Tech Talk: Android Updates Continue To Remain A Problem In India

Even as the Indian smartphone market continues to show strong growth in the face of a global slowdown, one thing that is now starting to create a distinct unease among large sections of the public is the complete lack of software updates for entry-level and even mid-range devices from most vendors in the country, whether local or multinational. While home-grown companies like Micromax, Lava, Intex etc. lack adequate engineering and financial resources to keep their dozens of devices up-to-date, it is inexplicable why global giants such as Samsung, LG, Sony and Lenovo have also failed to push through regular updates to any of their smartphones barring a select few.

While Samsung has started pushing out new major version updates to some of its more popular models, timely security patches are still a distant dream for a large number of smartphone users in the country. A steady stream of Samsung devices have received the Marshmallow update over the past few months, but as expected, most of these are premium flagship models from the company, including the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge+ from last year, along with the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 from 2014. The list, thankfully, also includes a handful of mid-rangers, such as the Galaxy On5 Pro, Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7 as well as the Galaxy A3, Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7.

However, even though Samsung is rolling out Android Marshmallow to at least some of its devices in the Indian market, the country’s largest home-grown smartphone vendor, Micromax, currently has just six handsets in the market running on Marshmallow even though Android Nougat is already here, with devices like the LG V20 already running on the newest version of Android as we speak. Lava, a much smaller brand than Micromax, is known for comparatively unusual levels of transparency about its hardware supply chain as well as its software update schedules, which are often faster than some of its larger competitors. The company is also known to roll out software updates to even some of its entry-level sub-$100 phones. Even then, only about a dozen of the 40-odd handsets the company has launched this year actually run on Android Marshmallow. As for Intex, only nine out of its 55 products in the market are actually on Android Marshmallow.

The Chinese vendors, although much larger in size and scale globally compared to their Indian counterparts, are often just as slow when it comes to software updates. That’s because the heavily-skinned versions of Android used by most of these companies make it inordinately difficult to roll out timely updates to their products. The malaise, unfortunately, extends to their flagship devices as well. However, even though China-based handset vendors generally take longer to roll out new Android versions to their respective handsets, some, like Xiaomi, have managed to roll out security patches to all its current handsets, including budget devices like the Redmi 3s that costs just Rs. 6,999 ($105) in India for the base version.

Lenovo and its subsidiary, Motorola, have also been guilty of not pushing out timely security patches to their devices, as is the case with other up-and-coming brands such as OPPO and Vivo. Having said that, though, most Android manufacturers haven’t really covered themselves in glory in this regard, but that's probably because most consumers don't really put software updates at the top of their priority list when buying their smartphones. Things will only change when people start asking some tough questions of their vendors about the availability of future updates before putting down the cash for their shiny new devices. Only then will smartphones and tablets start getting software updates more frequently.

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About the Author

Kishalaya Kundu

Senior Staff Writer
I've always been a tech buff and have been building my own PCs since as far back as I can remember. My first computer was a home-built desktop running MS-DOS on which I learnt to program in GW-BASIC and my interests apart from technology include automobiles and sports.