I wanted the first article I wrote for Phandroid to be something simple and quick. This is not that article and I’m sorry for that. But this is a subject that has been bothering me for the last 2 weeks or so. Why should you care you ask? That is simple enough to answer if you let me explain for a few minutes.
I purchased a Sprint HTC Hero on the first day it was available and although it is by far my favorite phone I have owned from the struggling carrier in the past 8 years or so, it is far from perfect. Right now the battery life is less than ideal, there is a issue with the messaging app “staying awake”, my clock app does not tell the right time, and my weather app never, and I mean never updates with what city I am happen to be in and those are just 3 of the issues that are currently bothersome. If these few minor issues were my only problem I would be fine. The real problem I have is worse.
I have gadget envy and I’m not afraid to admit that. So imagine my utter disappointment when I heard that The Hero would ship not with the latest 1.6 software, but that we also have no idea when we will receive the 2.0 update especially now that Verizon customers are walking around with brand new Droid 2.0’s
This brings me to the subject of this post. If your not familiar with the term Over The Air basically it’s one way a service provider can provide updates to a handset that can bring new features, correct bugs in the software, or as Android fans know well enough- introduce a whole new version of the current OS. It also might be the most seamless way to deliver this content to a handset as the other methods require the customer to do a little leg work.
Recently, David Owens, VP of Consumer Marketing with Sprint held a sort of fireside chat session with subscribers and the subject of Android was brought up multiple times, but in regards to our conversation here this exchange between Adam and Mr. Owens is what caught my eye and the rest of the Android loving sites.
AdamJaworski: Will the Android updates to 1.6 and 2.0 be over the air, or will I have to go into a store for the update?
David: Likely to be a wired update (due to size) but you will be able to do online at sprint.com.
This would be a mistake if Sprint or any other carrier decides to make customers either tether their phones to a computer to get a update or spend a hour in store waiting for the update. Especially when there are carriers that are not doing it that way (T-Mobile). Maybe because of the Sense UI Mr. Owens made the comment he did, but remember the question was open ended and not specific to the Hero. Lets take a look at another flagship phone Sprint carries, the Palm Pre. WebOS updates for that phone were made available to do OTA and their respective sizes were as follows:
- 1.0.3 13 MB
- 1.0.4 12 MB
- 1.1 87 MB
So based on those downloads I’m assuming that whatever update is provided for the Hero for Sprint would have to be larger than 87MB right? And the Samsung Moment which is running straight Android with nothing on top… does this handset abide by this same rule?
According to the Palm Pre support website this is how the magic happens:
Background update delivery:
Once a system update becomes available, it downloads in the background over Wi-Fi when a Wi-Fi connection is available (and your phone is not in airplane mode). If no Wi-Fi connection is available after 2 days, the download begins using a high-speed data connection when one is available.
So if the Palm Pre does not have Wi-Fi available it will use your high-speed data connection. I verified this with Alex Hunter Manager in Public Relations at Palm, his response was that the link to the support site stated the process correctly. So again whats the issue with Sprint giving updates OTAs to at least the Samsung Moment?
I’m trying to get in touch with someone at Sprint that will answer a few of these questions. If I get any answers at all I will post a update to let everyone know. Right now its all food for thought and fun to kick around for sure. Personally, I have my own ideas about the 2.0 update from Sprint and T-Mobile but I will hold that until Rob says I’m not fired for writing this first piece.
So why the big deal about OTA and why should you care? As a friend of mine Chris was explaining to me the other day when I mentioned this to him and I quote “If I give me wife my G1, and she had to sit down, plug it in to the computer, and then do some button punching to get a update to fix bugs or add features she would never do it. Period” Do you see the problem? If that customer walks away from the Android/ and or Google Experience thinking it was lacking in a area, even if that area was fixed by a update that the customer never got there’s a good chance you may never get that customer back again to buy an Android phone, an HTC phone, or a Samsung, or whatever carrier or manufacturer has the hottest Android phone on the market at the moment.
If you want Android to be successful in the years to come (and I’m sure you do because you’re reading this), it’s an issue you should be worried about. The fact is most of us (and lets be clear an US and THEM does exist) that have been using Android are used to “plugging” in for lack of a better term. Most have moved from another platform where ROM updates and flashes were the norm. What about Chris’ wife, though, who has no need or want to plug in? She just wants her phone to work when she needs it too. We have to remember that there are tons of other people that this phone needs to get in the hands of to be successful. Carriers and Manufacturers would do good to keep this in mind and keep it as seamless as possible.