Android Intelligence Analysis

Hey, LG: How's that 'Software Upgrade Center' going?

LG promised big things with the launch of its "Software Upgrade Center" in April. Seven months later, it's time to check in — and hold the company accountable.

LG Software Upgrade Center
geralt (CC0)

Back in April, LG came out with an almost laughably bold declaration: The company infamous for treating Android software updates as an afterthought was breaking new ground by opening a "Software Upgrade Center" — and not just any "Software Upgrade Center," mind you, but the industry's "first such facility aimed at providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier smartphone operating system and software updates."

Um, right.

As I said at the time, LG's history with Android upgrades made me pretty darn skeptical that this was anything more than an inconsequential marketing stunt. LG, y'see, has not only been among the worst performers when it comes to post-sales software support — with a lovely zero percent "F" ranking on my most recent Android Upgrade Report Card — but it also has a funny habit of pairing its obvious indifference with a shocking level of bravado.

What it basically boils down to is that LG loves to talk. The company consistently makes grand announcements about its Android upgrade accomplishments, but those proclamations always end up being empty words — marketing-ready bragging rights, often based on technicalities and with little meaningful action alongside them. The list of such stunts is staggering.

But maybe, just maybe, this "Software Upgrade Center" wasn't the same. Maybe LG really did want to turn over a new leaf and show that it could treat its customers with respect — that yes, garsh durn it, it could provide folks with reliable software updates in a reasonably timely manner. Unlikely as that seemed, we had to at least give good ol' LG a chance to prove us wrong.

Well, it's now been seven months since that grand declaration. Has anything actually changed?

You can probably guess the answer, but you know what? I'm not content to let companies get away with empty promises and misleading claims. If LG is gonna get positive press about its "industry-leading" efforts to create a new kind of "Software Upgrade Center," then it needs to be held accountable. It needs to show us that it's doing something that's making a difference — that its "Software Upgrade Center" is more than just a series of words on a press release.

It's been seven months. It's time for results.

The 'Software Upgrade Center,' seven months later

So let's get to some hard data, shall we? Forty days after announcing its "Software Upgrade Center" in April, LG delivered its first Android 8.0 Oreo upgrade in the U.S. — to its then-current flagship, the G6, on Verizon. That made the upgrade 274 days, just over nine months, after Oreo's actual release. Not exactly a praise-worthy performance.

But LG had just committed to its new system at that point, right? Maybe we need to give it a little leeway. Maybe this was just the beginning of a brand new LG, and things would get impressive from this point forward.

Or not. Despite the presence of the "Software Upgrade Center," owners of the company's previous-gen flagship, the G5, waited another half-year from then to see Oreo arrive on their phones. The first U.S. G5 Oreo upgrade showed up in late September — a ridiculous 13 months after Oreo's release. Worse yet, by that point, the newer Android 9 Pie software had been out for a full month and a half. That's just plain embarrassing.

And that's not the end of it, either: Last month, LG released a brand new phone, the V40 — a device increasingly being positioned as a secondary, alternate flagship to the main G-branded product line. The V40 became available in America on October 18 — two and a half months after Pie's release. And yet, it shipped with the outdated Android 8.1 Oreo software, accompanied by a vague and thus-far-unfulfilled promise for a Pie upgrade sometime "soon."

Seventy-four days passed between the time of Pie's release and the time of the V40's launch. Seventy-four days. There is simply no excuse for launching a phone with year-old software when the newer, more modern, more powerful, and more secure version has been available for 74 forkin' days. Heck, updating an existing phone to a new OS release after 74 days isn't even especially awe-inspiring; that sort of timing earns a company a decent but unexceptional 86 percent "B" grade on my upgrade scoring system.

As for Pie, we're now 102 days — just over three months — past its release, and we've yet to hear a peep from LG about U.S. upgrade plans for any of its current- or previous-gen flagship phones. That sort timing isn't unusual in the Android field these days, unfortunately, but it certainly isn't what you'd expect from a company with a highly touted new "Software Upgrade Center" created to demonstrate its "commitment to customers' needs."

I'll hang onto hope that LG will do at least a little bit better with Pie than it has with its past lackluster upgrade efforts (not exactly a lofty goal, mind you; a dim-witted antelope could outperform the company's half-hearted flop of an Oreo effort). The time for praise, however — for saying, "Wow, that 'Software Upgrade Center' really turned things around! LG is killing it!" — has officially passed.

And the time for taking LG even the teensiest bit seriously when it puts out its inevitable next over-the-top marketing message has also come and gone. LG phones are fine for what they are — and if you like 'em, hey, more power to ya. But if you want even semi-reasonably reliable post-sales software updates — something any serious business user should absolutely care about — well, don't let this wolf's endless cries trick you into thinking you'll find 'em here.

Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get more practical tips, personal recommendations, and plain-English perspective on the news that matters.

AI Newsletter

[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

5 power user tips for Microsoft OneNote
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon