The One X and Galaxy S III are top dogs for now but will become goats when Jelly Bean arrives

There’s no question that right now the top two phones to buy are the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III, but they won’t be so popular 6 months from now. It won’t be because better handsets will be released, it’s more about Android version updates or lack thereof. Both phones come with Ice Cream Sandwich onboard, and for now seem like the latest and greatest. A little later in the year, Android 5.0 Jelly Bean will be announced and the SDK will be released. This will probably take place in October, and unfortunately neither of these phones will see Jelly Bean until at least March/April 2013. If you’re in the U.S. the prospects are even more dismal. So for now everyone is enjoying their new greatness, but come November, the crying and complaining will begin about why their phone isn’t getting updated.

In case you’re thinking that things will be different, unfortunately we go through this every year, and to be honest, things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse.

Lets go back to the Gingerbread release. The SDK was released in December 2010 and other than the Nexus devices, no phones received it until April 2011, and that was the global Galaxy S. Other big ticket phones like the DROID X and DROID Incredible 2 didn’t receive it until June 2011 and July 2011 respectively. That’s basically 4 months for Samsung’s flagship but more like 6 to 7 months for a lot of the other phones. It should also be noted that it was only the global Galaxy S that started receiving the update. The U.S. versions didn’t get the update until several months later. In looking at it on percentage basis, Gingerbread was only on 4% of devices 5 months from the SDK release.

We will skip over Honeycomb since that was made for just tablets, and go right to Ice Cream Sandwich. The SDK for ICS was released in October 2011. No devices (other than Nexus devices) received ICS until January 2012, and that was the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. As far as phones, it really wasn’t until March 2012 when we saw the HTC Vivid get it along with global versions of the Galaxy S II. Even some of the unlocked versions of the GSII didn’t get it until April. This year Motorola hasn’t even updated any of their phones going as far as saying it won’t happen unless the “experience” is improved. So if we look at the Galaxy S II, it took roughly 6 months, which is longer than last year’s Galaxy S’s 4 months. Again, only the global versions have the update at this point. In comparing the percentage of devices that had ICS after 5 months, it was only 1.6%. As you can see a lot worse than last year’s Gingerbread updates, which were at 4% at the same time.

I can hear all the rooters and ROM fans yelling at me saying that you can grab ICS for yourself with a custom ROM. I’ve been over this before and things haven’t changed. The rooting and ROM community seems large, but it’s a very small percentage of the overall Android users.

The other thing to consider is even when The Galaxy S III and One X receive the Jelly Bean update, it won’t look much different. Look at what HTC did with older phones for the ICS update. They included it with Sense 3.6 so the look is similar. The kept the new and improved Sense 4.0 for the new devices like the One X and One S. Samsung on the other hand did the same thing, but unfortunately didn’t bother changing the TouchWiz interface for the newer Galaxy S III.

The bottomline is that if you want the latest version of Android you simply cannot buy any device except for a Nexus, and if you really want to make sure you do it right, it needs to be the GSM version. The CDMA versions will never get the updates timely as evidenced by the Sprint Nexus S, which didn’t receive ICS until April of this year (6 months after the SDK was released).

For now everyone is excited and happy to get their hands on the Samsung Galaxy S III or the HTC One X (and other variants), but in 6 months everyone will be wondering where their update is. No need to wonder, I’m telling you now that it won’t be until at least March 2013 if your not in the U.S., and if you’re in the U.S., you probably will have to wait until next Summer. That’s how you go from top dog to goat in 6 months. Ice Cream Sandwich seems really refreshing right now, but trust me, in about 6 months it’s going to get old quickly.

Of course, if you don’t care about Android updates then disregard everything I just said and enjoy your new phone.

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


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  • Josh

    You might want to check your Gingerbread dates.

    • RobertNazarian

      What’s wrong with the Gingerbread updates?

      • Alexander Hentschel

        it says 2012

        • RobertNazarian

          Whoops and big thank you

  • http://www.dolphinfree.net Tenkely

    “There’s no question that right now the top two phones to buy are the HTC One X and theSamsung Galaxy S III,…” 

    False. They certainly are not in my top two phones to buy list… 

    • RobertNazarian

      Would like to know your top two phones

      • http://www.dolphinfree.net Tenkely

        I only have one at the moment, and it’s the Galaxy Nexus. You have put way too much stock into hardware specifications as the ‘end all’ of phone status and quality. The software a phone is running is more important to me than the hardware specifications. It is my opinion that TouchWiz and Sense are awful additions to Android. That is just my opinion, many people disagree, but many people also share my view. So to flat out say that two phones with manufacturer customized UIs are with out question the best two phones to buy, is incredible subjective. 

