I’m pretty sure that Google and Verizon aren’t on the best of terms.  I’m no reporter with access to some inside story, but as a Galaxy Nexus owner, it’s all too apparent.  The Galaxy Nexus was officially announced on October 19th of last year.  It was released about a month afterwards–on November 17th–but not on Verizon.  It wasn’t until December 15th that Verizon announced that the Galaxy Nexus was available.

Perhaps it was just Verizon needing to finish up their own Android software (which was preinstalled on the phone….), or perhaps it was Verizon (the first provider to subsidize the phone in the US–holding the power to attract the majority of the initial US user base) arguing with Google over Google Wallet, which ended up not being included with the Verizon Galaxy Nexus over some sort of “security” concern (although the hardware is in the phone and non-Verizon phones have the software).  Verizon probably didn’t want consumers to start adopting a system that beat its own upcoming cell phone payment system to market.

It’s now been over five months since the Galaxy Nexus was released on Verizon and there still hasn’t been a single update.  It’s probably not Google’s fault–Android 4.0.4 has been pushed out to several 0ther phones already (and other versions of the Galaxy Nexus).  Not Samsung’s, either (the phone runs stock Google code).  Verizon?  They seem to be the only ones left.  Technical reasons?  Well, leaks of the update got out months ago.  One in store model even had the update.  Surely it’s ready to go out to devices.  It must just be Verizon punishing Google (or, more accurately, their own customers for using Google’s device).

To all those who also thought that a Google developer phone would give you fastest access to the most up-to-date software: we were wrong.

Google and phone makers need to be better at taking back control of their hardware and software from the networks if they’re going to be able to beat Apple’s performance.  Here’s a very enlightening email I received from a Verizon representative after asking about the company’s history of keeping Android phones up to date.  Even Verizon suggests the iPhone is a better route if you want a phone that gets updated regularly without carrier intervention:

I am glad to hear your interest in upgrading your phone! We try to provide software updates to our Android devices as they become available and are compatible with the devices themselves. My name is Jude, and I am more then happy to assist you with your inquiry about software updates. I will provide you with some information about the availability of updates to Android software.

Tim, I attempted to call you today, 11/07/2011 at 2:45pm MST in regards to your email, unfortunately there was no answer.

When it comes to Android based devices, if there is ever a security issue or major bug with software that is issued and distributed with an Android device that we offer, we here at Verizon Wireless will issue a software patch as quickly as possible in order to resolve whatever issue it maybe. These are simply patches and not updates to the Operating System itself.

However, when it comes to standard updates to the Android platform and operating system itself (i.e. update from Android OS 2.2 up to 2.3), there are many factors that go along with the ability to provide this type of update. Since there are many layers of different software that maybe running and pre-installed on a device, it may take some time for that new Android software version to become available for all of our Android devices. For example, some manufacture’s place software “skins” over the Android OS that enhance the OS with a different look as customized by the manufacture of the device. To keep issues with the user experience to a minimum, the manufacture will test a new version ofAndroid OS continuously in order to make sure that it works smoothly with their own “skin” or software.

Once the manufacture has completed their testing, we here at Verizon Wireless will then continue testing the new OS version to make sure it is compatible and works with the software that we provide. Once this is completed, then the software can be released to the public.

Understandably you want the latest and greatest software version of Android OS when you decide to purchase a device. However, if receiving updates to the underlying Operating System regularly is a major factor in your decision of what type of device to upgrade to, then I would recommend the iPhone. Since Apple manufactures the hardware and software for the iPhone, you will receive the latest OS updates as Apple releases them. There is no wait to make sure the updates “works” with a manufacture’s software enhancements since Apple is the manufacture. And since our applications are not pre-installed on the iPhone, we do not have to test the update either. We simply update the apps we provide through the App Store.

How can Google expect to beat Apple if it can’t fix bugs and add new features to the phones its customers already have?  I imagine iPhone users typically enjoy getting new functionality for free a year after buying their phone.  Where’s the love for Android supporters?

(I could root my phone, of course, but the point is that I shouldn’t have to do that [and void my warranty or whatever].  The average user isn’t going to do that, and it’s the average user that will choose who gets the majority of the marketshare.)