December 7, 2011

Motorola Update on Ice Cream Sandwich

Motorola, in a long piece about when their customers can expect an Android upgrade for their phones and tablets:

“Like you, we are excited to see that Google released the source code to Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)! We’d like to address the question many of you have now – when can I get my ICS? “

(Via DF.)

Shorter version: Motorola and other mobile device makers remain unprepared for the product upgrade relationship with their customers that Apple established as a standard.

  • Apple devices: buy once, receive free or low-priced upgrades to functionality over the lifetime of the device.
  • Android: buy once, dispose of in a year, just like the last dozen forgettable and forgotten cell phones you’ve owned. It’ll likely never be more than it was when you bought it.

Most mobile device companies institutionalize built-in obsolescence as a business model. They have no interest in updating an Android phone once it’s out the factory door, because doing so might incentivize customers to hang onto their devices longer.

Google’s ongoing Android development makes it difficult to preserve that practice, because customers want the upgraded experience possible with a new version. Or, more likely, several new versions, because Android is taking a long while to become as useable and elegant as iOS.

Apple’s ongoing iOS development makes it downright impossible to preserve that practice, because every iteration of that operating system brings new capabilities to old iPhones and iPads, which were useable and elegant out of the gate. Android users are left looking askance at their older device, wishing it could do more, and better.

[Update: this graphic of orphaned Android devices tells the tale. Each device model sold is more likely to be one-and-done than upgraded with more features.]