Antone Gonsalves

HTC reveals painful Android update process

December 31, 2013 4:48 PM EST

In February, smartphone maker HTC promised the Federal Trade Commission that it would clean up its act when it came to customer security. With its FTC troubles behind it, HTC has become very open with the difficulties in getting out Android updates.

FTC charges

The FTC charged HTC with designing and customizing smartphone software that failed to protect customers' personal data and privacy. In settling the complaint, HTC agreed to put in place a process for fixing security vulnerabilities, which included getting out Android updates in a timely manner.

HTC has released a detailed infographic explaining when customers can expect to get the Android 4.4 KitKat, which Google released in October. While two months may seem like a long time, HTC actually appears to be moving as fast as it can.

Carriers remain the biggest bottleneck to getting out timely updates. While HTC updated its software quickly, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are still working on their own apps and services for the new OS. When they are done, all changes will have to be tested for bugs and then certified by Google.

Slow updates

This slow process only applies to carrier-branded HTC One models. For the HTC One Google Play Edition running stock Android, which does not involve carriers, HTC had its code ready within 15 days of the release of KitKat and updated the smartphone soon after.

Carrier-branded models won't start to get updated until late January, according to HTC. However, this timetable may be optimistic.

While the manufacturer had expected HTC One smartphones to be updated to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean by late September, carrier-distributed updates didn't start until a month later. Verizon started sending out updates this month.

So HTC One users who bought their phones from carriers can only hope that they receive KitKat before Google releases the next version of Android. But I'm giving HTC credit for laying out the updating process and giving customers an idea of when updates will arrive.

Whether HTC's transparency is the result of the FTC settlement is hard to say. But the agreement certainly supplied some encouragement.