Android upgrades: Which carriers can you trust?

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Android Upgrades - Carriers

Android upgrades have the potential to make our phones more powerful -- but they also have the potential to drive us crazy, thanks to the waiting and uncertainty that's frequently involved.

As we discovered in part one of our Android upgrade series -- Android upgrades: Which manufacturers can you trust? -- there are some definite trends when it comes to companies' commitments to providing timely updates. And it isn't only the manufacturers that are involved.

Using the same set of data described on the previous page, I analyzed how the four major U.S. carriers performed when it came to Android upgrades in 2010. I looked specifically at upgrades to Android 2.2 rolled out to eligible phones before the end of 2010, within six months of the software's release. (See part 1 for more specific details about the data and methodology.) The only phone previously mentioned that's not included here is the Nexus One; due to its unique arrangement in which multiple carriers are involved and the updates are handled directly by Google, it didn't make sense to factor the phone into a carrier-based performance analysis.

So which carriers made the grade, and which are being sent home with a big fat "F"? Read on to find out.

Android Upgrades: Grading the Carriers

Android Upgrades - Carriers

The two charts at right break down the carriers' performance; click on either thumbnail to view the full-sized version. The first chart shows the percentage of Android phones upgraded to Froyo on each carrier within 2010, while the second chart shows how long, on average, each carrier took to deliver the software. You can also view the full set of raw data here.

Some conclusions:

  • Android Upgrades - Carriers

    Verizon takes top honors for its Android upgrade habits. A third of the carrier's qualifying Android phones received Froyo within the software's first six months on the market. On average, it took Big Red 58 days to get those updates delivered.

  • Sprint is slightly behind Verizon in its overall upgrade number, at 28.6 percent, and its overall upgrade time is also slightly slower. Though Sprint was first out of the gate with its EVO 4G rollout, the 159-day delay in getting Froyo to the Samsung Intercept drags its final average down to 100 days.

  • T-Mobile comes in third. Looking at the phones that fall within our parameters, the carrier managed to upgrade only one out of eight devices during Froyo's first six months, giving it an upgrade score of 12.5 percent. Its upgrade time isn't the greatest, either, at 112 days.

  • AT&T is without question the dunce of the group. The carrier everyone loves to hate has consistently shown itself to be the least desirable choice for Android, and its upgrade numbers reflect that attitude: Between June and December, AT&T failed to upgrade a single one of its nine Android phones. On the plus side, Dell's Streak is set to "hopefully" receive its Froyo upgrade sometime this month (Dell, interestingly, faults AT&T for the delay in getting the software rolled out). We'll have to see whether the carrier's habits improve in 2011, what with the launch of the Verizon iPhone and AT&T's subsequent loss of Apple exclusivity. If nothing else, we can say that the network does have some impressive-looking devices on the way.

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In general, it's hard to say how much of a role carriers play compared to manufacturers when it comes to any one phone's upgrade; the manufacturers, of course, are the most directly involved with the software, but carriers often have requirements that may slow down the process. In any case, it's worth knowing how the various competitors compare and being able to factor that knowledge into your future phone-purchasing decisions.

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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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