Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Importance of Updating

I asked a while ago, on Facebook and directly through this blog, how often people do or don't, update their phones, tablets, and computers. The main answer I got was that people will update their devices, if its easy or convenient to do so. There were, naturally, a few outliers, but for the most part, that was the view I was getting. Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their opinion!

So, how convenient is it for you to update your device? That depends from device to device. Generally, iDevices are very easy to update, the update becomes available globally at one time. This does, however, mean that your download could take many hours, given the stress on Apple's servers. Microsoft also does a good job with Windows, although the Windows 8.1 update was a bit strange. Because you have to download it through the Store, and not through Windows Update as you'd expect, I suspect many people who use Windows 8 simply don't know that there is a large update available for their device. That aside, however, Windows tends to be fairly well updated. Google Chromebooks do not have any problems with updates, as they are updated roughly every 6 weeks, and the updates are pushed on a timely basis, and are completely automated, suiting a large number of people perfectly.

Android, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of fish. Especially for older, or less powerful, devices, many OEMs (Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc) simply don't bother pushing any major software updates for their devices. In fact, with many of their less powerful devices, they can only make the update available through a client on a PC, which means that, most times, users will never update their device. OEMs have gotten better over the past few years, but there's still a large gap between Google releasing a new version of Android to Nexus and Google Play Edition (GPE) devices, and OEMs getting even their flagships updated to the latest version.

Motorola has bucked that trend with the Moto X, releasing Android 4.4 quite quickly, while Samsung is only now releasing Android 4.4 for the S4 and the Note 3. Still, the update situation is not too good.

If you're quite tech-savvy, you might install a custom ROM on your device. However, most people would never consider this route, as you generally need some knowledge of the command terminal, and you void your warranty by tampering with the device. As a result, users must rely on OEMs to deliver Android updates to them. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to improve too much for another few months, and older or lower-specced devices are likely to never get many big updates.

In short, for Chromebooks, and, generally, for Windows, updates are a background process which don't need to be fiddled with too much. Updating an iPhone is a painless task as well, although you might want to wait for a few days after a big update to give Apple's servers a chance to get back up to speed, and to allow the bugs to be discovered and patched. Lastly, for Android, if you have a flagship from the last 18 months to 2 years, you might get updates from your OEM, newer devices will probably get updates, older ones almost certainly won't, and you're guaranteed updates for a lot longer if you're confident enough to install a custom ROM on your device.