Putting it bluntly, Virgin Mobile is shortchanging their customers on firmware updates, compared to other carriers, and even Sprint’s own postpay brand. It’s not acceptable, it’s wrong, and it needs to be fixed. Read more for the examples, reasoning, and tough love.
It’s been a long time since we were the ones pushing for Firmware Over the Air. We’d like to think we changed the industry, just a little bit, by pushing carriers and manufacturers to embrace the practice. It finally came full circle a few weeks ago with the release of iOS 5, making Apple the last manufacturer to implement it.
Apple actually was doing okay with their iTunes-style over-the-wire updating, but the rest of the industry hasn’t done so well. Virgin Mobile is sadly, the latest culprit in mismanaging the maintenance of their devices.
When the LG Optimus V came out, it was not alone. In the Optimus One family of devices, LG touted that the whole family of devices would get Android 2.3, Gingerbread. And, they made good on that, the Optimus S on Sprint has been updated, for example. Same hardware across all these phones, so equal treatment by carriers, right? Wrong.
Virgin Mobile has informed PhoneNews.com that there are no plans to update the Optimus V to Gingerbread. It’s simply unethical. Forcing people to pick up a newer phone, just to get Gingerbread… especially when LG is happy to offer up the upgrade to the carrier!
From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense, albeit evil sense. If you deny the tech-savvy Gingerbread, they’ll go out and buy a new handset, and sell the old one on eBay. Thus, through price discrimination, you create a new market of super-cheap, used Android phones. Most people don’t care about firmware versions, so the eBay market will be saturated with super-cheap Optimus V’s that go for $50 to $75. More (new) customers for Virgin Mobile.
It doesn’t help things that the Optimus V is practically unusable at this point. The phone’s limited internal storage is gobbled up by a swath of almost-mandatory Google Apps updates. When you’re finished updating Google Maps, Google Search, Google Voice Search, Gmail, and YouTube… you’ve used up most of the phone’s internal storage. This is more of an architectural problem in Android (which will be fixed in Android 4, Ice Cream Sandwich), but updating the Optimus V to Gingerbread would make these updates more optional, and alleviate the problem.
Oh, wait, one more insult on the Optimus V. There are two firmware versions out there, and you can’t upgrade. LG issued initial units with firmware V4. Later they issued version V7 to correct problems with the radio (and disable mobile hotspot… left in the phone by mistake). Unfortunately, you can’t update to V7. Not only is it not offered over-the-air, but when you run LG Software Update… the update fails, every single time.
We’ve brought these issues to the attention of Virgin Mobile. They haven’t changed. We don’t want to see history repeat itself. So, we’re now standing on our somewhat high-class soap box, and we have a message…
… Virgin Mobile, get your act together on firmware, or hire us to manage it for you.