  • Momo

    agree completely. the situation is very bad, google needs to start being in charge of the ecosystem they created

  • Martin

    This doesn’t really make sense to me.  Most of the people who care which version of Android they’re running will be using a custom ROM.  Why does the average user care about having the latest version of the OS?  They probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

    • RobertNazarian

      I do agree with you for the average consumer, but I think there are a lot of people who don’t run custom ROM’s who do care. I for one don’t have any extra time for modding and that jazz, and I do think there are a lot of people in the know that are like me. But yes, most average consumers are concerned with it.

      • Emunny05

        You seem tech savy, as am i, and i learned to root/flash/odin flash/ fix boot loops etc spending a few hours a day reading. You can do it. Go ahead and try.

        • An Observer

          You have missed the point.

          Being able to do something does not equate to wanting to.

          • Guest

             Being able to root your phone… but never actually doing it… is somehow better than not wanting to do it?

            Yes, I HAVE missed your point.

            Remind me never to go “phone shopping” with you.

            • http://www.dolphinfree.net Tenkely

              If I told you that your toilet required you to stand when dropping a deuce, but that you could just modify it so that you could sit again, would be be happy modifying your toilet just because you know how? Would you prefer the manufacturer of your toilet just make the toilet you want?

    • Guest

      > Most of the people who care which version of Android they’re
      > running will be using a custom ROM.

      Far, far more people *NEVER* run custom ROMs.  Not sure why you think is it “most people”.

      • Lawrence D’Oliveiro

         He said “most of the people who care”.

    • ari_free

       Android developers care because if they can’t count on everyone running the latest OS, they can’t make one app for everyone that uses the new  features. And harcore android users care about the developers.

  • Death Emu95

    I’m sorry but this just reads as one big Nexus fangasm to me. Martin’s absolutely right, those who genuinely care about their OS version have already rooted/flashed. The general populace doesn’t care so long as they can run Angry Birds on it.

  • An Observer

    The phones from Samsung and HTC will still sell in big numbers. Most of the buyers will not care about an update to jellybean, or key lime pie.

    As an individual interested in all things tech, i dislike manufacturer skins and updates delayed by carrier.

    Not wanting to use a custom rom, there is really only one choice. That is why my next phone will be the forthcoming nexus, hopefully with an s4 chipset aboard.

  • Guest

    Millions of excellent ICS phones will not become *dogs* just because the next OS gets released: JB.  In fact, *ALL* ICS phones will behave just as great the day before JB, as the day after JB is released.

  • http://pgregg.com

    There, their, they’re. You’re screwing your non-editor. Did anyone proof read this?

  • Enriqueleno09

    So true, thats why next year, when the choice to pick a new phone, the Nexus will be my first choice due to the fact that its the first ones to receive the update than any other.

  • jordan

    I agree with you completely that the android ecosystem needs to be controlled more by Google. I think there is a large enough market of people who want an OS update(that looks and feels like an update) but do not desire rooting/roming there phone for fear/effort reasons. I don’t think that market of people should be forced to either get an unofficial rom, by a new phone, or deal with the one they got. There certainly is a better option.

    • Jordan

      “people who want an OS update”
      sorry I mean who want timely updates that stay current with the latest and greatest. I have an Android but it I am envious when iphone owners get updates within an hour of availablity. Sorry I know, a  bit of apples to oranges

  • Fergus

    Interesting post but I would suggest that percentages are not very meaningful without background data. For example if the total number of phones increased, 1.6% could equate to more devices than 4% which could be seen as an improvement. Presumably as devices are released continously, ICS was released with more devices in circulation than GB.

    Also, I think it’s fair to look at how the devices themselves have changed and how the software has changed. I had the HTC Desire when it launched and it was pretty much the best device available (IMO) but when ICS launched, HTC couldn’t fit it and Sense on the phone. Sure, one can argue about why, but it’s an example of how straight upgrades are not always feasible.

    However, I thoroughly agree that upgrades should be pushed out faster to more compatible devices.

  • jayray78

    Robert, you need to remember your audience. You wrote this piece like it was intended for the masses, and completely discounted your core audience. We are the rooting and romming community. That’s who comprises the people that read talkandroid. 

