2011's here -- so where's your Froyo already?

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

2011 promises to be the year of Android -- again. Google's latest release, Android Gingerbread, is out in the wild; some exciting new dual-core devices are on the way; and the first Honeycomb-powered Android tablet will likely be revealed later this week. Things are happening, and they're happening fast.

2011 Froyo

Despite the progress, however, hoards of users are feeling left behind. I'm talking, of course, about the Android 2.2 upgrade: While many of us have been enjoying Froyo on our phones for months, millions of Android fans are still waiting for their rollouts to begin -- nearly eight months after the software entered the world.

Now, plenty of manufacturers did make good on their promises to deliver Froyo before the end of 2010. Others are running more slowly than they should but are at least giving firm dates for upgrades in early '11. The companies I'm most frustrated with are the ones with high-profile phones that are still hemming and hawing about when they'll be ready to roll.

The most noteworthy example is Samsung, with its seemingly ubiquitous Galaxy S line of Android devices. Just today, Samsung announced it's sold more than 10 million Galaxy S phones worldwide. To be fair, the company did manage to get Android 2.2 rolled out to customers in some parts of the world, including the UK and Canada, before 2010 came to a close. But for Galaxy S users in America, the wait for Froyo continues.

So what's going on? According to a two-part message sent by Samsung's official Twitter account over the weekend, testing is taking a long time. A really, really long time.

"We are working to make the Android 2.2/Froyo upgrade available to all U.S. Galaxy S owners as soon as possible," Samsung tweeted. "We want Galaxy S owners to have simple/reliable upgrade. We r running tests due to complexity/unique functionality."

Samsung Galaxy S

That "unique functionality" likely refers to the proprietary TouchWiz interface Samsung installs on all of its Galaxy S devices. As I've said before, these sorts of baked-in manufacturer UIs can add a significant hurdle into the Android upgrade process: Instead of simply making basic tweaks to Google's software, manufacturers have to painstakingly recreate their own custom versions of the operating system with each upgrade. There is a better way -- but so far, most manufacturers are sticking with the cumbersome and less user-focused approach instead.

Even given that factor, though, there's no excuse for Samsung to be dragging its feet this long. The Galaxy S was announced last March; the first U.S. editions launched in July, one month after Froyo hit the Nexus One. One would imagine that if a company the size of Samsung devoted the right resources to it, it wouldn't be such an impossible feat to get a new version of Android tested, ready, and rolled out to its phones within six freakin' months.

(Samsung's also staying mum on the Froyo fate of its Transform Android phone, which had been publicly promised an upgrade within 2010. Other phone-makers are guilty of extended delays, too; check our Android 2.2 upgrade list for all the latest info.)

Android Power Twitter

So come on, manufacturers and carriers: Get with the program. Android's shooting forward with impressive innovations -- but for many users, you're needlessly holding it back. Do us all a favor and make a resolution to make your upgrades a priority. You can sell millions upon millions of devices, but if you don't take care of the people who are buying them, you won't earn many repeat customers.

UPDATE: Who can you trust to provide timely Android upgrades, and who's likely to leave you out in the cold? Check out our in-depth analysis: Android upgrades: Which manufacturers can you trust?  

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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