Samsung Won’t Update Galaxy S to ICS. Why Not?

Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung has announced that it will not update the Galaxy S to Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Given the popularity of the device, technology journalists have come out to voice their opinions. Vlad Savov of The Verge expressed his disappointment at Samsung’s decision. “As an owner of a Galaxy S, I would feel betrayed. As a technology journalist, I am appalled,” he wrote.

Those are strong words, but not necessarily off-base. Years back, I had a similar experience with my Symbian-powered Nokia N82. For reasons that remained unknown to me, the Finnish handset manufacturer decided not to deliver an OS update, while another device with an almost identical hardware–but released much later–received one.

Let me tell you this, I despise Nokia for that to this day. I was so unhappy that I vowed not to purchase a Nokia device ever again, and that N82 was the last one I owned. With the massive reforms at Nokia, I might give them another chance, but not until I can be sure that a similar situation won’t occur again.

I wholeheartedly agree with the question posed by Savov’s article: “If Samsung doesn’t care about customers, how can it hope to keep them?” That’s true for any handset manufacturers, not only Samsung.

Matthew Panzarino of The Next Web has a different opinion. He concludes that Samsung shouldn’t be blamed because Android has problems as a platform. He reasons that Samsung, and other Android partners, have no incentive to deliver OS updates to customers.

Samsung, as with HTC and — until a few months ago — Motorola, is a primarily a hardware company. They only make a buck when that device is purchased by a carrier or individual. Thereafter, every ounce of effort it puts into producing an update for devices already on the market eats into its profit on that sale.

For short-term, yes, I agree with his reasoning. Why invest to give customers the best experience when you won’t be making any more money off them? Except, when you do, you will. When you take care of customers by providing good after-sales services, they’ll become recurring customers. It’s called brand loyalty.

There’s a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”


Knowing that Samsung lacks the commitment to deliver software updates to (slightly) older devices, no matter how successful or expensive they were, you bet I’ll steer clear of their devices when I’m shopping for a new one, or when giving purchasing advice to friends and family.


Unless customers have no idea that they are being mistreated. We’re talking about technology here, and we know how clueless most people are about technology. Not everyone is tech-savvy.

Unlike people who work in this field, some smartphone users may not even know what version of Android their devices are running, let alone when a new version is released, unless they’re told by their “computer guy” friend.

Siri Says…

What about Siri, you ask? Everyone talks about it, even the least tech-savvy users. It’s incomparable. First, it’s Apple, and people talk a lot about Apple, even my mom who has little interest in gadgetry. Second, Apple is very public about its products.

You can learn about the iPhone 4S and all the features in the latest iOS just by watching TV. Apple lets people know about its latest and coolest through commercials. Samsung can’t do the same. Sure, it will tell you how awesome its hardware is, but not so the software that runs it. I mean, if it struggles to even deliver the latest OS to its customers, what can it brag about it?

For hardware companies to decide whether to invest in delivering updates in a timely manner, they first need to determine how many of their customers are truly tech-savvy. How many of them know about Ice Cream Sandwich, and how many of them really care.

Is it worth the effort to please the small crowd of geeks when the average Joe is happy with his Android device just the way he bought it? The subset gets even smaller considering tech-savvy users can simply upgrade by flashing a custom ROM. That said, the users manufacturers have to cater to here are those savvy enough to know about and want the latest OS, even if they’re unwilling to obtain it in an unofficial way.

On the flip side, tech-savvy users are likely to influence the purchase decisions of their non-savvy counterparts. It’s best to keep them happy as well. It’s a tough balancing act manufacturers have to perform here–juggling between cost and return on investment.

It truly sucks that manufacturers have to consider all the benefits (or the lack of them) they’ll get before deciding whether to release an OS update. But remember, these are corporations. Their priority is to make money, not to make everyone happy.

Photo:  Liew Cheon Fong

No Responses to “Samsung Won’t Update Galaxy S to ICS. Why Not?”

    • Nothing is official yet. It’s now rumored that Samsung would release a “Value Pack” for Galaxy S users, instead of the full Ice Cream Sandwich update. Well, at least Samsung is willing to explore options to please its users, so I’d give them some credit here.

  1. Michael Kelley

    It is a tribute to Samsung and the Galaxy S that the device works so well without ICS upgrade, but one can only wonder how much better it might be with it. I expect more “care” from Samsung after paying $600 for my phone. Attention to high-quality customer support has alway been a strength of Apple products, leading to great brand loyalty. For this reason, my next phone may be an iPhone rather than an upgrade of the Galaxy S. Samsung should realize that this matter (that Samsung cares about its exiting customers) is an important component of “user-experience” with their products.

  2. Lester Jensen

    How about the simple concept that when I buy the phone I am locked into a plan with an “early exit” penalty should I choose the OS upgrade path of getting a newer device that has the current OS. Since I have to complete my pay-out term period then shouldn’t they (the manufacture) be committed to support the device with all available updates throughout that term?

    I had to wait a year for my Galaxy S (Fascinate) on Verizon to finally get FROYO and even then FROYO was no longer the current OS as ICS was making it’s debut. During the same period my iPhone continued to get the latest iOS upgrades from Apple. Apple, who provides both the hardware and iOS, has no problem understanding how to support their customers and deliver.

    Google screwed-up when they license their OS to hardware manufactures without requiring them to make the new versions available to their customers as part of the licensing agreement. Google should have a unified release date with penalties to manufactures who can’t keep up. WIthout that require the manufactures as an alternative to allow full value trade-in/trade-ups of the device they are not releasing the the new OS on to the replacement device that comes with the new OS.

    Pure and simple, my Fascinate should grant me a “free” upgrade to the new OS because it isn’t really free. I didn’t intentionally purchase a still-born or “as-is” device – I paid good money and should receive full support. As it stands my iPhone and iPad continue to be my primary devices while the Android market continues to do it’s best to implode/self-destruct. Android by definition will always be a fragmented platform whereas iPhone is integrated by design. Unless Google takes responsibility to unify the releases it will never change – Android will require you to throw away the second half of your investment and re-buy to keep current.