Editorial: Where is my Ice Cream Sandwich?

“When will ICS be available for my device?” – It’s a question most of us have been asking each other — and our carriers — ever since Ice Cream Sandwich was announced by Google on the 19th of October last year.

The wait for a software update seems to take excruciatingly long since the update must be prepared and tested by the manufacturer and then ‘tested’ again by the local carrier before it is pushed out to our phones. It’s this ‘carrier testing’ time that seems to cause the most frustration as it can add months to the wait even after the update has been pushed out to ‘stock’ phones purchased outright from overseas.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is a perfect example of this with the international update being pushed out from the 13th March to some lucky countries, however, Vodafone is claiming the update is ‘still in testing’; Telstra is promising ‘early April’; and Optus is promising nothing more than ‘early 2012’.

So what happens during ‘carrier testing’ for Android phones? Vodafone have attempted to remove the mystery from this process with their three part blog post ‘The Android Software Journey’ which is well worth a read. Sony (Ericsson) also provided some insight from a manufacturer’s perspective with their post ‘Ice Cream Sandwich – from source code release to software upgrade’. Kudos to both Vodafone and Sony for providing some transparency into the process — no doubt trying to reduce the endless queries they are receiving via twitter, email and phone calls.

While each carrier assures us they dedicate every working hour testing the update so they can push it out to our phones, how long are they really taking to ‘test’ the software before releasing it? Here at Ausdroid we thought we’d do some research and browse our archives and the wilds of the internet to see how long each carrier was really taking. We looked at a total of 22 phones across the 3 major carriers (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone) for a total of 29 firmware updates. Only major updates were considered, such as Donut to Eclair, Eclair to Froyo, Froyo to Gingerbread and Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich. Some phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S were lucky enough to receive 2 major updates from the carriers (Eclair to Froyo to Gingerbread).

Testing times..

To determine the ‘carrier testing’ period we looked at the period between when the ‘stock’ update was pushed out to unbranded International phones, and the date the carrier pushed the update to their carrier-branded phones. The entire data set will be provided below, but here are the highlights from our research:

  • The longest single period of carrier testing goes to Optus for the Gingerbread update for the Samsung Galaxy Tab at 174 days
  • This was closely followed by Telstra’s Froyo update for the Samsung Galaxy S at 172 days
  • Honourable mention to Vodafone for releasing the HTC Desire Z Gingerbread update on the same day as HTC, meaning they must have had early access, for zero days carrier testing
  • Telstra have zero days for the HTC Velocity ICS update, although that phone is specific to Telstra so there is nothing to compare against
  • Optus score an honourable mention for pushing out the (unexpected) Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Gingerbread update just 4 days after Sony Ericsson. It took Vodafone 32 days and Telstra 57 days

On average, across all phones and firmware updates, removing Telstra’s Velocity and Vodafone’s Desire Z from calculations, the average number of days spent ‘carrier testing’ are:

  • Optus at 64 days
  • Vodafone at 79 days
  • Telstra at 125 days

Based on these average timelines, Samsung Galaxy S II owners can expect their ICS updates — at the latest — by 16 May for Optus, 31 May for Vodafone, and 16 July for Telstra. The situation is not improving either. If we look at all the carrier updates by year, there were 7 major updates issued in 2010 over an average of 48 days, but in 2011 this blew out to 13 major firmware updates over an average of 113 days.

What can you do about it?

For the vast majority of people – there’s not much you can do but be patient. The carriers tell us that they are testing the software to ensure the best possible experience on their network, and they back that with a warranty and ongoing support. For the impatient (such as myself and most tech-heads) who are comfortable flashing a stock firmware or a completely custom firmware, you will have access to the most up-to-date software but you lose the ability to contact the carrier for help when something goes wrong. Of course the other option is to purchase your phone outright via someone like MobiCity rather than subsidised on a contract through the carriers, but that is a big cash outlay upfront and most people prefer to pay the phone off on a contract over 24 months.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the pages below for information regarding updates for your phone. And before entering into your next 24 month contract, consider not only price and network coverage, but also how long you are prepared to wait for ‘carrier testing’.

