After initially deciding it wouldn't update Galaxy S phones to Ice Cream Sandwich last week, Samsung has now (supposedly) given some semi-official lip-service to vocal Galaxy S and OG-Tab owners who have been clamoring for an official update to Ice Cream Sandwich. The English-speaking side of Samsung's media arm hasn't commented on the alleged statement as of yet.
According to a translation of the Korean source articles, Samsung has officially committed to "reviewing" the "possibility" of an Ice Cream Sandwich update for its Galaxy S phones, as well as the original Galaxy Tab. If that's not a concrete statement almost completely assuring that Samsung will, at some point, say something about this topic again, I don't know what is.
You can probably guess what my stance on this whole debacle is: who really cares? "Well, Samsung Galaxy S and Tab owners, of course!" Great. I'm sure there are plenty of people super excited that their 1.5 year-old phone, which they're probably going to get rid of in six months, will maybe get an update to the newest version of Android by the time they do get rid of it. While this isn't true across the whole world (2-year contracts being most popular in the US), there's little debating the fact that by the time a device is 2 years old in the fast-moving world of smartphones, that it will already look woefully outdated.
But let's say they do go through with it. It will take Samsung at least a quarter before an update is finalized for the regular European version of the phone. Tack on an extra quarter for US version tweaking and carrier approval, plus the weeks it usually takes for a rollout to happen. At that point (Summer 2012), I can almost guarantee anyone still using a Galaxy S will simply not care if it gets a new software update, because the phone will look like a destroyed hunk of plastic and will either be a hand-me-down or a $50 purchase from Craigslist. Not to mention, an update would almost certainly require the end-user to wipe their device clean, something those who aren't constantly flashing ROMs get ill at the very idea of.
Meanwhile, people who are buying Samsung's Galaxy W (a popular mid-range budget phone) right now all across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, will never get Android 4.0. Six months from now, which phone will have more users? I think the answer is obvious. And yet, the phone which will be at its designed end of life at that point is the one under consideration for an update, while the budget phone will almost certainly never get one, even though it's far newer. Really, guys? Here's a list of relatively popular high-end Samsung phones released since the Galaxy S that won't be getting Ice Cream Sandwich:
- Captivate Glide
- Galaxy S 4G (not a true Galaxy S phone)
- DROID Charge
- Infuse 4G
If you include budget Android phones, the list grows exponentially. I'm sorry, what exactly makes them less worthy of getting an update to Android 4.0? These phones are newer, generally have better hardware, and will be in service much longer than any original Galaxy S phone out there. These handsets are clearly far more objectively deserving of updates than your scuffed-up Captivate that would barely fetch $75 on eBay.
The counterargument is the sheer number of Galaxy S devices sold means that far more people are being left un-updated than the previously listed devices. I agree that there are probably a significantly larger number of Galaxy S users out there than even all of those devices combined. But the last time I checked, simply because there are more of a particular class of person, in this case Galaxy S owners, doesn't mean they are somehow more deserving of a certain benefit.
In fact, I bet DROID Charge owners, who bought what they thought was a cutting-edge phone back in May of this year, are probably a lot more pissed off than Galaxy S owners - and a lot more justifiably so.
Listen, I'm not saying you shouldn't expect updates when you buy a high-end phone. But there are reasonable limitations to this expectation. A vocal group of Galaxy S owners have taken it to a point where it's no longer reasonable. Getting bogged down with old hardware forces Samsung to divert valuable resources from development on new hardware. You can't have your cake and eat it - there's a cost-benefit analysis going on at every level of a corporation, and where you give, from somewhere else you have to take. As a company making so many different devices, Samsung has more decisions than any other Android manufacturer in this regard.
It really comes down to this: do you want Samsung to be more like Apple (and now maybe HTC), make far fewer devices and offer consumers far fewer choices, with longer waits between those devices (such that they can justify software maintenance costs), or would you like them to push the envelope and get new technology to market faster? People loved the Galaxy S because it was the best Android phone on the market when it was released. It's not anymore. The bleeding edge cuts both ways, and sacrifices have to be made to stay on it.