Fragmentation is the most overplayed issue on Android, with frequent press pushing the issue. This is more of that, but not because of hardware issues; no, this covers an actual serious issue with Android, namely the lack of recent software updates for many devices. Android and Me reports that many devices are not yet running the latest version of Android available for phones, Gingerbread (2.3). While manufacturers in the Android Update Alliance are providing updates to many of their phones, carriers are not offering these updates in large quantities to their users.
The problem is likely twofold. First, because Google does not have the ability to deliver software updates directly to user’s phones, they cannot push updates like Apple can; not having desktop software like iTunes to help this process is also a hindrance. The second problem is that there’s a bottleneck among the carriers and manufacturers with providing updates. The manufacturers have to develop updates for these phones because of the various hardware in them. Manufacturers may be hesitant to develop them because they are consistently working on new phones, and may be trying to just develop for the new phones they make. As well, they often have to deliver these updates to the carriers, and they have been lackadaisical in providing them to users. As well, there has been conflict in the past with manufacturers trying to get more money from the carriers because they feel like they should be compensated for providing feature updates. In short, because of all these factors, it has made it more difficult for users to get the latest updates.
By not having these updates, users are having to use devices that are not as secure, and are obviously lacking features because they are on earlier updates. This ultimately harms the Android experience, and it is in both the carriers’ and manufacturers’ best interests to make sure that their phones are on the latest versions, because offering users an inferior experience makes them more likely to jump into the arms of Apple and iOS. Apple has been much more hostile to carrier interference than Android manufacturers have, and carriers could risk losing control of their own networks if users will not support smartphone alternatives to iOS. While the risks of mass defection are low, it’s still something that seems like the carriers should not risk.