It’s the news Android fans have been waiting for for almost a month. HTC has finally shown its cards about which of its Google-backed blowers will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich and when. On the face of it, the news is pretty good. The HTC Sensation, Sensation XE, Sensation XL and Evo 3D are all being primed for an update some time in ‘early 2012’.
But look closer at HTC’s official statement and it’s hard not to be worried. There’s no word on when the Desire S, Desire and Wildfire S will be getting in on the action. Sure HTC might be ‘continuing to assess’ its products when it comes to Android Ice Cream Sandwich. But be under no illusions: this just proves that ICS will not solve Android’s fragmentation problems.
Back at Google I/O, The Big G said it was going to fight fragmentation with ICS, ensuring new phones would work with the latest upgrades for 18 months after their release. The merits of this were debated, with networks and manufacturers entering into this agreement voluntarily. But fast forward six months, and HTC’s announcement is indicative of the problem rearing its head once again.
If the latest HTC phones are only getting ICS in ‘early 2012’, then when exactly are older handsets going to get in on the act? Probably not until spring next year, by which point all the talk will be Android 5.0 and new devices. Punters who shelled out on phones that aren’t exactly creaking are going to be left waiting, just as they were with FroYo and Gingerbread before.
HTC is not alone in its sluggishness. The still top-end Samsung Galaxy S2 won’t see the update until Q2 of 2012, this despite Sammy making the first ICS phone, the Galaxy Nexus. HTC, though, is a very different position. Its vast portfolio of Android phones is coming back to haunt it, as it has to try and appease owners using a variety of different handsets. It’s becoming ever clearer that this means it can’t please everyone and that those who stumped up for phones only a few months ago, Desire S owners especially, are being left hanging. Entirely unfairly in my opinion.
It’s hard to find an argument against the idea that attracting new customers, and releasing phones with the latest version of the OS, is more of a priority than looking after legacy customers for HTC. This is madness, seeing as infuriating current owners only means they’ll look elsewhere, either at Nexus devices for faster Android updates or even Windows Phone or iOS handsets.
The problem of fragmentation is already starting to be felt before ICS’s release. It’s high time that Google tightened its ship, brought manufacturers to book and made sure users are treated with the respect they deserve. Android might be storming it now, but this sluggishness on HTC’s part means pressure and problems are building, with users doubtless voting with their feet in the months and years to come.