Emergency Calls The Biggest Roadblock For Android Updates

We've told you before why a three-stage process means that Android updates often take time to reach the market officially. A blog post from Vodafone highlights that the most common factor that derails that process is an inability to deal with emergency calls correctly.

Picture by Alpha

Elly outlined recently how Android updates have to be coded by Google, tested by handset manufacturers and then tested by network operators to make sure they meet operational requirements. One of those requirements is the ability to make emergency calls on any phone even if it's locked, has no credit or can't access the network it normally uses. Vodafone's post outlines some of the circumstances in which Australian regulations mean an update doesn't get approved, most of which relate to that requirement:

  • Device unable to make emergency calls when a SIM-PIN is enabled
  • Device displays an emergency calling option on a device which does not make voice calls
  • Device cannot successfully attach to a third-party network to commence an emergency call
  • Device does not display an emergency calling option when a device PIN is enabled and the device is woken from sleep
  • Device does not properly detach from network when end-call is pressed
  • Device attempts to register on a third-party network for a non-emergency call

I know many Lifehacker readers happily install their own Android updates ahead of the "official" release and experience no problems. But if you imagine the kerfuffle and news headlines that would result if an attempt to call an emergency service failed because of a bad software update, you can see why caution is usually the approach taken.

The Android Software Journey — Appendix A [Vodafone Blog]


    This article doesn't do much to garner any sympathy from me on the topic. I definitely can understand the why behind the testing - but each of tests listed shouldn't collectively take any longer than a day to confirm. The article doesn't make any mention of carriers MODIFYING the operating system at all, only confirming functionality.

    Our mobile test team would cover those requirements in a few hours.

      So you alleged to have read an article series that says over a thousand tests and then heroically say you could do it in a few hours. How thorough your team must be.

      MONTHS really is a long time for a software update, but hours? When your head is removed from your ass you should read the articles again I guess.

    Those are hardly excessive test that would require months to complete. I also doubt any manufacturer would release an update without having completed similar tests of their own. This does nothing to explain the delay in software updates.

      Rhe manufacturer may have tested that the basic functionality of allowing emergency calls works. However this then has to be tested in a specific region with its own requirements etc and may lead to defects being detected that weren't picked up by the manufacturer.

        that would be true(is to some extent) but all phone radios are based on standards (such as HSPDA). manufactures will test the devices to make sure they are complaint with those standards.
        this is why Vodafone for example can push out updates for wp7 in such a timely manner, however for some reason it take other carriers MUCH longer.

          I should also like to point out that when Vodafone do push out update for wp7 they do so globally, which highlights the lack of variation between regions

    YES the tests may only take a few hours to run, or maybe even a day. But that is only ONE part of the whole process - didn't you read the article!.

    1. Google update their stuff.
    2. Google perform unit level testing.
    3. Google perform integrated testing.
    4. Google accept testing as meeting requirements and pass on to the manufacturer, or go back to step 1.
    5. Manufacturer adds their stuff, based on analysed new functionality.
    6. Manufacturer tests their stuff and integration with Google stuff.
    7. Manufacturer accepts testing as meeting requirements and pass to the Provider, OR they don't accept the testing and have to go back to 5., if they can work out that it is their problem, or back to step 1., if they determine a problem with Google, or they might go back to step 5., to work around a problem created by Google.
    8. Provider adds their stuff, based on analysed new functionality.
    9. Provider tests their stuff, integrated with updates from Manufacturer and Google.
    10. Provider accepts testing OR has to go back to step 8., 5. or 1., depending on issues found - whole process may start again.

    So step 9. may take a few hours to "perform", but this does not include time to analyse the existing tests to determine tests that might need changing or adding, time to setup the environment.

    Final point - would you really only spend hours testing something if there was a possibility that someone's life could be threatened because you let a bug through, and that you or your company could be sued for $20M - I wouldn't.

      +1 to this. The article only mentioned "a few" tests that had to be completed by the carriers, and people think they can complete these "few" test in a short time frame is sufficient to say carriers are lazy

    Still Telstra lags the rest when it comes to Android updates at least. Gave up waiting for a fix for the wifi bug (which was released MONTHS ago on Voda) and rooted the phone and froze the offender with Titanium Backup with a corresponding improvement in battery life. I remember Telstra promising early 1st Q 2012. Yet to happen afaik.

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