Samsung Forcing US Carriers to Pay for Android Froyo on Galaxy S?

An anonymous poster on XDA-Developers has broken silence (and several possible NDAs) in order to explain why the long promised updates to US carrier versions of the Samsung Galaxy S have yet to see updates to Android Froyo. Read more for his words.

To explain the political situation, first, a primer on how phone firmware upgrades work for carriers. When a carrier decides to sell a phone, a contract is usually written between the phone manufacturer and the carrier.

In this contract, the cost of updates (to the carrier) is usually outlined. Updates are usually broken into several types: critical updates, maintenance updates, and feature updates. Critical updates are those that resolve a critical bug in the phone, such as the phone overheating. Maintenance updates involve routine updates to resolve bugs and other issues reported by the carrier. Finally, feature updates add some new feature in software that wasn’t present before.

Critical updates are usually free, maintenance updates have some maintenance fee associated with them, and feature updates are usually costly. In the past, most phone updates would mainly consist of critical and maintenance updates.

Carriers almost never want to incur the cost of a feature update because it is of little benefit to them, adds little to the device, and involves a lot of testing on the carrier end. Android has changed the playing field, however – since the Android Open Source Project is constantly being updated, and that information being made widely available to the public, there is pressure for the phone to be constantly updated with the latest version of Android.

With most manufacturers, such as HTC, Motorola, etc. This is fine and considered a maintenance upgrade. Samsung, however, considers it a feature update, and requires carriers to pay a per device update fee for each incremental Android update.

Now, here’s where the politics come in: most U.S. carriers aren’t very happy with Samsung’s decision to charge for Android updates as feature updates, especially since they are essentially charging for the Android Open Source Project’s efforts, and the effort on Samsung’s end is rather minimal.

As a result of perhaps, corporate collusion, all U.S. carriers have decided to refuse to pay for the Android 2.2 update, in hopes that the devaluation of the Galaxy S line will cause Samsung to drop their fees and give the update to the carriers.

The situation has panned out differently in other parts of the world, but this is the situation in the United States. Some of you might have noticed Verion’s Fascinate updated, but without 2.2; This is a result of a maintenance agreement Samsung must honor combined with Verizon’s unwillingness to pay the update fees. In short, Android 2.2 is on hold for Galaxy S phones until the U.S. carriers and Samsung reach a consensus.

Some might wonder why I didn’t deliver this over a more legitimate news channel – the short answer: I don’t want to lose my job. I do, however, appreciate transparency, which is why I’m here.

PhoneNews.com has an email out to Samsung regarding the above claims and will update when a response is received.

Humberto Saabedra is the Editor-in-Chief of AnimeNews.bizPhoneNews.com and an occasional columnist for Ani.me. He can also be found musing on things at @AnimeNewsdotbiz

18 responses to “Samsung Forcing US Carriers to Pay for Android Froyo on Galaxy S?”

  1. Jeff

    I guess I just learned to never buy a Samsung phone again.

  2. Adam

    Interesting info. However, doesn’t lessen any disdain for AT$T, in fact, it raises it because they obviously are willing to make countless customers suffer to try and break a contractual obligation with Samsung.

  3. Jj

    I thought android was an open os? I really hope this is just a rumor. If they are really charging for os updates companies are going to look elsewhere especially if they continue to include all those ads in their os. Hopefully it’s not true. I guess we’ll see.

  4. Phoneman

    If HTC, Motorola, etc, aren’t charging the fee, then Samsung should not be charging it either.

  5. Cecil

    @Jj

    What ads in the OS are you talking about? Is there something I’m missing?

  6. Adam

    Android is an open OS but how companies (carriers and hardware manufacturers) contractually align to manage any process is outside of those issues. There’s always a cost to maintaining anything. No getting around that, Android may be open but the mechanisms for managing updates will never be free.

    AT$T knows this and (if true) they contractually are obligated to this cost of doing business. It’s all part of the cost the consumer bears. What’s wrong here is AT$T is punishing their own customers to break a contractual obligation.

  7. PeterLemonjello

    Android is open to manufacturers but closed to the rest of the world. This type of problem only adds to the Android fragmentation problem.

  8. Vic Matson

    Give me Honeycomb on my Tab, and I’ll pay for Christs sake. Please someone, in the know, how much are they asking for upgrades. It may be trivial.

  9. Christopher Price

    Because Google Experience devices rely on push updating, from Google’s servers, it’s typically an all-or-nothing deal. I doubt Samsung would offer the update to customers on a per-unit basis.

  10. Vic Matson

    Well, in that case I want on the G pipe!

  11. Why is your Galaxy S phone still running Android 2.1? | Should I get an ipad

    [...] likely to come of this? My guess is absolutely nothing. PhoneNews.com has a request for comment out to Samsung, but the chances of them saying anything meaningful is [...]

  12. nanfy

    This is REALLY REALLY a bad thing. Samsung should really be forced to comply. What I think sprint and the rest of the carriers should do is this.

    1. Agree to PAY samsung for the updates now BUT.

    2. Carriers should tell samsung that they will NEVER EVER carry another samsung device ever again. They will be banished from the market just as fast as nokia was in the US market.

  13. Phoneman

    @ nanfy
    That would be illegal. That would be a classic case of breaking antitrust laws.

  14. marcos

    hi the same thing will happen with metropcs samsung forte and samsung schr910

  15. nanfy

    Phoneman,

    It would not be illegal if a carrier decides NOT to carry any more Samsung devices. A carrier has the right to refuse to carry a certain manufacturer if they don’t agree on pricing or business practices.
    Verizon first refused the iphone because they did not want to agree to apples terms. Samsung’s terms can also be refused by the carrier.

    In sum, Samsung needs to be taught a lesson. Sometimes I wish Android never came out.

  16. Adam

    I’m not even sure I’m buying this article. It makes a great diversion form the problem at hand. Something both the carrier and the handset makers would like…

  17. Phoneman

    @ nanfy
    It is totally legal for say, Verizon to stop carrying Samsung phones. It is not legal, however, for Verizon to collaborate with Sprint, AT&T, etc, in an effort to get Samsung shut out of the USA market. That is precisely what antitrust laws are written to prevent.

  18. Traveler

    The Sprint Samsung Galaxy Epic S junk I bought doesn’t do what the Sprint salesman told me it would do. This junk is dangerous to own and operate. It is impossible to make a phone call while driving without taking your eyes off the road for extended periods of time. The blue-tooth function is broken and fragmented. The ear piece has to be paired EACH and EVERY time a phone call is either received or made. The blue-tooth function runs the battery down very fast when active. The GPS function provides widely inaccurate coordinates, a major safety hazard if your life relies on it. We all know the Samsung fiasco with Android V2.2. When I used to negotiate custom software contracts with Samsung in Korea, I learned to like the engineers I worked with but detested the managers over them who lied as a culture and drove the cost of providing software systems to them through the roof. My experience with Samsung has made me reluctant to buy anything Samsung because I know their corporate culture. I should have known better to try them out after all these years but I guess once a thief, always a thief.

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