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Last year at Ausdroid we took the opportunity to approach our three major telecommunications companies – Telstra, Vodafone and Optus – about their software update processes. We had a great talk with Kieran Mcilwain from Vodafone on episode 30 of our podcast and interviewed Craig Ruhan from Telstra. The one carrier we haven’t spoken to is Optus.

I first approached Optus about interviewing their Software Updates manager on the 8th of August last year, and they advised they would see what they could do. There was some back and forth, but Optus was unable to arrange a face to face interview with a Software Update Manager.

Optus recently re-launched their ‘Yes’ branding campaign, and in the spirit of the ‘Yes’ fervour coming from Optus, I broached the subject again. This this time I managed to speak to Melissa Circosta, Public Relations Manager, Optus, who advised in early July, Optus had lost their Head of Devices, who as far as we are aware (at time of writing) has not been replaced.

The process of receiving, testing and approving updates has continued unabated. Updates such as the HTC One 4.2.2 update and a Maintenance release for the Galaxy S4 have been rolled out to Optus customers just recently, so the team at Optus is still working quite hard, but there is a distinct lack of communication to their customers of these updates.

As an interim solution until a new Head of Devices is appointed, to try and get any information out of Optus and de-mystify the software update process, I supplied a set of questions we’d like answered, and Optus offered to answer them as best they could.

You can judge the results for yourself.

Ausdroid

What testing Optus does with relation to each update? How long the Optus testing cycle is for each update?


Optus

Optus’ testing process varies, depending on the software and the extent of the update.

Ausdroid

What the Optus stance is on things such as Rooting/ROMs?


Optus

Optus does not encourage or support the rooting or flashing of devices, as the user experience may vary significantly as a result.

Ausdroid

How Optus sources updates? From where and do they request updates for their devices etc?


Optus

Updates are generally provided by the device manufacturer. Like most carriers, Optus software variants have additional features and apps that provide added functionality or further enhance the user experience – hence the availability of an Optus-variant upgrade after the generic OS upgrade.

Ausdroid

Maintenance/security updates vs OS Upgrades, is there a difference in testing procedures. i.e do Security updates get special treatment?


Optus

Optus maintains a set of testing criteria with each software release. Depending on the supplier’s advice accompanying the software change (often in the form of official release note), Optus arranges additional testing accordingly.

I then advised I would like further information in the way that Optus communicates their update availability to customers. Vodafone is a shining example of how to do it right, updating their blog on a weekly basis with all the updates available in testing and approved or otherwise, Telstra too maintains a fairly constant stream of updates through their Crowd Support forum keeping customers up to date and answering threads in the forums.

Optus, on the other hand, have what can only be described as an abysmal record of communicating software updates to customers. Currently, Optus ‘maintains’ a software update page, which at this stage carries no dates or relevant information helpful to customers looking for information on whether an update is being tested or been approved and when to expect it. Indeed, customers are actually pointed towards the Optus Community Forums, which is a hotbed of customers looking for answers with none being offered from their carrier.

Optus responded to the query regarding the update with :
Optus

Optus is currently reviewing its communication process to proactively keep customers informed on software updates.

In today’s Smartphone savvy market, customers are more and more aware that there is an update coming or expected for their model of phone. Gone are the days of dumb phones which could receive no extra functionality from a software upgrade.

These days, Google, Apple and even Microsoft can add features to handsets running their mobile OS to greatly enhance them and carriers insist on testing them to maintain standards and ensure that safety is from with the updates – and that’s fine – but when customers have no communication with regards to the availability of those updates, this makes for frustrated users and at this stage, with that non-specific answer regarding update notifications, Optus are going to be looking at more and more frustrated customers.

It’s a process. We hope to speak to the Head of Devices at Optus for a more in-depth look at the software update process for Optus branded handsets, whenever a person is appointed to the role – we hope it won’t take too long.

How important is communication regarding the availability of software updates for your phone to you?

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  • Nian

    Optus “Like most carriers, Optus software variants have additional features and apps that provide added functionality or further enhance the user experience”
    Call me jaded, but why then does Apple not allow service providers to fill iPhones with their “added functionality”?
    How much better would Android be without the telcos delaying updates for crap people don’t want.
    TBH, Within a month of getting the Original Galaxy S GT-i9000, I was using custom roms because of the abysmal update process. Thats back mid 2010.
    Stripping roms of junk is a great way to recover some much needed storage.

