Why Aussie Galaxy Nexus Won't Get Android Updates Direct From Google

One of the best things about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is that it comes with a vanilla OS: no crapware and no bloated UI skin. But that doesn't mean that you also get updates directly from Google. If you bought your Galaxy Nexus from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, you're not running the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich, and you probably never will.

It's a common misconception that Google-branded phones, like the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S, receive firmware updates directly from Google, similar to the way Apple releases iOS updates directly to users without the carrier middleman. On Samsung Australia's Galaxy Nexus web page, it states that "GALAXY Nexus users enjoy quick access to the latest updates and services directly from Google" (our emphasis). This is clearly not the case. The truth is that there are several hurdles in between Google releasing an update and you getting that update on your phone, which means that you are getting firmware updates months after everyone else.

For instance, the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich available is 4.0.3. It was released on December 16, 2011. Galaxy Nexus devices sold through Telstra, Optus and Vodafone do not run the stock ROM (known as yakju) and are still on 4.0.1, which means those customers are still waiting for bug fixes, UI optimisations, improvements to battery life, graphics, databases, network connections, spell-checking and Bluetooth functionality, as well as a bunch of new APIs for developers.

Being a couple of point releases behind is not the end of the world. Still, it's not wrong to expect that your phone will receive firmware updates promptly and ask why there is such a delay when that doesn't happen. Samsung Australia said in a statement to us that it works jointly with Google to release software updates, and those updates are first tested by Samsung and the carrier before being rolled out to users.

As an example, here's how the process should work in the case of the Galaxy Nexus:

1. Google releases ICS update 2. Samsung checks to make sure the update works with its hardware 3. Samsung releases the update to carriers 4. Carriers check to make sure the update works with their respective network infrastructures 5. Carriers release update to customers

The same essential steps apply for any Android phone sold through a carrier.

Each step of a process like that is obviously going to take some time. While we wish everyone involved would hurry it up a bit, we can appreciate the importance of completing checks thoroughly. Certainly, avoiding issues like the one Telstra iPhone 4S customers experienced is a priority. As one Telstra representative said at the HTC Velocity launch, “If someone can't make an emergency call because we didn't test it thoroughly, Telstra will get the blame.”

So when can you expect to see your Telstra/Optus/Vodafone Galaxy Nexus updated to the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich? We asked the carriers, and the answer depends on who your contract is with.

Telstra:

We expect to receive the 4.0.3 update from Samsung next month. We then hope to test and approve it within a couple of weeks ahead of Samsung making it available to customers.

Optus:

The Nexus devices on Optus are currently using v4.01 and we have approved the rollout of v4.02 to our customers over the next few weeks. We don’t currently have any confirmed details or timings around v4.03.

Vodafone:

The Galaxy Nexus shipped with Android Version 4.0.1. This is the current version for our customers. We are unable to provide any information on timings for the next launch.

If you really hate being on your carrier's clock for those firmware updates, you can change your carrier-specific firmware build to the stock yakju Google build without having to root your phone. We don't recommend it for the reasons mentioned above, and if you do it's entirely at your own risk. The process is outlined over at the XDA Developer forums.

[h/t Greg, @felixthinks, @samsonation]

Republished from Gizmodo Australia.


Comments

    I'd like to know if there are any difference in my Telstra build to yakju, specifically relating to phone reception or network settings. If not, I'm happy to flash yakju.

    My concern is obviously reduced network reception and data speeds.

      Agreed, are there any differences. That would make the decision easy.

      There is only one main difference. The yakjudv build that Telstra uses is optimised specifically for Telstra's 3G network.

        Does iOS require the same tweaks because it seems only Android has to go through this annoying process of Carrier intervention?

          As the post points out, Apple releases updates without carrier involvement -- but that can create problems, as Telstra discovered with the 4S. Neither approach is perfect -- the reality is there's always a tension between getting it out fast and making sure it's working.

