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.
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