Android upgrade report card: Who failed in the second quarter?

Android Upgrade Report Card

Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release may be making all the headlines these days, but for many users, Android 4.0 -- Ice Cream Sandwich -- is still the object of desire.

Android 4.0 started rolling out to devices last December. As of early July, though, it's on just 11 percent of devices, according to Google's own measurements. And that means the vast majority of people are still waiting for a taste.

Given the breadth and diversity of the Android ecosystem, it's inevitable that upgrade availability and timing will vary to some extent from one device to the next; Nexus devices aside, after all, it's up to manufacturers to prepare and provide Android OS upgrades. For better and sometimes for worse, that's the nature of Android's open source model.

There may not be a centralized system for upgrade standards, but there is a level of accountability. Many manufacturers make promises for when their devices will be upgraded -- and with the second quarter now behind us, it's time to check up on those promises once again to see who followed through and who let us down.

Based on their own publicly shared plans, here's how the various Android manufacturers performed in the second quarter of 2012.

[SEE ALSO: Android 4.0 upgrade list: When's your device getting ICS?]

Android upgrade report card: Acer

Acer scored an "A" in my first quarter upgrade report card, and it's faring almost as well this time around: The Acer team promised mid-April Ice Cream Sandwich deliveries for its Iconia Tab A100 and A500 tablets; while the rollouts for both devices started closer to the end of the month -- April 25 and 27, to be exact -- it's close enough that I'm not going to quibble. 


Android upgrade report card: Asus

Asus was another strong performer in my quarter 1 report. The maker of Google's new Nexus 7 tablet didn't disappoint in Q2: The company rolled out ICS to its Eee Pad Slider in mid-May. Though Asus provided no advance upgrade date for the device, its continued dedication to timely upgrades earns it another high mark.


Android upgrade report card: HTC

Things aren't looking so sunny for HTC at the end of the second quarter. The company, which earned a semi-respectable "B-" for its upgrade efforts in the first quarter of the year, let users down on a number of different fronts these past few months.

HTC promised an "early 2012" upgrade for its Amaze 4G phone but didn't deliver the upgrade until late May. It promised an upgrade for its EVO 3D at the start of 2012 but didn't roll out any upgrades to the phone until last week -- and the upgrade remains limited in nature, with EVO 3D customers in the U.S. still waiting for any sign of progress.

The letdowns, unfortunately, don't stop there: HTC promised an upgrade by the end of March for its Sensation 4G but didn't provide it until the middle of May. It promised a "May or June" upgrade for its EVO 4G+ phone and has yet to come through in any way. And it promised "early 2012" upgrades for the EVO Design 4G and HTC Rezound -- then changed its mind and said it'd upgrade them in "June or July." As of now, both devices are still waiting.

If HTC is going to catch up, it's going to have to start working in overtime, as several of its other handsets are nearing the end of their promised upgrade windows as well: The Desire HD, Desire S, Droid Incredible 2, Rhyme, and Thunderbolt are all set to be upgraded within the next two months, with two of the phones down to be done before the end of July.

HTC did deliver on one promise this quarter: It sent Ice Cream Sandwich to its international Incredible S phone in early July, as scheduled. But with all the failures, that one success isn't enough to erase an otherwise embarrassing performance.


Android upgrade report card: Lenovo

Lenovo sat the first quarter out completely, but in Q2, the company kicked things up and got into gear. Lenovo upgraded its ThinkPad Tablet to Android 4.0 from late May to early June, fulfilling its promise for a second-quarter delivery.


Android upgrade report card: LG

Like Lenovo, LG got an "incomplete" grade in my first quarter report. Unlike Lenovo, however, LG didn't do much to improve its stature this second round.

LG delivered Android 4.0 to its Optimus LTE phone in Korea last month, meeting its second-quarter promise for that device. Everywhere else, though, the manufacturer failed miserably.

LG had promised second-quarter upgrades for its Eclipse, MyTouch Q, Optimus 2X, Optimus Sol, and Prada smartphones. Not a single one of those devices received an upgrade in the second quarter -- and LG has stayed mum about what's causing the widespread delays.

With a slew of other smartphones on its third-quarter upgrade schedule, LG had better start moving if it plans to make right by its customers.


Android upgrade report card: Motorola

Motorola may now be owned by Google, but its Android upgrade performance has yet to reach anywhere near Nexus levels. Moto did finally get ICS to its flagship Droid Razr device just days ago, but that phone had originally been promised an "early 2012" upgrade; I don't think the last few days of June quite qualify as "early" in the year (and some users weren't even able to get the upgrade until the start of July). The same applies to Motorola's Droid Razr model.

