The Xperia PLAY situation is not the first time a manufacturer has revoked a promised major Android upgrade. Samsung is the most notorious of Android manufacturers for failing to make good on upgrades. The Samsung Behold II was stuck at Android 1.6 after being promised Android 2.0. The original Galaxy S line was briefly promised Android 4.0, after quickly retracting such commitments. Sony Ericsson also promised to upgrade its original Android Xperia phones, before leaving them in the dust. However, Sony now owns all of Sony Ericsson, and this is the first case of Sony failing to upgrade a device… after promising to do so.
The Xperia PLAY was promised an Android 4.0 upgrade on Sony Ericsson’s original ICS upgrade list. However, following the Sony takeover, Sony announced that it would remain at Android 2.3 forever, after noting decreased game performance in a few use cases when running Android 4.0.
The outcry comes as many signed two-year agreements, after Sony committed to ICS for the Xperia PLAY. Many customers waited for such a commitment before locking into a wireless contract (for two years) for the device.
There are actions Sony could take. For example, customers that can show they purchased an Xperia PLAY between the dates which Sony committed to ICS for the device, could be offered a trade-in for an ICS compatible device. The only carrier that this would be difficult on would be Verizon Wireless, for which Sony has no other ICS-ready smartphones currently.
Sony could also release an unsupported ICS upgrade. Again, Verizon Wireless typically objects to such actions, but an upgrade could be offered in over-the-wire form from Sony Ericsson’s Update Service, with a disclaimer that gaming performance may be impacted.
Still, neither solution appears to be likely to happen any time soon. Instead, users have reported to PhoneNews.com that they are seeking class action trial lawyers, to evaluate their case for a class action lawsuit against Sony. A case for detrimental reliance, at face value, does appear to have merit. Many people lined up for two-year contracts, locking themselves into an Xperia PLAY, on the reliance that Sony committed to ICS for the smartphone.
The retraction of such a commitment means consumers relied on Sony to their detriment, and may have standing to claim actual damages for not receiving the upgrade, and thus being stuck with a phone on Gingerbread / Android 2.3 through 2014, when they could upgrade or terminate their contracts.
Sony has not responded to any of the growing consumer outrage microsites dedicated to this situation.
If the Xperia PLAY does reach class action status in the United States, it would break a long trend of trial lawyers generally ignoring the subject of revoked updates. No class action lawsuits resulted from the infamous HTCClassAction.org debacle (where HTC didn’t offer drivers for advertised graphics acceleration present in early Windows Mobile devices). Many in the mobile media misreported that situation at the time, creating the impression that HTC was actually, successfully sued.
Similarly, no class action lawsuits have resulted from the Samsung Behold II, HTC Jetstream, or first-gen Sony Ericsson upgrade failures. Still, a class action lawsuit being successfully prosecuted against Sony would send a clear message to manufacturers; make good on your commitments, or wait until you actually can deliver on your promises to consumers.