        LOL! "next G optimised" .. such a joke- surely you dont buy into all that crap? There is no such thing. Radio the same, maybe a few settings in build.prop- eg. the sensatino only had HD Voice turned on in build.prop- easy to do yourself

        Elly,
        In what way is it "specifically optimised"? How is this optimisation "one main difference"? Optimisation could be many changes, not just one. Also, the process you give in the article doesn't talk about optimisation, only testing. It is possible that there are other differences, but do you know so or are you guessing?

        Furthermore, GSM phones roam worldwide. If you use the Google version you should be in the same boat as someone from overseas using their phone in Australia. Same if you switch carriers.

        I'm happy that the carriers are testing their phones. I'm also happy that you can install the build from Google without unlocking the boot loader.

        The standard firmware works just fine with NextG, the hardware is the same if there is any tweaking that Telstra did I haven't seen it and I've used the phone throughout country Victoria. Apparently you will loose HD voice but thats no loss as far as im concerned.

    So the process is wedded to the clock cycle of the OEM's and the carriers. This process will still be faster that the other Android phones presumable where there are longer delays from the OEM's re-skinning the UI layer, and the carriers installing new bloatware.

    We all know how fast Apple distributes its iOS updates, but I would like some information on the comparison between the timing distribution of:
    1) Nexus phones vs.
    2) WP7 phones

    Anyone got any pointers or links??

    I bought one unlocked from MobiCity and have been pretty disappointed to discover this shortcoming, especially as the Galaxy Nexus page on the Australian (and other international) Samsung site(s) boasts: "GALAXY Nexus users enjoy quick access to the latest updates and services ***directly from Google***"

    I've got a yakjuzs build which seems to be tied to Hong Kong Samsung, and the little OS bugs in an otherwise spectacular handset are getting really frustrating, mostly because I know I'm simply unable to update without rooting, which I shouldnt have to.

      As was noted at the end of the article, it appears that you can change to the yakju build without unlocking your boot loader. This is because Google has already signed their build.

    Interesting to note that my Nexus S (on vodafone) is already running 4.0.3. And that update came out OTA

    jeez people- your bought a developers phone- its not that hard- fastboot oem unlock and flash whatever the hell you want on it. 4.0.3 on mine runs great atm...

      Because for some people its hard enough for them to even get to to this page to read the article. I would not let my mum do any of that crap on her Nexus S (which is still waiting for ICS), sure i could do it if she wanted me to but we both agree its often better to wait for the official method, same reasons i dont jailbreak my iPhone and dont install dev releases of iOS)

      +1OH HELL NO!Vodafone in Australia is the worst here in Australia :| They had esxtucivily for both the Nexus one and Nexus S too Hopefully I will be able to nab one online somewhere.

    To be honest, the majority of people out there don't care about the small updates, they just want a phone. Most people probably couldn't tell you what Android version they're running on their phone. I think this makes it easier for carriers to get away with taking forever to update their phone, since only a small minority of customers really want it (myself included, but I'm in the small minority.)

    Who uses a stock rom on an Android device anyway ?LOL
    I never have haven't even tried the stock rom on my Gnex.

    Woke up to fnd 4.0.2 on my phone today. GO OPTUS. Now, let's see what's broken

    "We expect to receive the 4.0.3 update from Samsung next month. We then hope to test and approve it within a couple of weeks ahead of Samsung making it available to customers."

    Please tell me this means they expect to get it in February, and it will be (hopefully) rolled out before March? As opposed to get it in March...

    So, seeing that I bought the phone from Telstra, and put a Vodafone sim in it, who's timetable am I on? I'm hoping Telstras, as anything Vodafail touches seems to die a horrible death...

    I am on the Telstra network but I bought my phone outright from Harvey Norman. Should I expect this update? I am still on 4.0.2

    Hey Elly,

    It appears that Telstra will be releasing 4.04 very soon...

    If that's the case how come you still have to wait for the updates when using a tablet (without 3G for instance)? I just love Apple for the updates reaches everyone instantaneously :)
    But I guess as mentioned before that it could cause problems when dialling emergency calls?
    Have a good one Stralia!

      The hold-up comes down to the carriers and manufacturers -- they have to make sure all their assorted apps, proprietary skins and branding attempts work smoothly with each update that Google releases.

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