Got a Galaxy Note 3 that’s ready for the Android 4.4(s goog) update? You might want to check your phone’s case before upgrading. Reports of the software update causing incompatibility with third-party cases are making the rounds and the commonality seems to be the Android 4.4 software update that’s not yet widely available.
Obviously, software won’t cause a phone case to cease being a protective handset cover. The issue here is that additional functions in a third-party case — think of sleeping the phone when closed, showing certain data through a see-through window or mobile payments — may not work.
In October of last year, Samsung was reportedly testing identification chips inside its phones and accessories so that handset owners would buy “certified” accessories, but I haven’t seen any official statement from Samsung on that. However, the company did release a statement on the current situation to AllAboutSamsung in Germany. The translation reads:
“To ensure a pleasant and smooth user experience with Samsung products for our customers, we recommend that only original accessories from Samsung to use. Of course, customers can continue to rely on third-party accessories. The full functionality of our devices and accessories, however, can only be ensured with genuine Samsung components, since only in this way it is ensured that equipment and accessories are perfectly matched. A correlation between the Android version 4.4 and the supposed incompatibility of third-party accessories does not exist.”
Based on a software hack that bypasses accessory verification, it appears that Samsung’s Android 4.4 update does check for accessory compatibility. Technically, Samsung’s statement would be true in this case: It wouldn’t be Android 4.4 that’s doing the verification; it would be Samsung’s modification to Android 4.4.
While this looks potentially bad for consumers, I can understand why Samsung may want to put some compatibility controls around third-party accessories, much as Apple(s aapl) does. It guarantees a certain experience for the phone. The only thing I’d like to see happen — assuming this is the path Samsung is taking — is for the company to come out with a program for third-party accessory companies to license the verification method.