Yesterday Google released new Android distribution numbers and we noted the trends point to manufacturers relying on users to upgrade to new devices instead of installing operating system updates. This strategy means the manufacturers do not need to devote resources to preparing updates as a way of controlling costs. A good example of that is revealed by Lenovo and the PHAB2 Pro smartphone. Last year Lenovo launched the first smartphone utilizing Google’s augmented reality Tango technology in the PHAB2 Pro. At launch the device came with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Even though it is mere months old, Lenovo is indicating the PHAB2 Pro will not even get an update to Android 7.0 Nougat, much less Android O when it is released.
This development is noteworthy for a couple different reasons. First involves the ongoing competition between the Android and iOS platforms. This fall when Apple launches the iPhone 8, many are expecting augmented reality to be big star and no doubt AR will end up being one of those things that Apple fans point to their favorite company as outperforming against Google’s offerings. Which will be too bad considering Lenovo and Google have a decent device in the PHAB2 Pro that has been on the market for a while, but which will now be saddled with an out of date operating system and no update path moving forward.
The other issue is the potential ding Lenovo could incur from the market. Not only is the PHAB2 Pro not getting an update to Nougat, the other PHAB2 series phones will be stuck on their current operating systems as well. That means these devices will not get any operating system upgrades at all. That is quite a contrast with other companies like HTC which specifically makes a commitment to at least rollout updates for a couple years. If Google hopes to eliminate the fragmentation issue as a selling point for Apple, whether it is a real or imagined problem, having a manufacturer like Lenovo not even making an effort to update devices does not help the cause.