instead of carriers first customers will win, but not before then.

    • Donovan

      I was about to write something similar – carrier’s seem to have too much control still.

      Nexus devices don’t follow this model, thankfully – I suspect I would have given up on Android
      if they didn’t introduce the Nexus series.

      It’s why I won’t recommend anything but an iPhone or a Nexus device – if you aren’t getting one of those, you are wasting your money on a smartphone (and eventually maybe the Nokia win phones).

      It makes me cringe to see the sales of phones that aren’t running pure android, right from Google – it’s inevitably a worse experience and updates are slow and the software is buggier…

      There’s a lot that could be learned from the way Apple handles things. You’d think these companies would learn faster, but feeding customers shit seems to be rewarding them still.

  • Ironzey Lewis

    I stoped reading at “… carrier customizations…”

  • superboriqua

    That is why I may just not buy an Android phone again

    • Donovan

      That’s why you stick with Nexus series phones.

  • WarDrake

    this is a valid update model, for other OS’s! but not one company improves on android… they all clutter it instead, Vanilla android should be the standard, and then carriers can get down to making their hardware shine, instead of trying to impress people with how they messed with the android OS…

  • n25philly

    I thought “screw the customer” was a step, or is that just implied?

  • danyR

    Incredible transparency by Sony Ericsoon. This has been a constant in the last few months, not every company cares (or at least seems to care) this much about its clients.

  • Matt Yearian

    4-6 months!! I swear I heard 4-6 weeks not 4-6 months not too long ago from them.

  • Trevor Cameron

    Thanks Taylor! So glad that Motorola took the very brief time to explain in simple terms why it take so long. Hopefully this is something that both the OEM’s, carriers, and Google are all taking seriously and working on together! It would benefit all of them greatly!

  • TRed

    “upgrade the Droid RAZR, Motorola RAZR,”
    There’s two RAZR’s out now?

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Droid RAZR is the Verizon version. Motorola RAZR is the global version.

  • Danthes24

    a big + for motorola!!

  • Jeff

    I will never get another non-Nexus phone again.

    • ndub21

      I was planning on never getting another Nexus phone again, but the absurdity of the Galaxy Nexus release has put some doubt in my mind about that.

  • Tal

    Sounds like a Nexus advertisement :)
    I wonder if the Galaxy Note will come to north america in Q1 with ICS.

  • phohammer

    There’s absolutely no reason they would make upgrades quick. Why not make people wait and entice them to buy the next phone Moto makes that already has 4.0 on it? Never leave it to the manufacturer to update your phone. Just root, upgrade and be happy (as long as there’s a few devs supporting your device).

  • myslef

    It’s nice, there is official statements to this, regarding the time we will have to wait for an official release. Still I think I’m going for Cyanogen9. Already looks good and definitely will release on most devices before an official update will be up. But for those who don’t want to root their devices, this is actually great news.

  • Marc’us H.

    There should be a 5th and 6th step to where they realize that the update crashes phones (see: Droid X w/ Gingerbread) and they have to start back at Step 1.

  • jasonlee

    Be nice of verizon to let them unlock the boot loader along with this….lol

  • Benjamin M. Strozykowski

    I’ve been regretting my purchase of a Photon 4G more and more as time goes by. I’m going to avoid Motorola in the future when it comes to my Android phones.

  • Kenneth Ohonba

    So glad I sold my motorola phone cause anything from them equals do it yourself and it’s never guaranteed that it will work properly after that.

  • stenzor

    4-6 months is years in the tech world

  • Jorge Branco

    Someone mentioned it on the Duarte post but if Microsoft can push out these updates directly why can’t google/Samsung etc.?
    Even with the crappy ‘customisations’

  • ramenchef

    Motorola is a complete joke in regards to software updates at this point. Half a year+ is way too long. What’s funny is that even with all that time, they still release buggy software.

  • Hall Lo

    1. Root your device
    2. Install ICS rom
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

  • Dan Jones

    That sounds about right.

    I just wish a stable ICS ROM was available for my Droid 2 so I could skip all those steps and do it myself.

  • cvt2002

    That’s awesome

  • cvt2002

    That’s awesome!

  • Jamie

    If only they could complete these steps a little quicker! Bring me ICS for my xoom and atrix

  • donger

    now that’s a plan.

  • ToonPanda

    Hahahaha, I’d love to see this list actually work for anyone :D

  • Luke Haviland

    As Kellen of Droid-Life points out, Verizon is very thorough when it comes to testing new software updates, and he estimates June or July of 2012 as the time period when the newly released RAZR and Bionic could see Android 4.0.”

    I would put my trust in google over verizon any day
    but i guess it’s good to have a second opinion

  • sylar

    Leak that the update is coming out in a few days and never release it when they said they are. Then release the update and pull it several hours later due to problems with the update.

  • aranea

    The problem is the first step. Android as it’s is working and not many users like MotoBlur. Yet they insist on putting it on causing bugs and delays.

    I had discussion on Motorola’s own customer support form about this. They should release a vanilla Android version for those who want it. They can just make it available on their website and don’t push through carrier. This way people like most of us here can get it and average user who may not even be aware of what MotoBlur or Icecream Sandwich can wait for their “debugged” version.

    • JestersInc

      I must be one of the few customers that like motoblur.

  • humidity

    So what’s their excuse for the Galaxy Nexus taking so long?

  • Nathan D.

    Well at least I know why

  • Michael Ian

    6.Find that update breaks phone.
    7.Repeat 1 through 5.
    8.Fail to realize that stock is better and release all android phone with “not motoblur”

  • Joel Bird

    Didn’t Moto say Xoom would get ICS “within 6 weeks”?

  • RootMe

    So Motorola did Forget tomention their Google Hero device aka Motorola Xoom or did I misread the post.(not the family edition)

  • Oscar Ortega

    4 steeps not to get a Motorola phone?

  • Adryan maldonado

    all i can say is i hope it comes soon

  • eioous


  • Six8Six

    not sure if anyone has posted this, but Sony Ericsson has posted something similar recently:

    Quite a lengthy read!

  • KatSelezneva

    As the Android 4.0. source code has already been released, I think some Motorola devices will run on the ICS sooner than the official update appears. A dessert for developers: Some Ice Cream Sandwich, please!

  • Sean BillyMaysHere


  • roamdeus

    Step 1 buy a nexus phone
    Step 2 watch everyone suffer while u show off that update u had for the last 4 months

  • that_maynard

    pretty sure my Motorola Electrify will get it, just around the quarter.

  • smwinn7

    i cannot wait until moto and sony start releasing updates and at the rate verizon is going right now we might just see them before the galaxy nexus

  • mommyoops

    drove me bonkers! One day I needed the darned thing to work and no go! BAH!

  • Joseph Banks

    phone or 4g, phone or 4g? just drop the phone and get some business to fix the problem with the millions you’ll make from the sales…wait, they got money, what the feezy?

  • JestersInc

    Consumers, never happy, it takes too long, it is broken, it is slow, it is ugly..pfft

  • Tom Murphy

    lets go already

  • William McNair

    Nice to know. Let’s bring on the ICS already!