Now that Motorola is owned by Google, you may think that past and present Motorola devices should get the latest and best version of Android. Even though the Motorola XPRT is a niche device, Google and Motorola should take pride in their older models and foster customer satisfaction. With Sprint quietly announcing on its forum that the Motorola XPRT will be updated to Android Gingerbread (2.3), it shows once again that the update rollout process for Android is broken — Android 2.3 was released two years ago.
In the current Android model, updated versions have to go through a long and painful process. First, manufacturers make sure that everything works as expected with their devices. Most of the time they need to update their custom user interfaces, such as TouchWiz for Samsung or Sense for HTC. Then carriers test and certify the update, and can choose to roll out the new version over the air.
Those companies sell services, not devices, and they often don’t understand the benefits of updating a device. Their cell towers handle the release over 3G/LTE. They may want to limit those updates as well so that users will be enticed to buy a new device and sign a new contract.
Even though the Motorola XPRT does not have a big installed base, it was released recently, in May 2011. When it comes to supporting existing devices, some manufacturers and carriers have been better than others. For example, the Motorola XPRT is in fact a renamed version of the Droid Pro that was released on Verizon — the brand name Droid is a trademark of Lucasfilm licensed to Verizon Wireless and it can’t be used by other carriers.
Verizon updated the phone to Gingerbread in May 2011, a few months after the operating system was released. Sprint shipped the device at the same period with an old version of Android and seemed stuck with it. With today’s news, Motorola XPRT users will be glad to hear that they have not been totally left behind.
Gingerbread is still the dominant Andoid OS, which causes many problems for developers because they can’t take advantage of newer sets of API. Even Google’s latest smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid Razr M, come with Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) months after the release of Jelly Bean (4.1).
Comparatively, it took nine days to get iOS 6 installed on 60 percent of iPhones. If it takes a year and a half for Sprint to release a new version of Android after they roll out an update, Motorola XPRT users can expect to receive Honeycomb in 2014, Ice Cream Sandwich in 2015 and Jelly Bean in 2017. Google needs to find a better way to release Android updates.