    Furthermore, I think we are all aware of the update cycles for Android. But you didn’t even mention carrier contract upgrade cycles.  If the rooting and romming community is only a fraction of the people on android, then the people who buy phones off contract must be only a fraction of that. You’ve focused this article towards 1% of android users.  

    Excluding the rooting/romming off-contract buying the remaining 99% of people buy phones on two year contracts. We upgrade when we are able to upgrade. Your first two paragraphs read like “wait for the next next next big thing” 

    Also, the Nexus line isn’t suited for everyone. Its more like buying Alienware. Its Ultra geek. 

    I’m so disgusted with this article, I don’t even want to go on with my counterpoints.

    • RobertNazarian

      I’m not sure what you mean by alienating. I mentioned ROM fans, but didn’t mention those who buy phones off contract. Not sure why I would. My point wasn’t to buy a new phone every 6 months, but yes that could be a solution and maybe another article. Maybe you’re referring to the suggestion on getting a GSM Nexus? This was the first year where a GSM version wasn’t available on contract and I failed to mention that so in a sense I guess I was telling people to buy off contract, which yes would be a small percentage of the people. If that’s what you were referring to, thanks for pointing that out.

      Also to say that all our readers ROM isn’t correct. I would say that the percentage is much higher as compared to the “Android World,” but somehow I still hear the bitching and complaining from our readers on updates. 

      Don’t forget, many mainstream consumers read “some” of our articles through Google searches, Reddit, etc. They just aren’t necessarily loyal everyday readers.

      I appreciate your feedback.

    • jordan

      I’m so disputed by this article…. come on dude…

    • http://www.dolphinfree.net Tenkely

      “That’s who comprises the people that read talkandroid” – Objection, speculation (I read this site, am am not a root/rommer. I have but I prefer stock to the other ROMs out there. I’ve found nothing as stable).”Also, the Nexus line isn’t suited for everyone. Its more like buying Alienware. Its Ultra geek.” – ICS is far more user friendly that Sense and TouchWiz (my opinion, but validated by people I know who moved from Sense, TouchWiz, and Moto devices to the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus this year. 

  • RTWright

    Some of you people that use ROMs ( And I am one of them ) need to know your place, we ARE the minority compared to mainstream consumers.  They outnumber us greatly.  Nothing wrong with that.  This site is read by EVERYONE! Not just people that use, make, design, develop custom ROMs.  I believe what he’s trying to do here is educate the Mainstream consumers that DO complain!  Remember, some of us became Custom ROM Users for this very reason, no updates!

    He’s right on target, rather you like it or not he is.  His post nails everything right on the head.  How accurate is his percentages?  Who really cares?  I don’t, it’s perspectively in place and that’s all that matters.  It’s the same group of us that build our own PC’s, customize our OS’s on our PC’s to suit and fit our needs.  We’re the minority there too.  We will ALWAYS be the minority! I’m proud of that too, because that means I’m one that others have to come to and get answers from.

    You guys need to quit taking everything said in context and out of context so dang personally.  You’d think he was calling you out individually and slapping you in the face with a slimy wet flounder or something.  Just remember, MAINSTREAM consumers are NOT ones for caring about much other than that their device works and does what it needs to do for them. Yes, a good percentage of them probably don’t come here, but some do.  Word spreads though!  You have to reach new eyes and ears somehow no?

    Have a grand day!

    • RobertNazarian

      Thank you for the support. I do think some of the comments are valid points. The bottomline is that updates are not going in the right direction whatsoever. Last year at Google I/O they acted like it was going to be fixed with a new agreement with manufacturers and that didn’t happen, it got worse.

      • http://www.dolphinfree.net Tenkely

        Robert, his is where we need to keep our fingers crossed for multiple Nexus device sold through Google Play.

  • rj5555

    there is always some new/better on the horizon. if you buy an iphone now you know that in 6 month time there is a new model. still people buy them now, next week and the next months. and while Apple may be fast with updates for all of the devices it doesn’t mean you get all of the new function (ej Siri for the 3gs/4)
    bottom line is you should buy based on liking what it is and can do TODAY… not what it may or may not get in the future. 
    if you really “need” to have always have the latest then you should buy you phones unlocked when the next latest and greatest is anounced you can still sell it for a decent price and for a relative small amount you will be to buy the next