Would You Pay for Smartphone OS Updates? [Poll]

By Jason Fitzpatrick on March 15th, 2012

For most phone ecosystems, manufacturer/carrier provided updates are few and far between (or outright nonexistent). To get access to mobile OS updates, would you open your wallet?

While iPhone users are used to regular (and free) OS updates, the rest of us our largely left out in the cold. Over at ExtremeTech, Ryan Whitwam argues that we should be willing to pay for smartphone OS updates. The core of his argument is updates cost money and there is no financial incentive for carriers like Sprint and Verizon to turn back to their supplies (say, Motorola or LG) and pay them to provide an update pack for a phone they stopped selling last quarter. He writes:

It might be hard to swallow, but the manufacturer of your phone is out to make money for its shareholders. The truth of the matter is that you’re not even the customer; the carrier is. Carriers buy thousands of phones at a time, and unless the carrier wants an update, there won’t be one because there is no one else to pay for it.

Imagine if, instead of burning money for little or no benefit, an OEM actually had a financial incentive to port ICS to its older devices. Instantly, the idea of updating phones goes from the customer service back-burner to the forefront of a company’s moneymaking strategy. If the system proves a success, carriers could get involved and have a taste of the update fees as compensation for deploying the update over the air.

This is more viable now than ever before thanks to the huge number of Android phones in the market. Samsung, for example, has sold over 30 million Galaxy S II phones since last summer. It has just started rolling Android 4.0 updates out to some countries, but most users are still waiting. If it charged just $10 for access to the update, that would be $150 million if only half of all users wanted an official update.

At first glance we frowned at the $10 suggestion. In fairness though, we’ve spent hours tweaking Android devices over the years with Cyanogen and other Android-based mods in order to get the latest OS updates. Surely our time is worth $10?

What do you think? If your options are going without an upgrade because you’re not buying the newest device every six months or shelling out a nominal sum like $5-10 to get updates when you want them, what would you do? Log a vote in the poll below and then sound off in the comments.


Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/15/12
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