By Purav D. from PDTechHD.
There is a big problem with the Android platform, and it has plagued it since its beginning; fragmentation. Due to the vast number of devices and device manufacturers out there consistent updates aren’t always delivered to every single device come every new version of Android. Now, this does make sense in certain cases; for instance, devices that are three or more years old would, as expected, be phased away à la natural selection. However, ever since the Nexus S Google has aimed, nay, made a pledge to guarantee software updates on their Nexus devices for at least 18 months from the device being released.
Now that the backstory is out of the way, let’s move forward in time. Specifically, October 31st 2013, the day Google finally, albeit subtly, launched the Google Nexus 5 as well as the new version of Android, KitKat, known numerically as 4.4. Nexus owners relished in the fact that their devices (Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (2012 and 2013 variants), Nexus 10) would get the update within a week or two, or so they thought. I received the over the air (OTA) update on my Nexus 7 (2012) on November 26th, more than three weeks after Google officially launched it. I wasn’t that upset however; I figured it would be worth the wait, and no matter how late Google might be in delivering the update they would sure as hell be a lot faster than the other manufacturers like Samsung and HTC.
After seeing various pieces of content about the Nexus 5 online, I was excited for the KitKat update, mostly for the Google Experience Launcher, which allows you to swipe all the way left to access Google Now. You can also access Google Now from swiping the home button up or the search widget, but the new controls look more natural and convenient. The Nexus 5 also has a form of “touch-less control”, on the home screens at least; you can simply say “Okay Google” and you can start a search or ask a question with Google Now. However, neither of these features work on my Nexus 7 (2012) after the update, and it turns out that these features are exclusive to the Nexus 5.
So why is this? Why is Google hindering the Android experience by offering us limited functionality in updates? It’s simple: it’s a marketing tactic to get people to buy the Nexus 5 to experience full Android as they intended it to be and function. By making many of the new Android KitKat features Nexus 5 exclusives, it ultimately makes the device more desirable to new smartphone buyers. As a non-Nexus 5 user however, I feel cheated. Key features Nexus users have been promised, and are entitled to, have been removed with the new update, leaving many scratching their heads; why even buy a Nexus device in the first place if Google are going to skimp on features?
Ultimately, I just don’t feel Nexus devices are as reliable as they once were with software updates, and it has left many people frustrated, not just me. While it’s all a bit hunky-dory now since we Nexus owners do have the update, the limited functionality is a bit of a shame. Again, you can install the “okay google” touch-less control using an APK, but for the average user this is a hassle, and it should have been included in the OTA update. I’m an Android guy and even I’m a bit annoyed with this whole issue. So Google, if you’re reading this, please fix it.
Purav is a freelance tech journalist focusing on Mobile. He’s been writing for almost two years and fell in love with smartphones ever since his first HTC Desire phone. He has also graduated from university with a maths degree.
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