The international Motorola Razr, meanwhile, just started getting its first taste of Ice Cream Sandwich this month, and plenty of owners are still waiting for their upgrades. That phone, like its U.S. brother, was originally promised an "early 2012" upgrade and then later changed to a "second-quarter" timeline.

Last but not least, Motorola outright admitted defeat on a few fronts. Its Xoom Family Edition, for example, was set to get the 4.0 upgrade in the second quarter, but Moto casually announced that its rollout wouldn't happen until Q3. The company also announced in May that its Photon 4G phone would be moved from a third-quarter upgrade all the way to the end of the year.

Not too impressive, Moto. Not too impressive at all.


Android upgrade report card: Notion

Notion is the perfect example of how a manufacturer's cockiness can backfire. The company actually told its customers to expect a November 2011 ICS upgrade for its Notion Ink Adam tablet (yes, seriously). That obviously didn't happen. Since that wildly ambitious estimate, the company has released alpha and beta builds but -- still today -- has made no further mention of when its official final version will become available.


Android upgrade report card: Samsung

For its approximately 47.2 gazillion Galaxy phone variations, Samsung has been curiously quiet when it comes to upgrades these past few months. Sammy delivered Ice Cream Sandwich to a subset of its Galaxy Note users in May, but much of the world -- including the U.S. -- is still waiting. And that heavily marketed device, as you may recall, was actually scheduled to receive ICS in the first quarter of the year; it wasn't until the final days of Q1 that Samsung quietly pushed the schedule back and made it sound like it was doing its customers a favor.

Samsung has slowly -- and I mean slooooowly -- been rolling Android 4.0 out to its Galaxy S II phones this quarter, but its support for that device is a carry-over from the first quarter and nothing worth celebrating. And plenty of GSII owners are still waiting.

On the plus side, at least Samsung's consistent.


Android upgrade report card: Sony

Sony released a slew of ICS upgrades in the second quarter, and most were pretty darn close to keeping with the company's promises. The Tablet S got ICS in late April, fulfilling its promised "spring 2012" destiny. The Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman, Xperia Active, Xperia Arc, Xperia Mini, Xperia Mini Pro, Xperia Neo, Xperia Neo V, and Xperia Pro (yes, it takes a spreadsheet to keep track of all those names) received their 4.0 upgrades in late May. Sony had originally scheduled the phones for "late April to early May" upgrades but later revised the timeline to "late May or early June."

Similarly, the Xperia S and Xperia Ray got their ICS upgrades on April 13, coming in on the tail of the original "late March to early April" promises. And the Xperia S received its upgrade on June 21 following an original "early June" promise.

Finally, Sony started sending ICS to its Tablet P on June 14; that device was originally listed for a late May upgrade. All in all, it's not a perfect record -- but its misteps are fairly minor, and it could be far worse.


Android upgrade report card: Toshiba

Toshiba sat still for most of the first quarter but managed to spring into action at the end, sending Ice Cream Sandwich to its Excite 10 LE tablet in early June and meeting its self-imposed spring upgrade deadline (spring technically ran through June 19 this year).

Things took a bad turn from there, though: In late June, Toshiba posted a message on its company forums informing owners of its Thrive tablet that their ICS upgrades were delayed in a major way. The Thrive, which had originally been promised a spring 2012 upgrade, was pushed all the way back to "early fall."

So much for success.


Android upgrade report card: Final notes and future steps

In talking about Android upgrades, it's important to note that carriers frequently play a pivotal role in the process. With phones like Samsung's Galaxy S devices, for example, Samsung will create the initial Android 4.0 build and then work with carriers to test and tweak it as needed for their networks. Meeting the carriers' requirements can tack a good amount of extra time onto the upgrade process, which is why some carriers' phones may get upgrades before others. In the case of a device like the Galaxy S II, the diverse hardware and software variations seen in the multiple U.S. models can make the effect even more pronounced.

So where do we go from here? In the big picture, with Android 4.0, the upgrade process is just starting to pick up steam. We should see new upgrades fairly frequently over the next few months as manufacturers start to catch up and make their way down their lists of eligible devices. There are literally dozens of phones and tablets scheduled to be upgraded in the third quarter of the year and even more scheduled for vague "sometime in 2012" rollouts.

And then, of course, we'll have Jelly Bean to watch for. It's still too soon to know much about Android 4.1 upgrade plans beyond Google's own Nexus devices, but odds are, timing promises for that platform will start popping up soon. The coming months will be anything but quiet, and you can rest assured I'll be tracking every twist and turn along the way.

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Remember, you can find the latest upgrade status for any device in my Android 4.0 upgrade list. It's always kept up to date with the most current info available for all phones and tablets. And once Jelly Bean info starts trickling in, I'll have you covered there, too.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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