Optus – Is my mobile phone/tablet’s firmware up to date?
Telstra – Next G® smartphone software release schedule
Vodafone – Software Update Weekly Wrap – 14th March, 2012

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About the author

Matt has been around since the earliest days of Ausdroid, and in May 2011, we welcomed him on board as our newest staff author. Matt is keen on Android (obviously), and has been since the days of the HTC Hero. Elsewhere... (read more)

  • Geoff Fieldew

    Great work Matt. I wonder if anyone will flag the flag for the Carriers in the comments. I doubt it. 

    Oh, and Telstra: Lift your game, 125 days is disgraceful!

    • Geoff Fieldew

      err *fly the flag* rather.

  • Anon Canberra

    This is my biggest gripe with Android. Why do our carriers have to screw things up?

  • Byron Pogson

    How about the time frame for those of us who are using devices which aren’t from a carrier, say for example my brand new wi-fi only Motorola Xoom. ICS is available for it in the US, what “carrier testing” do I have to wait for? I hope it’s not Telstra.

  • phoenixside

    Why does the iOS seem to be pushed through so fast?

    • http://twitter.com/JM77 Jason Murray

      I’d like to see some attention given to this.

      I wonder if it’s due to (a) the lack of carrier-specific stuff Apple does, and/or (b) the way iOS manages “carrier profiles”, in that they seem quite separate to the rest of the OS.

      Perhaps Apple can release new versions of iOS because they’re not updating the Carrier Profile.

  • Greviousmcg

    Great article, Matt.

  • Peter Graham

    This issue almost makes me wonder if this is a secret ploy from Google to get us to buy new handsets every year. Can’t help but notice that ICS is finally being released but so are 3 or 4 new handsets with ICS already loaded on them. Its a bit sus to me. 

    • Scott McKenzie

      Google wants to get Android into as many hands as possible – they make most of the money from ad revenue.  Whether you have the latest Nexus or a Galaxy S is irrelevant – they just want you to have one.

      The device manufacturers on the other hand…

  • http://www.facebook.com/brianhislop Brian Hislop

    Great article Matt. Has anyone tried to reach out to any of the carriers at a corporate level (not just their support services), to try and make the testing process a bit more transparent? Ie, how far along the testing is on a particular update, reasons why things are currently held up for a particular update, things like that.

    If they are doing all they can (we have no way of knowing if they are or not), I would expect it would be in their best interests to have Ausdroid (or their own blogs) publish the current status of an update, rather than the usual “Coming Soon”, “Coming this year”, company lines that they always regurgitate.

    -Brian.

  • Evan Whiteside

    I’d like to know the same thing as Byron. For the devices that are not on a carrier then I suppose we have to wait for the manufacturer to spend their time testing for the devices. 

    I imagine that Samsung and Moto probably need to make sure they don’t freak out their regular customers with a new ICS interface, so they will try to make it looks as much like their current OS with touchwiz or whatever. I wouldn’t expect a “Pure” android experience on any upgraded device.

  • Gambit smith

    “but you lose the ability to contact the carrier for help when something goes wrong” – re customs romsThere’s two things wrong with this statement
    1. If something goes wrong, Telco are no help when it comes to fixing software problems over the fone.
    2. If something does go wrong, Hardware or software, the best your going to get is a new phone, with potionally  the same problem. And if you haven’t back up all your data, you loose that too. And If you have back up all your info correctly , you need “root” access to do that, which mean you can’t get help from the Telco’s.
    So learn to do it your self, and don’t need to wait for any telco to do anything, because they can’t anyway.

    • harvz

      I had the mico USB slot go in my Galaxy S that was running a custom ROM sent in in to optus and they fixed it under warranty no problems. 

  • AlexGerontzos

    There should be that we have the choice to get updates from carriers as per normal but also be given the feature to update directly from the manufacture.. If manufactures are giving out ways to develop our devices then it would sound right to have a feature to update directly from the manufacture. That way we wouldn’t have to wait for a carrier to bloat up the update test it then push it out..

    Thats what we should have. Should be an option from the manufacture. My 0.02c…

    • Matt Booth

      That would be nice, but no way will the carriers agree to that. They want to make sure the update is ‘optimised’ for their network, so maybe they make some changes to the build.prop or even bundle a custom radio firmware with the update. Then they want to bundle their ‘value-add software’ AKA bloatware, which drives more revenue for them so there is no way are they going to give up that opportunity.

