Motorola vs. customers on lack of Android 4.0 updates

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In a blog post Friday, Motorola explained why certain smartphones and tablets it makes won’t be getting the Google Android 4.0 software update. This follows a helpful post two months prior that the company published in order to add greater transparency to its update process. But the not all Motorola device owners are happy with the latest news. I can’t say I blame them; especially those that bought a Motorola Droid 3 in the past 10 months. These folks are stuck on Android 2.3.

Here’s what Motorola has shared about the the lack of updates for some devices:

“You may be wondering why all devices aren’t being upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Here’s the deal. We work very closely with Google and cell phone carriers for every software update. And, obviously we want the new release to improve our devices. If we determine that can’t be done—well then, we’re not able to upgrade that particular device.

This stated reason is an example of precisely why I implored Google earlier this month to take greater control over Android in some way. It will reportedly be doing so as last week, reports of multiple Nexus device partners surfaced. And just this weekend, China approved Google’s acquisition of Motorola, paving the way for Google to own one of its Android hardware partners.

If you have a Motorola device and you’re wondering when or if you’ll see the Ice Cream Sandwich update, Motorola maintains the updated list here. I was surprised to see the Droid 3 not on the upgrade list, as were some commenters to Motorola’s recent post.

Why? Because the Droid 3 launched in July of 2011. That’s significant because at the Google I/O developer event just two months prior, Google announced a new partner initiative to allow all new devices to get Android updates for 18 months, “as long as the hardware allows.”

The quoted bit is the likely issue with Android 4.0 on the Droid 3. Although the device has a high-resolution 960 x 540 display, dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor and 16 GB of internal storage, it only has 512 MB of RAM. I suspect the limited memory is the problem here.

That’s not to say Android 4.0 can’t run on 512 MB of RAM or less; the enthusiast community can probably make it work. But Motorola won’t invest the time and effort to do the same. So like some of the commenters to its blog post suggest, Motorola should unlock the bootloaders of these phones to allow device owners to install custom ROMs. Of course, Verizon might have some say in the matter and sadly keep it from happening.

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