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Should Nexus users expect to see to Android updates first?

With Android 5.0 Lollipop we are seeing OEMs push updates out faster than ever, which has caused some discontentment among some Nexus users. Should Nexus owners expect updates first?
By
November 14, 2014
Android Logo Mascot Lollipop Nexus Event-10

There’s no denying that the Android 5.0 Lollipop launch has been very different from past OS releases. Not only was the Android L Developer Preview a first for the Android world, we’ve also seen a greater number of 3rd party app makers and OEM device makers sit up and take notice of Lollipop and its new design language.

As a result, we’ve not only seen a number of apps adopt Material language already, but we’ve also seen Android 5.0 updates push out to OEMs much faster than has been typical in the past. So far we have seen updates for the Moto G (2nd gen) and the Moto X Pure Edition. Additionally, several other OEMs such as LG and Nvidia are expected push out Lollipop in extremely short order.

One of the biggest disadvantages to Android has long been the fact that OS releases often don’t make their way to flagship devices until months after they hit Google’s Nexus ‘reference’ devices. So this change in pace should be celebrated, but what about Nexus owners? Long used to getting updates the quickest, many Nexus owners have been expressing annoyance over the fact that they had to wait basically the same length of time to see Lollipop as many other OEM devices.

For this week’s Friday Debate we discuss whether or not Nexus users should expect to see new versions of Android first, and what this changes means for Android as a whole. As always, check out the responses from our team and then share your own thoughts in the comments below.

Robert Triggs

Google promises timely updates and prolonged support for the Nexus line and it has delivered with Android L. This doesn’t necessitate that Nexus is always first and honestly I don’t see why it matters.

What another OEMs do with their updates has absolutely no influence on how quickly Google puts out its update for Nexus owners. If Google was delaying its rollout waiting for the notoriously slow Samsung, the complainants might have a point. But there’s no evidence to suggest this is the case. Put bluntly – those who honestly believe that Google should hold other OEMs back just so that Nexus owners have the “privilege” of going first need to drop their narcissistic sense of entitlement.

On the positive side of things, OEMs were given the L Developer Preview quite early and I suspect that a faster and broader rollout of Android L has been part of Google’s plan all along. Hopefully we will see more early code sharing in the future, as timely, well tested updates are great for all consumers.

If you ask me, Android L is shaping up to have the best rollout so far and I’m not even running it yet.

Jonathan Feist

Android 5.0 Lollipop is a serious shift in how Google handles their OS. Previously, manufacturers were lucky to see the next Android release before consumers on the Nexus devices. This time out, manufacturers and app developers alike have had at least a reference version of the OS to play with for over four months, that is huge.

Nexus owners may be a little upset that they are not the first to get Lollipop, but I completely disagree with this mentality. Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel as though Google is taking a bit too long, encountering a few too many ‘unforeseen’ issues here. The delay in pushing Lollipop OTA to Nexus devices is bothersome, but has nothing to do with the launch schedule of other manufacturers.

I recently dove into the subject of ‘do we deserve OS updates,’ so I won’t go into that here. But I do feel as though we are demanding too much of the hardware we purchase. As a Nexus owner myself, I know I am guilty of it. I want Lollipop yesterday! But I’ll just sit here wearing out that one spot on my screen where the ‘Check for updates’ button lives and be happy when things go live for me.

Now, if you want to hear me complain about something, let’s talk GPE devices. That’s “Google Play Edition,” for those playing the home game. While I can handle Nexus devices experiencing a delay of a few days, maybe even a couple weeks, why is it that my GPE device is playing second fiddle to the same device with the manufacturers OS? Am I mistaken in thinking that a manufacturer made a commitment to deliver vanilla Android to the GPE device before they put their own tweaks on their own release for the same model? Does that same commitment come with a clause from Google that Nexus devices must launch first?

Enough complaining though, I am totally excited that Lollipop is rolling out all over the place. I promise you that the moment it installs on my hardware I’ll forget all about how long I had to wait to get it. But I’m just crazy like that.

Luka Mlinar

As with most things out there i feel that there’s more to this than meets the eye. I assume Google developed the 5.0 iteration based on the latest Nexus models as a testing platform. By that alone the update (not counting the half a day it takes them to fix a single bug) is done and ready for some time. What if they waited for others to “beat them”? Start a bit of a competition among OEM’s. This would eventually force Samsung to step it up when it comes to releasing their update. Also, it’s not like they would do it at a big loss. To me this is all a big chess game and if the end result benefits Android as a brand, then it’s worth sacrificing the reputation of the Nexus line.

Personally I feel that Google was being a bit unfair; building a reputation with their devices by having the fastest updates, giving them an advantage over the other Android OEMs.

Another theory is that Google is catering to Motorola in the aftermath of the Lenovo deal. They already gave them the gift of Nexus that this time doesn’t seem to just boost Motorola’s reputation but significantly boost their profit and overall exposure.

One way or another, I am convinced that this is just another chess move by Google in the grands smartphone game.

Joe Hindy

When I see people complaining because they didn’t get the first update, it’s a little bit depressing actually. A scant year ago, Nexus fans were slamming OEMs because they weren’t getting updates out fast enough. Companies were being dragged through the mud on blogs, in comments, and on social media. Even if they did have a point and OEMs did need to show better support for their devices, I always disagreed with the tactics they used to express their unhappiness over the situation.

Despite the harsh words, OEMs paid attention. HTC is getting theirs out in 90 days. LG almost beat Google to the punch and Moto did beat them. NVIDIA’s Shield Tablet isn’t far behind. This is exactly what Nexus fans wanted. They wanted the competition. They wanted more devices to get updates faster. If anything, this new wave of responsibility actually nulls a lot of complaints Nexus fans have about other device manufacturers. If this keeps up, people won’t be able to say, “Well I bought a Nexus because they get the fastest updates.” I see no world where that is a bad thing.

I couldn’t tell you where the animosity is coming from. Maybe Nexus fans are upset because they’re not in the exclusive club of “fast updates” anymore and can’t look down at other people from their perch. Maybe they believed that they have the rights to the first updates because they rock a Google phone. Whatever it is, it’s wrong. No one should ever be angry that devices are getting updated faster and faster ever year.

I do know that there have been delays and maybe that’s contributed to the madness. The Nexus 5 (at least) images were delayed because of a battery bug. Frankly, I own a Nexus 5, and I’m glad Google took their time to figure out the small issues like that. Honestly surprised we didn’t have a #batterygate on our hands. Luka’s point on Google holding off intentionally to let a few OEMs catch up (notice that the two that did were both Nexus manufacturers?) and push the competition is pretty fun too. Who knows? There could be a lot of reasons but I don’t think any of them were “You know what guys? Let’s screw with people who bought Nexus devices har har har!” Given some of the stuff I’ve read, that seems to be a general consensus. Paranoid much?

What I do know is that no one should be upset right now. Delays happen, even to Google. Nexus week is always a mess but this “I should be at the top of the list” nonsense with the updates is just silly. Having a Nexus device doesn’t give anyone the right to anything other than saying that they own a Nexus device. That’s it. The only list people should be concerned about not being at the top of is the organ transplant list. This isn’t that serious, it’s a software update. People should calm down.