I never dealt with Android devices before so I'm completely newbie at it, please comment if something is too simple.

Say I purchase Android Galaxy Player S WiFi 5.0, that has got Android Froyo 2.2 installed in it.

If there is a new version of Android released tomorrow or next month, will I be able to update it (like I will be able to update my iPod Touch 4 to iOS 5)?


No. Its up to the manufacturer to release new Android versions for their devices. Some devices will never get a new Android version. Only the devices from Google (Nexus One, Nexus S) will get the latest Android versions early and OTA. The others may get the new version, but it is the decision of the manufacturer.

Custom ROMs may provide a newer Android version, as the last official version that was released by the manufacturer. But this often only applies to popular devices.

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    If a manufacturer abandons a device, its still possible that CyogenMod or other open source Android distributions could be modified to support the device. But, depending on the device specifics, that could be a lot of (difficult) work. If the device is relatively open and popular, I suspect an open source distribution could maintain a device that a manufacturer has stopped updating. – P.T. Oct 7 '11 at 6:56
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    P.T.: Thanks for pointing this out. I have added it to my answer. – Flow Oct 7 '11 at 7:13

**No.** For an Android phone to receive new updates, it must jump through several hoops.

First, Google. When Google releases new versions of Android, they get to determine the system requirements. While they have good reason to include as many devices as possible, they sometimes can't, or have to make hard decisions not to for the purpose of new features. Furthermore, in the future, their motives may change.

Next, OEM. If your phone is not a Nexus or Google Play Edition, the manufacturer of your phone must take the code released by Google and make it work with their drivers, their skins, and their addon software features (like gestures and such.) They may find it is not worth their effort. They also have the motive of planned obsolescence in selling new phones (if you loved the Super Duper X Phone when you bought it, but the new OS offers features you want that aren't available on the old one, you are more likely to buy the Super Duper X Phone II.)

Lastly, carriers. If you bought the Super Duper X Phone for $199, likely your carrier paid the other $400 that the phone actually costs, and plans to extract that money from you in an inflated-price 2-year contract. As the middleman, they likely demanded the right from the manufacturer to install some apps of their own. These apps must be updated by the carrier AFTER the first two hoops have been jumped through. THEN, after that, the carrier must test the new software stack to make sure it does not crash their network.

If your phone makes it through these hoops, then BAM! New OTA software for you. But remember, this process can be short-circuited at any step. Furthermore, those in the process KNOW THIS. So, if you are, say, HTC, and you spend the money, time, effort, R&D to update this phone, you'll want to be damn sure that, say, Verizon will do their part of the job and then finally approve the new version. If not, your effort is wasted. If you are not positive, you might not bother.

A good illustration of this is the Galaxy Nexus. Google made a promise (which I think they meant to keep) that this phone would get the newest updates first, for as long as reasonably possible. Unfortunately, they chose to release a Verizon version alongside the unlocked versions they themselves sold. Verizon dragged their feet on updates, and the Verizon version has lagged behind the unlocked versions for months on new updates.

If you must have the newest updates, the closer the phone is to Google, the better off you are. Choose Nexus first. Choose Google Play editions next. Choose Motorola phones next. Then choose the phone from the OEM with the best track record for updates and the network with the best track record for updates. Or learn to root and rom and take your chances in the Wild Wild West of phone software....

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