Android users short-changed by lack of OS updates

Android smartphone users are getting short-changed when it comes to updates to the latest versions of Google mobile OS, according to research published in the wake of the search giant's announcement that Nexus One owners won't be getting an upgrade to the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - and shortly after users of 2009's Apple iPhone 3GS got a free bump to the latest iOS 5.

Tech blogger Michael Degusta of TheUnderstatement.com investigated the support history of every Android smartphone shipped in the United up until June 2010, to discover what updates had been made available. His findings - presented in the form of an insightful infographic - make depressing reading for Android users.

Of the handsets, most of which would still be under contract today, seven of the 18 models never ran the latest version of the OS; 12 of them only ran the latest version for a matter of weeks before being superseded.

Ten of the models reviewed were at least two version behind the latest release within the two-year span of their contract - and 11 stopped receiving any updates less than a year after release. Fifteen of the 18 devices couldn't run Gingerbread, which was released in December 2010 - and at least 16 of the devices will never get an update to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich when it's released, leaving them at least one major version behind.

Some in the hacker community - notably CyanogenMod, the group responsible for the recent port of Android on to HP's cut-price TouchPad tablet (you'll find a full guide to doing so here) - have helped to get newer operating systems on to these older handsets. But using these third-party hacks will almost certainly invalidate a phone's warranty - something many owners will be unwilling to do during the life of their contract.

Not only does the lack of support mean that consumers get left behind, unable to run the latest apps available for the Android platform, says Degusta, but with so many handsets running old and unpatched versions of the OS, the risk of security flaws being exploited is high.