Android 4 dulls Droid RAZR's edge

I expect better from Google than this. Its Motorola Mobility subsidiary today announced three seemingly sizzling new Droids coming to Verizon, but they're not running the current operating system but instead will be "upgradeable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean by end of 2012". We've heard promises like this before on Verizon "with Google" devices. Just ask Galaxy Nexus or XOOM 4G LTE owners about the broken upgrade promises and the long wait for, well, nothing.

Google officially released Jelly Bean in mid-July, when Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ models automatically upgraded, but CDMA models available from Sprint and Verizon did not. Hell, users still clamored to get from Android 4.0.2 to 4.0.4 on Verizon models and couldn't. C`mon, Google, you own Motorola now and should be able to do better. If Verizon is the problem, fix it! Droid users deserve some respect, and you owe them and Verizon, too. Because if not for Droid, the green robot might not be nearly as popular today. Hat tip goes to Apple, too, for helping Android along (next paragraph explains why).


Apple launched iPhone in summer 2007 on a single carrier, AT&T, with exclusive multi-year agreement. Actually, AT&T relaunched with iPhone as what was then Cingular Wireless adopted the older, stodgy brand. Verizon was shut out. Then in late 2008, Google released Android on a single handset (G1) through T-Mobile USA. Verizon still had no iPhone, and nothing really to compete. The carrier turned to Motorola, launching the Droid brand in autumn 2009 backed by a splashy $100 million ad campaign. Suddenly Android had street cred -- from America's largest carrier -- and huge brand visibility.

The operating system soared -- really started wooing consumers, developers and handset makers -- following the Droid line's stunning success. In 2010, Android sales grew 888.8 percent, according to Gartner. Sure, Verizon and Droid aren't solely responsible for the mobile platform's success, but there's a fairly straight line in sales that parallels overall Android market share increases over the 12 months following launch. Never underestimate the power of good advertising or a company's "bet everything" commitment to a new brand.

Three years later, Droid remains a hugely important brand to Verizon. Just go into any of the carrier's corporate stores and see how much singage and shelf space Droid phones and peripherals get compared to even iPhone. Verizon should be first Motorola customer demanding the newest operating system, and Moto's new management should beg the carrier to take Jelly Bean. Hey, Apple is expected to announce iPhone 5 running iOS 6 during a September 12 event. But the newest Droids pack last year's Android? Please, someone pinch me, because surely this is a nightmare not reality!

If any party has vested interest in promoting Jelly Bean, Google is it. This is where I should offer up-to-date version information, but it's out of date. The last available data is number of devices accessing Google Play the 14 days before August 1. Say, isn't it about time to update the info? Back then, Jelly Bean share on Android devices was 0.8 percent and predecessor Ice Cream Sandwich 15.9 percent. Fragmentation defines Android. There are eight Android versions with measurable device share. Largest: Android 2.3 Gingerbread: 60.6 percent.

Oh, and by the way, Motorola has one of the worst records upgrading devices to the newest Android version. If any manufacturer should offer the newest Android on all devices, Google's own should be it.

I know, I know, some of you will excuse Google, asserting that the Moto acquisition only closed in late May. So? Google and Motorola announced the deal in August 2011 and started working closely together before regulators cleared the merger. There's no good logistical reason -- and even less marketing one, with iPhone 5's launch imminent -- for the new Droid's to ship with the older thing. These aren't any Droid's either but RAZR's -- a previously hugely successful brand Motorola hopes to reinvigorate.

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