Samsung insider tells the world how Android updates through Carriers work

I’ve just read an extremely interesting post by a person who claims to be a Samsung insider. In this post, the insider explains how Android updates are provided by Samsung, yet Carriers have to pay Samsung for them. The insider says there are three types of updates available to Carriers to push out: critical updates, maintenance updates, and feature updates. Here’s how each works.

  • Critical Updates: A Critical Update is an update that is pushed out ASAP for a major problem with a device (eg, overheating, GPS not working). These updates are free-of-charge to Carriers.
  • Maintenance Updates: A Maintenance Update is a fix for bugs in the software pointed out by users, carriers or Samsung. These updates cost the Carrier a small amount to purchase off Samsung and then push out to their devices.
  • Feature Updates: A Feature Update is what Samsung defines as additional apps or an Android version update. These updates cost the Carrier a fair amount of money to purchase on a per-phone basis.

So what Samsung is doing with these, is charging the Carriers for the updates so they make more money from them. The Carriers are inclined to purchase these updates as they want to show their customers that they have the latest and greatest software. But what we’re seeing in the US, for example, is that all the major Carriers aren’t paying Samsung for the ‘Feature Updates’ to Android 2.2 to persuade them to make Android Updates free of charge (or cheaper) for them to push out to their customers. This may explain why some of the 2.2 updates for Aussie Galaxy S owners took a while. Hit up the source link for an interesting read.

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About the author

Buzz founded Ausdroid in March 2010, and while he has stepped back from active responsibilities around here to focus on his education, Buzz brings us some of our biggest news stories, reviews and latest rumours. We hope to have him... (read more)


  • Josue

    This makes perfect sense! Thanks for opening my eyes to what Samsung is presumably doing to us. :)

  • Scott

    So when I spoof Kies and download a UK 2.2.1 firmware (presumably a maintenance update) who pays?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      Good question, there are many variables, like whether or not you downloaded an un-branded firmware or not.

      If you downloaded a Carrier one, that Carrier would have paid Samsung something like: *amount-of-devices-sold* x *price-samsung-charges*. Presumably, it would be free if you spoofed it

    • kc

      if its unlocked then its free because u pay them the whole phone cost

  • coder

    OH, Critical Updates…like, for example, to fix a lag problem or GPS problem…Hey, come to think of it, doesn’t the Galaxy S range require a Critical Update??

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      Under the above system, they would be maintenance updates.

      • coder

        I see your point, but a lot of users believe that “GPS not working”.

      • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

        Yeah absolutely, but Samsung evidently aren’t in a rush to fix it, so they charge the Carriers. Just for shits & giggles.

  • http://www.petegraham.com Peter Graham

    very interesting .. all this time we thought the carriers were to blame.

  • http://Dingdong Jkoldha

    Doesn’t make sense to me. I get my updates via kies, not OTA from the manufacturer.

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      It doesn’t matter how you get the update, if it’s for a carrier, they paid for it.

  • Sam_K

    Y’know, this is not a terrible idea. If manufacturers can make extra money from software updates to older devices then they have a serious business case for keeping those older devices up to date.

    It seems most people around here expect (nay, demand!) that carriers continue to push new Android versions to old devices out of the kindness of their hearts. This is an expectation that is always going to lead to dissapointment.

    • coder

      There’s a BIG environmental related reason too. Certainly not the time in humanity’s evolution to be throwing away heavy-metal-laden products every 6 months.

  • vince

    samsung should not be doing this… charging carriers with an open source development is just being greedy

  • MrSimtang

    I don’t like this tactic at all. Is this tactic used by only by Samsung or phone manufacturers across the board?

    In a sense I don’t like it, but I see why they do it. I assume the phone manufacturers get charged by Google for the latest Android firmware, so they try to recover the costs by charging the carriers who are reluctant to purchase the firmware because they don’t immediately recover the cost themselves. Only by attracting more customers slowly recovers the cost, and honestly, the average Android phone user wouldn’t have a clue what Android 2.1 and 2.2 and 2.3 are.

    I have a friend who has an SGS and didn’t even know there was a firmware update to 2.2 till last week when I told her there was an update. Even then, she was reluctant to do so because she didn’t want to lose all her apps/files etc. I’m sure there are pleny of smartphone users who don’t know or care about software updates and you honestly can’t blame them. If they’re not interested, then they won’t bother looking it up and miss firmware updates.

    It’s a bit of a nasty mess that results in the agonising fragmentation that Android critics love to argue. It’s an issue that definitely needs sorting out. I admit I do see green when other phones have the newest firmware update (having an SGS, I was seeing green for quite a long whlie too….), and as much criticism Apple gets for it’s ‘iron fist’ rule, there definitely are benefits of having the one platform across the board, and this is exactly one of those reasons.

    • RogueX5

      @MrSimtang: Android is free, doubt Google Charge manufacturers for the software.

      @vince: Software development costs to make sure the major bugs are fixed with each new Android release are huge. You got software dev, field testing then operator approval cycles, that costs money my friend.

      • Dylan

        Google charges? do you understand what Open Source means?

      • coder

        Google charges for Google’s proprietary extensions to and services involving Android (maps, market, voice, etc). Not every manufacturer buys into that though.

  • Motorhead

    Samsung have come out & said this rumour isn’t true.