      ‘Carrier testing’ is here to stay. All we can hope is that the manufacturers or even Google dictate a maximum time period for the testing to take place, I’m sure Apple must have something like that since their updates are never delayed by the carriers. However Google aren’t placing any timeframes on the manufacturers to provide timely updates, so I dont see any pressure flowing down the supply chain to the carriers.

      • Geoff Fieldew

        Vodafone confirmed to me that they test iphone updates. Not that it matters because people just grab it from itunes anyway.

      • Alex Gerontzos

        That’s true and apple being apple one phone = one update and or two stripped down versions for the older models vs 5 other major manufactures and at least 5 devices from each of them… In saying that takes longer for carriers to test then push out updates compared to the iphone… 

      • Alex Gerontzos

        It does suck in that context, oh well.. there’s always the joys of custom roms.. My problem is I decided to be different and adopt the “black sheep” of the galaxy s2 family the t989 aka Hercules model t mobile branded. Seeing the sister the skyrocket model from at & t we can use there roms providing we use the t989 kernal. Furthermore there is no indication as to when they will push ics to these phones.. the I1900 and t989 have different chipsets so no porting :( So any ics rom is built from the ground up as Samsung has not released ics drivers yet.. there is one or two alpha builds but there buggy.  

  • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

    I want to fire you, just so I can hire you again.

    Magnificent piece. It’s an absolute joke how long some of the updates have taken. Yet it’s strange to see how quickly the Velocity 4G got the ICS update after launch, just because it’s a flagship device for Telstra. 

  • Miniman200999

    I have an unlocked unbranded australian galaxy s2, when can i expect to receive this update?

    • Guest101

       i have a sgs 2 with amaysim… so idk when ill get it

  • Myk Dowling

    If your Galaxy S II is rooted, you may as well get the official ICS ROM here http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1544487

    • Nathsgames

      Doesn’t have to be rooted, you just need to load it with Odin instead of Kies. Download, extract, open Odin, put phone in Bootloader mode, plug in click PDA browse to firmware file hit Go, wait 5 minutes. 

  • Tim

    Great article…

    My only comment is – why then do they bend over and drop their pants for Apple.

    If out takes that long, well it takes that long … But how about a bit of equality.

    • Montalbert

      Yeah.. Vodafone avoided answering that one…. They implied they check all updates including apple but I find it hard to believe they get a look at the Apple update before everyone else

      this is my opinion Btw and not that of ausdroid

  • Guest101

    can i just ask… can’t we just update through kies? i hate this wait… my default webrowser on my phone doesnt work with wifi

    • Dimitrios

      Kies is hopeless. Downloaded the official ICS update and used Odin…was done in 5 mins. Easy as

      • Peter

         where do you get the official ICS update for a Galaxy 11?

      • Nathsgames

        xda - 
        http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1544487

        I am currently on DXLP7 with CF-Root LPQ Kernel – perfect combination.

      • Myk Dowling

        Even easier than Odin is Chainfire’s new Mobile Odin app : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.chainfire.mobileodin.pro. Definitely worth the $5; it automatically handles the rooting and resets the flash count so you don’t have the annoying orange triangle.

  • Greg

    I’m surprised that Ausdroid is the only site to ignore the lack of ICS
    on the Nexus S – the very device that should have been the first in line
    to be updated.  Not a word about the pulling of the update a day or two
    after it was first made available, nor the ongoing silence from google on all forums about when it may make it back.

    • Montalbert

      If you follow ausdroid staff on twitter you will see them hassling voda about it constantly… There were a few small instructions last week I think…

      Just unlock it and put cm9 on it.. Super stable and fast

  • MACDANISH

    Great article and after reading it reinforces the reason why I root & flash ;) I am not the most tech savy person out there but I learnt. Read the forums and use the guides they take you through it step by step. Break free!

  • Guest

    I bought my SGS 2 from Mobicity in the first batch that came from UK. (Pre-Ordered April 2011) I still have no ICS update or any news on it. Its extremely frustrating. I emailed Samsung and gave them as much detail as possible and they sent me a link to DL Kies!!!!! Im not that confident in rooting my phone so havent done that yet, but no one can give accurate info on the official update!!!

    • Chris

       The Optus update is now scheduled for early April release according to their website.

