Motorola, you've let us down

When you've made your name as the company customers can count on for reliable Android upgrades, you can't drop the ball like this.

Motorola Android Upgrades
Motorola / JR Raphael

Motorola -- oh, Motorola. Where did things go wrong?

The company that worked to rebuild its reputation as the Android manufacturer that does things right has just taken a wrong turn. And in the context of Motorola's brand, this turn is particularly troubling.

In a blog posted this afternoon, Motorola revealed which of its phones will be receiving an upgrade to the upcoming Android 6.0 Marshmallow release. And the list contains some surprising omissions.

First is any version of the budget-level Moto E -- including this year's model, released just eight months ago, as well as the 2014 model, which is just over 16 months old.

The other omission is any U.S. carrier-connected version of the flagship 2014 Moto X -- a phone that just passed its one-year birthday last month. While Motorola does plan to upgrade the unlocked "Pure Edition" of that device, the AT&T- and Verizon-specific models are glaringly absent from the list.

"Maybe it's just an oversight," I thought upon seeing these surprises. But look at Motorola's official software update page, and you'll see the same notes laid out clear as day. And if that still isn't enough, Motorola's forums manager outright confirmed that the carrier versions of the 2014 flagship "will not get the upgrade" in a thread on the company's website.

Moto X Forum Comment Motorola Forums

Is this really that big of a deal, you might ask? Frankly, yes -- yes, it is. Eighteen months past a launch date is considered the minimum industry-wide standard for supporting an Android device with OS upgrades, and increasingly, companies are extending that to a full two years for flagship phones.

But that aside, Motorola isn't just any ol' company when it comes to Android upgrades. After Google acquired and then remade Motorola a few years back, the manufacturer staked its claim as the company that delivers Android upgrades fast and frequently. Its commitment to ongoing support was impressive, to say the least, and those of us who follow Android closely definitely took notice.

Even when its ownership was transferring to Lenovo last year, Motorola pledged emphatically that nothing would change -- that its focus and values would remain the same, only with a larger scale of operation. Well, somewhere along the road, something clearly went awry.

We saw the first signs of trouble with the company's Android 5.0 Lollipop upgrade last year. After earning a shining A+ in my upgrade report card analysis the previous year with KitKat, Motorola slumped in dead-last with an embarrassing D score on my most recent analysis. The rollout for the follow-up 5.1 Lollipop release wasn't exactly speedy, either. The company addressed some of those disappointments during a Q&A session at the launch event for this year's phones and promised it was focused on providing fast rollouts and regaining consumer trust -- but here we are today, with Motorola failing to commit support for several recent phones sold under that very promise.

Presumably, the lack of commitment for the carrier-connected Moto X models is related to the company's move to an unlocked-only sales system for its new 2015 Moto X phone. But just because Motorola is no longer dealing with carriers for its current flagship doesn't make it okay to leave customers who bought the previous flagship behind.

As for the Moto E, that situation is even harder to excuse. That phone is sold primarily on an unlocked basis -- and as spotted by the crew at Android Police, a marketing video published mere months ago for this year's model made a very explicit promise:

While other smartphones in this category don't always support upgrades, we won't forget about you, and we'll make sure your Moto E stays up to date after you buy it.


The saddest part is that this is the kind of thing we've come to expect from other Android manufacturers. Motorola established itself as the manufacturer that did things differently -- that actually made ongoing post-sales support a priority. With actions like this, it's hard to continue taking those promises seriously.

I've reached out to Motorola directly for comment and will update this page if I receive any additional information. And hey, you never know: Maybe the company will come around. Today's announcement does include the caveat that these are the plans as of now and that "things may change" -- so maybe this is a way of testing the waters to see how folks respond.

However you look at it, though, it doesn't look good -- not for a company whose message is so closely associated with reliable upgrades and who's already struggling to show it can keep its word.

[UPDATE: Silence is only fueling Motorola's Marshmallow meltdown]

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