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Android users wait and wait for OS updates

As of February 24, many owners of the Samsung Captivate are finally able to update their phones to the 2.2 version of Android.
As of February 24, many owners of the Samsung Captivate are finally able to update their phones to the 2.2 version of Android.
  • There have been widespread complaints about lagging Android OS updates
  • Diversity of Android phones means updates aren't always timely
  • Author: Always check a phone's OS version before buying

Editor's note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog,, explores how people communicate in the online age.

(CNN) -- Samsung's popular Galaxy S series of Android smartphones has been available on the four major U.S. wireless carriers for nearly a year.

While many users like these phones, there have been widespread complaints about lagging operating system updates.

As of February 24, many owners of the Samsung Captivate on AT&T are finally able to update their phones to the 2.2 version of Android, called "Froyo," which still isn't the latest Android OS available.

Additionally, Captivate owners who use a Mac rather than a Windows computer have not been able to update their phones. That's because this operating system update is not being delivered wirelessly by AT&T. Rather, users only install it by using a USB cable to connect their phones to a computer running Samsung's Kies Mini software -- which only works on PCs.

Captivate owners who have PCs and have been able to get this update seem pleased judging by their tweets. I've seen few reports of update problems, and they're enjoying the improved speed and functionality of their phones.

Understandably, most Mac-owning Captivate owners aren't too pleased with the situation.

In January, PC Magazine reported: "A user revolt is starting among the tech blogs and on Twitter about Samsung's absolutely shameful lack of communication on updating its U.S. Galaxy S phones." Since then, T-Mobile released a Froyo update for its Galaxy phone, the Vibrant.

Meanwhile, this week Sprint started releasing -- and then Thursday abruptly halted -- Froyo updates for its Galaxy S phone, the Epic 4G. According to Boy Genius Report, owners of phones that received the update have been reporting problems related to data connectivity, as well as SD card problems when attempting to access photos or music.

And owners of the Verizon Fascinate are still awaiting any word of their Froyo update.

All of this underscores a key point about choosing a smartphone: Before you commit to a device -- and especially if you're signing a two-year carrier contract with it -- check which version of the operating system it's running.

If the phone you want isn't yet shipping with the latest OS, you might want to consider other phones that have the latest OS. Or at least wait, when possible, until the model you desire starts shipping with the latest OS.

For instance, the 2.3 version of Android, Gingerbread, was released last December. So far it's only available on the Nexus S.

In December, Android Central published their predictions about which devices might get Gingerbread updates sooner rather than later -- but that's still all guesswork and rumors at this point. So if you're currently considering buying an Android phone, it might be a good idea to wait under phones with Gingerbread are actually shipping.

It's rather frustrating to pay $200 or more for a phone, plus $100 or more per month for service, only to find that -- despite promises from the manufacturer and wireless carrier of speedy updates -- nearly a year later you're still waiting for your phone to catch up with current technology.

Meanwhile, you might start to see your phone's performance degrade because it's not keeping pace with the rest of the mobile ecosystem.

Right now this is mostly a concern for Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian phones. iPhones, iPads, and BlackBerries are comparatively monolithic distribution environments for OS updates, since they each only involve a single manufacturer. Where multiple manufacturers and carriers are involved, the OS update picture gets much more complex. And so far, Samsung is not establishing a great update track record for its Android devices.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Amy Gahran.


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