      • Nathsgames

        Telstra also

    • Nathsgames

      Doesn’t have to be rooted, you just need to load it with Odin instead of Kies. Download, extract, open Odin, put phone in Bootloader mode, plug in click PDA browse to firmware file hit Go, wait 5 minutes. 

  • Nathsgames

    Nice post

  • Camaradian

    I have a UK model via HK from Kogan. It is an unbranded UK model PDA:KI4 / PHONE KI1 / CSC:KH1 (CPW) Finally attached it to KIES today still no freaking update…. ! To nathsgames, You are the first person I’m aware of to say using odin doesn’t require rooting your phone. Are you sure about that? Can someone else confirm his info?

    • Nathsgames

      Yes mate 100% you DO NOT NEED ROOT to use Odin. Odin will in most cases over-ride your root. If you are rooted you don’t even need Odin as you flash on the phone via Recovery. Trust me, I flash while I’m driving half the time I do it so often. Odin is the ONLY way you can get different software on your phone UNROOTED. You can ROOT your phone with Odin but that is not necessary if you just want to keep it all stock as a rock. 

      Here’s the procedure unrooted.

      1. Download Odin 1.85
      2. Download your firmware
      3. Extract the firmware to a folder location on your computer
      4. Switch phone off
      5. Hold down power, home and volume down until you see a warning on screen
      6. Click up to accept warning
      7. You are now in bootloader mode
      8. Start Odin and wait for COM bar to turn yellow (you will see it don’t worry)
      9. Phone is now connected to Odin and waiting for firmware, DO NOT TURN OFF
      10. Click PDA in Odin (right hand side) browse to your firmware location from Step 3
      11. Click Go and wait 5 minutes
      12. Phone will reboot on it’s own
      13. Voila
      14. *If* you want to root, find the matching CF-ROOT kernel that matches your firmware
      15. Repeat steps 4 to 10, only this time don’t point PDA to the firmware file but to the new Kernel file
      16. Repeat Step 11 only this will take about 10 seconds.
      17. Phone is now rooted.

      • Nathsgames

        Step 8 Should read plug phone in after starting Odin sorry. Then COM bar will turn yellow.

      • Myk Dowling

        And links to all the files you need to download (including Odin) are here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1544487

      • Wezzy10

        Does this Odin method work on a Mac?

  • Cam

    It was a GS2 btw..

  • qldsparky

    I have a samsung sgs2 which I bought from mobicity. unbranded. Successfully downloaded ICS update yesterday by using Kies and usb connection, in Queensland. I would recommend that you use the highest speed connection you can find otherwise it will probably just time out on download all the time (I used 4g modem instead of adsl to get successful download in less than 10 minutes). Also it will delete everything on all your home screens as well as any unsaved or unsynchronised data. Once that is done all is good-no problems so far and finding everything seems to run much smoother and, I think, faster in a lot of cases. I love the fully orbital home screens you now get-so much better than the 7 screens forward then having to reverse again.

    • Miniman200999

      “fully orbital home screens…” 

      You mean home screen looping? Where going past the seventh screen gets you back to the first one? That was included in the 2.3.6 update my friend…that’s nothing new.

      Also which region is your phone from? Hong Kong? UK? 
      Type *#272*XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX# into your dialer where XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX is your IMEI number found underneath the battery on the battery compartment or on the phone box you got from Mobicity. It will state the ‘sales code’ there and will be a three letter word.

      Cheers

      Patty

      • qldsparky

         It’s HK phone like most from mobicity and have never received the 2.3.6 update-went straight from 2.3.5 I think to 4.03

      • Miniman200999

        Ah ic, no worries man, it seems like the update is still in Asia…

      • qldsparky

         no worries-but the big thing is- I have 4.03 and it’s working :)

  • masands

    You forgot that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v has been in testing for 10 months and counting for Vodafone…

    Also the Nexus S has been in testing for around 10 weeks now…also Vodafone

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000941127325 Duncan Marshall

    i have an Acer Iconia A500..When will ics be available..Wifi only so no carrier involvement..Any news??

  • http://twitter.com/gemini67 gemini67

    Telstra web site now says ICS for Sensation will be LATE April, keeps getting later and later, incompetent is the best word that come to mind that defines tel$tra !

  • Psehar

    Does anyone have an idea as to when Optus would roll out ICS for Acer iconia A501?