Friday, November 29, 2013

Google restricts KitKat updates, bans Cyanogen from Play store

Google has angered many owners of older Nexus devices by refusing to roll out the latest version of Android Kit Kat despite the fact such devices are capable of running the software. Furthermore the search giant has effectively ousted Cyanogen from its Play store which had provided software which allowed users to install such operating systems manually.

The moves have signalled a distinct change in the way the company behaves to its massive user base and an apparent shift away from previously stated policies.

Abandoned promises

Ever since the launch of Google's line of Nexus phones the company promised users they would always be the first to receive the latest updates. Nexus devices run on what is often referred to as stock Android or Vanilla Android, a version of the Android operating system which omits much of the bloatware often added by other manufacturers. Fans of Google and Android devices often state that stock Android is far superior to that offered on other devices and as such have opted to only purchase Google's line of Nexus devices.

The first device to appear under the Nexus brand was the Nexus One, but with limited memory it was only able to upgrade to Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread. Soon after The Nexus One fell out of favour the Nexus S took centre stage. It was faster than the previous device and possessed more memory though it can only be updated to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

In November 2011 came the Galaxy Nexus which launched with  Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and later, for most users, updated to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. However there the updates stopped, despite the device having sufficient RAM to house the latest software build that of Android 4.4 KitKat.


Google merely states that the Galaxy Nexus won't receive an update because the device has fallen out of its 18 month update cycle despite the fact the device was on sale less than 12 months ago. The decision has angered Galaxy Nexus owners who feel they have been lied to by a company that promised they would always be first to receive new software updates, given technical specifications allowed. It has prompted some to launch a petition which aims to persuade Google to change its mind [].

Those writing on forums have expressed dismay at Google's decision claiming that the company has broken its promise to those who bought Nexus devices.

"I purchased my Galaxy Nexus a little over a year ago - why? Because at the time, Google maintained the line that all supported Galaxy phones would be updated to the latest version of Android. No rooting or flashing, I got every update," one angry Galaxy Nexus owner posted on the Inquirer website. "So what the heck are they thinking now? The KitKat update not only supports my phone, but it's just a .4 release. And it's not like getting an OS update would keep me from buying the new phone with better hardware. If anything, it makes me hesitant to buy the new one when there's a chance I'll get burned like this again. This breaks every promise I was sold."

In fact many also accuse the company of ignoring or abandoning its much stated green credentials suggesting that junking a perfectly good phone for a new Nexus 5 in order to take advantage of Android KitKat is not exactly environmentally friendly.

Mixed opinions

However some have suggested that all the complaints are unwarranted given the Galaxy Nexus is some two years old, or that KitKat, despite some improvements, is not worth getting frustrated about.

On one Google+ post there are mixed opinions some accusing Google, others accusing the carriers and even the components' manufacturers. Others suggest installing 4.4 manually, though this does require a certain amount of technical knowledge, patience and comes with some risk.

Manual installation

There are some articles to be found on the subject of installing Android KitKat on the Galaxy Nexus. The IBTimes goes into great depth, describing the procedure using CyanogenMod a specialist tool that enables Android users flash different ROMs or software onto their devices.

However in a move that some may see as particularly vindictive, Google requested Cyanogen remove their free application from the Google Play store.

The app had been available in the Google Play store since 12th November this year and Cyanogen claims "hundreds of thousands" of users have installed it already. But on Wednesday the Cyanogen team apparently received an email from Google informing them that the CyanogenMod Installer violated Google Play's terms and conditions.

"After reaching out to the Play team their feedback was that though the application itself is harmless, since it 'encourages users to void their warranty', it would not be allowed to remain in the store," the software developers said in a blog post [Phandroid / Register].

Commercial considerations

Google's move could well be seen as a further attempt to encourage users to purchase its new flagship Nexus 5 phone rather than hold on to their older devices. However, the attitude and apparent signs of contempt for older Nexus phone owners could work against the company, at least in the short or medium term.

Google certainly has commercial obligations and considerations. Having signed Nestle with its KitKat name tie-in and with shares now hovering at over $1,000 Google might be seen as having forgotten its customer base, a core of consumers that has stuck with the company from the beginning. With feelings already soured by concerns over privacy and potential leaks or sharing data with the NSA - which Google denies - there are many bridges need mending. Destroying more bridges is not the way of maintaining customer loyalty.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

1 comment:

David Warner said...
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