Another year's behind us, and that means it's time to fire up our magical truth-seeking missiles and see which Android manufacturers are writing checks they can't cash.
The arena of broken dreams? Upgrades, of course. With Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release out in the wild since summer, the software is slowly but surely making its way to devices 'round the world. But while phone- and tablet-makers love to spend time talking about their plans for keeping gadgets up-to-date, some of them don't seem to spend quite as much energy making sure those promises come true.
I keep a close eye on the status of Android upgrades, and that gives me a front-row seat to what companies say and what they actually do. Sometimes, the level of disparity is disheartening.
So gather 'round, boys and girls: It's time to keep 'em honest. Here's a look at which Android manufacturers failed to keep their word for device upgrade promises in the fourth quarter of 2012.
HTC's broken promises actually stretch back to the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich release -- yup, the one unveiled way back in October of 2011. HTC's been promising ICS for its Thunderbolt and Droid Incredible 2 for more than a year now, but aside from the occasional vague "it's still coming!" remark, owners of the phones have yet to see a thing.
HTC originally said the Thunderbolt would be upgraded between July and August of 2012; the company also said it would provide specific timing details for the Incredible 2 within that same window.
It's tough to say whether the blame lies with HTC, Verizon, or some combination of the two -- but regardless of where you point your finger, the situation is smothered in the stench of upgrade promise fail.
LG's made some impressive strides in hardware lately, but when it comes to the company's own self-branded phones, keeping up with software promises continues to be a source of struggle. LG has an embarrassingly bad track record with Android upgrades, and its list of unfulfilled assurances grows longer with each passing quarter.
The latest entry is the company's Optimus G phone, which -- despite being the basis for Google's flagship Android 4.2 device, the Nexus 4 -- is still waiting for its Android 4.1 upgrade to arrive. LG promised that the phone's upgrade would appear before the end of December.
And don't even ask about the list of LG phones still waiting on long overdue Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades. It's bad enough to make you cringe.
Moto's in the midst of a major transition, and -- thanks to Google's influence on the company -- is starting to show signs of a newfound focus on reliable upgrades for its products. Still, the company has a lot of old baggage in its hands, and that means some pre-acquisition promises are getting pulverized.
In the fourth quarter, Moto pulled the plug on its promised upgrades for the Atrix 4G and Photon 4G. The company did offer hundred-dollar credits toward future purchases for owners of those devices, but after backtracking on its word, I doubt that gesture did much to soften the blow.
To be fair, transitions take time -- and most of Motorola's backlog is a carryover from the old guard. Here's hoping this is the last time we have to call the company out for disappointing decisions.
Some closing thoughts
At this point, you might be thinking: "Hey, jerkwad: My phone still hasn't gotten Jelly Bean. Why didn't you drop its manufacturer into your fancy bucket of fail?"
Well, Timmy, remember: What we're looking at here are failures to deliver on promises for Android upgrades. (Also, I prefer Mr. Jerkwad, thankyouverymuch.) Whether or not a company decides to upgrade a device in the first place is a far more complicated matter -- one that includes technological limitations, financial considerations (i.e. level of adoption vs. cost of upgrade), and lots of other things that can't be objectively measured.
Some manufacturers, like Samsung and Toshiba, have also stopped making specific software upgrade promises for their devices -- a change that occurred, interestingly enough, after the companies were called out for missing some self-imposed deadlines. Hey, if you don't make any specific promises, you can't break any specific promises, right? I'm not sure leaving customers in the dark is a much better alternative, but it is what it is.
Last but not least, it's important to keep things in perspective. Plain and simple, most Android devices don't come with inherent guarantees of ongoing, let alone timely, software upgrades. If fast and frequent upgrades are important to you, an unlocked Google Nexus device is the way to go. (That, or learning to root and take matters into your own hands.) Other phones and tablets have their own sets of advantages, but speedy ongoing upgrades typically aren't among them.
Still, promises are promises -- and when a company tells its customers it's going to provide a service, it sure as hell ought to deliver. As long as Android manufacturers keep making upgrade promises, I'll keep tracking 'em -- and I'll keep calling 'em out when they fail to come through.
You can always find the latest Jelly Bean upgrade info for any device in my Android 4.1 upgrade list. It's constantly kept up-to-date with the most current details available for all phones and tablets.