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The Setup

Last year Samsung released an impressive line of Android smartphones on many different carriers.  At the time of release they seemed to be the Android front runner for competition with the iPhone on AT&T .  They even captured the top Android sales spot in Q3 of 2010 as well as sold 80 million mobile devices in Q4 giving them their most success....  I'd assume a company with such success would harbor their customer base and try to keep them happy.  Contrarily though, Samsung has been extremely slow with updating their handsets to Froyo (Android 2.2).  In fact, at Google released the Nexus S, a Google branded model of the Samsung Galaxy S, with Gingerbread (Android 2.3) in December.  Amongst rumors that Samsung was holding back the updates for one re..., Samsung has YET to deliver the upgrade.

 

The Slap

Earlier this week, at Mobile World Congress, Samsung showed off their new line of tablets and smart phones. Among them is the Galaxy S II, running... Gingerbread (Android 2.3)!!  As everyone ohhs and ahhs over the new phone and it's capabilities, I am left thinking... What about all the customers STILL waiting for 2.2?  The customers that put you in that top spot, the customers that allowed you to record breaking sales and profits.  The customers that are locked into 2 year contracts with their Samsung phones and probably won't purchase another phone because they'd have to purchase it unsubsidized.  Samsung has failed to find the development resources to provide their current customers with an update, yet has found resources to include the newest software in their new phones.

 

I call 'em how I see 'um and I see a company thats saying, these guys are stuck in contracts they aren't going anywhere, let's concentrate on getting new customers.  At this point, with the mobile device landscape just being laid out, Samsung needs to be real careful to not fall into a negative light.  Those impressions, once gained are hard to loose.  I liken it to Internet Explorer, all the reviews of the new version are positive, but because of it's history I just can't bring myself to use it or even recommend it to anyone I know.

 

And to think I was a front facing camera away from getting the Captivate over my iPhone 4.  I'm glad I went with the iPhone, which I'm handing off to my son in favor of the Motorola Atrix.

 

Aloha,

 

James

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Comment by James Pakele on February 18, 2011 at 10:45pm

They don't have to be "exceptionally" bad, just worse than the other players on the field.  Maybe the Froyo update didn't have a huge difference, however, at this rate they'll always be a version behind.  When the "I' release comes around the differences are sure to be more prevalent than the 2.1 -> 2.2 update, as that is the version that should merge the phone and tablet versions.  If they don't treat their current customers better I don't think they'll be able to keep their top spot.  Especially with all the competition entering the market.  

 

I really hope they get their act together because I really like the hardware they're putting out.  I guess only time will tell. 

Comment by Brian on February 17, 2011 at 7:46pm

I don't disagree that the current state of rapid progression on mobile devices can be frustrating - I simply disagree that Samsung is exceptionally bad in this regard.

 

I don't really see a good solution - many of the new features vendors keep throwing out have increasing hardware requirements - and mobile devices aren't really designed to be upgraded (low margin, high volume devices seldom are). Going back to 2.1 - 2.2 for example. One of the features added was Flash. You could say .. well take Flash out! But then you will have customers crying foul that it is not really 2.2.. because they gimped it without Flash!

 

.. and so forth. Now if the vendors are intentionally withholding updates to promote new devices that is a bit unsavory, but the mere fact they haven't back-ported a release is not proof of this.

 

I think the core issue we are dancing around here is that smartphones are starting to grow up.. we are starting to think of them as computing devices we should be able to upgrade. It's a far cry from the 'black box' devices that were mainstream only a few years ago..

 

Bottom line is there are growing pains in any new technology.. and the faster it is evolving - the more likely you will be left behind. Mobile is just growing insanely right now so while I certainly acknowledge frustration (and have shared it at times) - I'm not surprised by any of it either.

Comment by James Pakele on February 17, 2011 at 6:37pm

Aaaaaannnnnddddd..... here's the point.... How long till something useful is not included because Samsung chose to put efforts into the new instead of care for the current...

PlayOn brings Hulu and NetFlix streaming to Froyo and later... Sorry Samsung Captivate users...

 

http://goo.gl/IRGa9

Comment by James Pakele on February 17, 2011 at 2:29pm

I admittedly keep little eye on what Sony Ericsson does.  If that is the case, then yes, they are thrown into the same bucket.  If one can choose an HTC or Motorola model that, while there are issues, at least seem to make attempts at supporting their current customer base, why would anyone go with a company that ignores their current customer base. You're only a "new" customer until you put down your money, then your a "current" customer, and if they don't tend to the "current" customers what benefit is there to becoming one?

 

I guess a lot of it is disappointment...  When I was considering a Captivate vs iPhone 4 the one thing that pushed me to the iPhone 4 is the front facing camera (I know, I know, but I have a young son and it just means the world when he can see us on the phone when we can't be there).  At the time I was thinking, as soon as they put in the front facing camera, I'm in.  Then they did that with the Nexus S, except TMobile doesn't have a signal in my house, but I was eagerly awaiting the next Samsung version, then the update complaints started rolling in, and months and months later, nearly everyone else has gotten theirs and Samsung still has nothing (Feb 22nd?).  Then they start showing off Gingerbread phones.... what???  Killed it for me... I won't get a Samsung phone until they have a track record of tending to their customers.  It's a shame too, because their new phone looks awesome.