  • Martin Dolan

    ” Optus does not encourage or support the rooting or flashing of devices, as the user experience may vary significantly as a result.”

    Yes we know flashing a ROM changes the user experience. That is why we do it. It gets rid of your crapware makes the phone run faster, and shortens the time waiting for updates.

    “SIGNIFICANTLY AS A RESULT”

    • JeniSkunk

      We also root our devices to be able to improve them.
      Does Optus think that users should not want to, or actually, improve their Android devices?

  • Fred

    Current version for Galaxy Nexus shows as 4.3.0 in update page. I have a GNex, but have 4.1.2 only. Anyone else having the same as I do?or having 4.3.0?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Daniel Tyson

      The Galaxy Nexus on Optus has definitely not been updated beyond 4.1.2, nor has it been updated by any of the other carriers in Australia.

      I have personally recommended flashing the stock Factory image from Google to the phone as this will ensure fast updates in future without the need to worry about the carrier testing procedures, or waiting for Samsung to supply the update which is what is happening with the carrier branded Galaxy Nexus.

  • Marcel Bennett

    All staff at Optus do their best like with any carrier, if you wish they’d change then provide the feedback to them on their website, they will do what any company will do and create graphs of feedback concerns and the more consumers request something, the more likely it is to get on the radar of senior managers.

    The sad truth is that not all consumers are nerds like us and the majority just don’t care about when an update is coming, Optus have a stronger consumer focus now, but perhaps not as solid nerd focus, but provide the feedback and things can evolve, look at how they completely changed the way plans work for the MyPlan initiative. Way better.

    Most managers run on metrics after all and they are obviously trying to listen to feedback more now with the rebranding and renewed customer focus.

    Disclaimer: I work for Optus, just not in Mobile (in networks), so my opinions are completely my own and I have no permission to speak for the company AT ALL IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER. :)

  • TT

    Too easy just get rid of optus and use Telstra.

    • Marcel Bennett

      Optus always get their updates out faster than Telstra, by a long margin. Telstra is the slowest to release updates of any carrier.

      • http://ausdroid.net/ Daniel Tyson

        Actually, Telstra beat Optus out with the Android 4.2.2 release for the HTC One and have beaten them out on other updates – Xperia Z update. Just to name a couple of recent ones.

      • Marcel Bennett

        Really? That’s awesome news that they’re improving, I wish all carriers would just release the day the manufacturer does :)

      • http://ausdroid.net/ Daniel Tyson

        Don’t we all

  • arathkone

    Very much seems like Optus couldn’t give a flying **** about whether their customers are well informed. The one sentence answers, no attempt at revealing any real information is just rubbish.

    Good communication on this front may not be a requirement for a lot of their customers but there’s plenty of people who want to know this and I don’t think it’s asking a great deal to be provided with that information.

    As a Virgin Mobile user, for the inexpensive contracts and average/good level of service, I’m very hesitant to get another device through them as they rely on Optus and Optus evidently don’t care. Vodafone seem poor to average and I’ve had bad experiences with them in the past, good communication or not and Telstra are very expensive from my point of view. Not a great selection out there.

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Daniel Tyson

      We hope to get a more in-depth interview with their Head of Devices when one has been appointed. Hopefully we can then get some more information from them.

      • arathkone

        Would be great to see something from them, I’d hope someone hired to a “Head of Devices” position would take real interest in software updates and the customer community since that should certainly factor into the products they choose to offer.

        Being responsive to you guys wouldn’t cost them a great deal of time and may win them some fans or help keep existing users with a little openness.

        Still hate that they believe that their bloatware provides:

        “Additional features and apps that provide added functionality or further enhance the user experience”.

        Spoiler alert. It doesn’t. For any carrier. Optional separate app downloads for monitoring usage etc I can understand but pre-installed to the OS, no thanks.

      • Sean Royce

        Agreed, I think it was a predetermined answer if you ask me.

    • Sean Royce

      Theres a reason why I’m tempted to get off Optus as soon as my contract is up. There customer support is okay through the chat system. Other then that they’re pretty atrocious. I was on Virgin prior to switching and I never had problems. I know they run off the Optus network but they were much more pleasant to deal with. Hopefully Optus reads this or someone who works for Optus can lead these messages up the chain.