Froyo frustration: Motorola delivers bad news for 4 Android phones

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved. 

While most of the world's focused on Android Honeycomb, Google's new tablet-optimized OS, Motorola's dropping a few other Android-related bombs -- and not the good kind.

Froyo and Motorola Android Phones

Moto has quietly updated its Android 2.2 upgrade schedule to reflect some noteworthy changes in the company's plans for its existing Android smartphones. The changes affect the Cliq XT, the Motorola i1, and the relatively recent Motorola Flipout and Charm devices.

None of the phones, in short, will be getting the Froyo upgrade.

The Flipout and Charm will remain on Android 2.1, according to Motorola, while the Cliq XT and i1 will be stuck on the horribly antiquated Android 1.5.

Moto representatives elaborated a bit on the decision behind the Cliq XT's upgrade denial. In a posting on the company's official support forums, a Motorola employee said engineers "worked for months" to find a way to bring the Cliq XT up to a more recent edition of the Android OS. The software, however, "could not meet the basic performance standards required" when running on the phone, the representative says.

"We even took the unprecedented step of investigating the benefits of code provided by the independent developer community to try to improve XT performance," Motorola's statement explains. "In the end, we were not able to develop a version ... that would deliver an optimal customer experience."

Disappointing? Sure. Surprising? Not entirely. As we learned in our in-depth analysis of Android upgrades last month, phones that are high-end and higher profile are most likely to receive regular software updates. Annoying as it may be from a user perspective, the reality we're seeing is that manufacturers simply aren't going to put their full muscle behind every single phone -- and nine times out of 10, the lower-end, lower profile devices are the ones that are going to get left behind. (See also: "The argument against entry-level Android phones")

That's not to say you can't take matters into your own hands. If you're feeling adventurous and don't mind tinkering with techie-type stuff, try Googling "custom ROMs" along with the name of your phone. Android has a fantastic community of independent developers who work hard to create customized versions of the operating system for many devices. You'll have to do something called rooting your phone -- basically, completing a procedure that gives you unrestricted access to the system -- but if you're up for the challenge (it generally isn't that difficult but does require a certain level of geekiness) and don't mind potentially voiding your warranty (manufacturers and carriers typically won't support a phone once it's been rooted, as you've taken it beyond the protected environment they provided), you can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

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Motorola, incidentally, fared relatively well overall in our Android upgrade analysis. The company had the fastest upgrade time of any major phone-maker in the U.S., with an average delay of 54.5 days for devices that received the Froyo software. In 2010, however, Moto upgraded only 15 percent of its eligible U.S. phones to the Android 2.2 level.

For the full breakdown of how different manufacturers and carriers fared, see our complete series: "Android upgrades: Who 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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