 

However: If they don't tend to the flock, the flock will go somewhere else to eat.

Comment by James Pakele on February 17, 2011 at 2:15pm

Samsung is sporting their new line of phones with not the "Next" version (Froyo) but the "Next-Next" version

(Gingerbread) at Mobile World Congress while their current customers are still left hanging with Eclair.  Not just some of their customers, mind you, ALL of their customers, even the ones that paid for their top model phones.  

 

It's the equivalent of Apple saying, I know you guys are all using 3.3 and waiting for 3.4 but..... Look what iOS 4.0 can do!!!  

Comment by Paul Graydon on February 17, 2011 at 2:14pm
A far worse example of not updating phones is Sony Ericsson who release beautiful phones, but running already out of date versions, with no real intention of updating them.  It's a shame because SE do tend to make decent quality phones.  They do come from a Symbian background, though, where it was extremely rare to ever upgrade and most people were clueless about the updates anyway.
Comment by Brian on February 17, 2011 at 2:08pm

I understand what you're saying, but I feel you're overreacting a bit. My point is that the whole issue of "phone upgrades not being forthcoming or not going smoothly" is hardly without precedent.

 

HTC, Motorola, and Apple have all had various issues upgrading the OS to their phones in the recent past - how is Samsung so different here?

Comment by James Pakele on February 17, 2011 at 9:43am

My point is not really about this upgrade in particular, or what added features or benefits are provided with 2.2 as opposed to 2.1.  I'm more concerned about the precedent that is being set.  If they want to remain one of the top players in the game, they need to perform like a top player, or I feat they'll be cut.  I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who is very impressed by the products they are turning out and sees the potential for them to maintain a top spot in the industry. I especially liked their seemingly come-from-nowhere appearance they put forth in 2010.  While most of the talk surrounded Motorola and HTC, Samsung released high quality phones on nearly every carrier, and also went on their own and successfully released the Galaxy Tab, even with Google repeatedly stating they didn't support Android on a tablet at the time.  I see the top three manufacturers of Android devices as HTC, Motorola and Samsung.

 

Now, HTC and Motorola both updated their products, at least the top sellers, in a relatively timely fashion.  I'm admittedly NOT a Samsung customer, although I was really close.  However, if I was, I would be feeling like the kid on the curb, after school, who's parents neglected to pick them up.  I mean, sure, I may have lived close enough to the school to "make due" and walk home or catch a ride with a friend, but it's still nice when mom and/or dad take the time to pick me up.   What would be worse is if my parents show up to the school and pick up only my newer, cooler, faster, better looking younger brother and tell me to walk home.

 

Effectively what could happen is Samsung could become the manufacturer with a reputation for not providing continued support.  Maybe this update didn't have anything of much significance, but what about the next one?  Does this become a trend for Samsung?  What happens when the updates do have significant gains and those with an HTC or Motorola handset is showing it off to

Comment by Paul Graydon on February 17, 2011 at 7:34am

I bounce back and forth on this issue, as a consumer and geek I can fully appreciate the desire for the upgrade, but looking at it from a business perspective you bought the phone as 2.1, and as far as I remember it was never sold as "with an upgrade to 2.2 coming".

You got what you paid for, in other words.  One of the reasons I went with the Nexus One was that it is/was the reference phone for developers, with Google saying that it would receive updates (still waiting on 2.3, but Google folk I've spoken to say internal word is that it's more the Telco's fault than Google's)

 

There is no real financial gain for Samsung to invest their time and effort porting and upgrading old phones, there is no on going financial income from it.  The only possible benefit is good will and that's often hard to quantify to bean counters.

 

I found the 2.1->2.2 upgrade to make things noticeably smoother on the N1, and with noticeable leaps and gains in memory usage reduction, but the phone was perfectly good on 2.1 too.  I do hope it'll keep spreading on to other phones though :)

Comment by Brian on February 17, 2011 at 1:16am

The features from 2.1 -> 2.2 aren't really that gamebreaking. It'd be interesting to know how significant a concern this is for most people. When I went from 2.1 to 2.2 I found it rather underwhelming, the claimed benefits of an improved JVM of "up to 20x" for memory usage and such were rather overstated. Yes it's faster, but it's more like going from a geo to an accord than to a porsche.

 

Certainly it is an improvement but I hardly felt like my phone was gimped. I used to fiddle a lot with different kernels and roms and honestly I never found the difference that substantial - that's why I've gone back to a rooted but otherwise stock image.  The biggest factor in smartphones right now is the rapid growth in processor/memory.

 

This breakdown of versions sums up - in my opinion - why the whole "android fragmentation" argument is heavily overstated. A little over 10% are on older versions but 85% are on either 2.1 or 2.2. That's remarkably good.

 

Pretty far from a slap in the face, this is just normal. It's nothing like IE6 which lingered on for a decade. 2.1 was released a year ago and still lingers on for many devices - this is unremarkable. Apple has had similar problems making the latest version of iOS work well on older phones. For example late last year (August timeframe?) they released an update for iOS 4 that fixed issues on 3GS phones. And the latest iOS features have not always worked well on older phones either.

 

Of course, it's obviously much easier for Apple to manage the iPhone since they control it 100% - the fact that even they can't always make customers happy tells me that Samsung isn't doing that poorly.

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