I must have hit some nerves last week, because I caught the attention of Android Central and a few of its writers with my warning about the hype surrounding the $800 Galaxy S7 edge phone. I warned you readers that the reviewers were missing many major points on the value and usage of smartphones over a two to three year lifecycle. Software bloat and optimization has been the number one issue when it comes to Samsung devices. That “slimmed down”, or “optimized” version of Touchwiz they keep telling you about is still actually loaded with bloat. Not the same, but different. Reviewers will pick up on things that are taken away from TouchWiz, but then the new features to TouchWiz are simply called optimizations and they’re glossed over and left out of the review. You won’t find many reviewers talking about the newest edge functionality because many aren’t using it. Why would you want apps on another edge when they’re already on your home screen? Or do you really want to read Yahoo News in a weird text box on the edge?
The reason why I am talking to the Galaxy devices now is they are the biggest sellers of the year for Android. The rave reviews of the S7 and S7 edge have a multi-billion dollar impact on the sales of smartphones because they influence the readers.
You read the reviews and then you go out and buy a phone. It’s as simple as that. You trust us to be as up front and to use our expertise to explain what issues you may or may not run into. Some of the issues I will bring up are not necessarily specific to Galaxy devices only, but I write to them because they affect the bottom line of the average American more so than any other Android smartphone. Since other sites are disclosing what they do or where their viewpoints come from, I will do the same.
- I don’t take a penny from AndroidGuys to write. Email my Editor-in-Chief if you want proof. We aren’t big enough to have an accountant.
- I have a full time job and took up writing to communicate better. I fell in love with it and it turned into a real hobby.
- My viewpoints are my own, where even many writers at AndroidGuys disagree with my viewpoints.
- I fell in love with blogging, because I found that there was a voice missing from tech websites.
- It’s my opinion that tech websites aim most of the news at early adopters or enthusiasts who make up a small portion of the buying public.
- Scott Webster, the Editor-in-Chief promotes catering to a different crowd and I am proud to write for him.
- We won’t build a Mint here by doing what we are doing, but we will look at things differently.
- I don’t get paid by Apple. I’m not a Samsung hater. And if you can’t tell from my writing yet, I don’t give a **** what those big companies think.
- This isn’t clickbait. It’s the truth. It’s all the truth.
Just because I say those other sites are missing things doesn’t mean I am saying they are wrong. I admire those sites for what they are. They cater to the enthusiasts and their readers love them for it. That’s a good business model. Good on them. I love to read their work and will continue to do so because it is top quality stuff.
What I have to say may come off like I’m on a pedestal, and maybe I am, but put the emotion aside and listen to what I am saying. Take the emotion out of it and read what I am trying to convey to you that the money you spend today on a Galaxy device is extremely short term.
Now that I got that extremely wordy opening complete let’s discuss the big elephant in the room.
Software and software updates
Samsung cannot keep up with Google and its updates to Android
Being the biggest manufacturer of smartphones around the globe has exposed one major vulnerability in Samsung – fragmentation. The S7 edge and S7 have many different variants of the same exact device. There’s a T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon model in the U.S. alone. When Google releases an update, Samsung can implement that code into the U.S. based software, but then carriers need to update the software to add in their customizations. Samsung already added one layer of Android customization, which means its update will always be slower than Google’s. Add a carrier update on top, and it adds even more time to the update schedule.
Then there’s international versions of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. Even different regions have different processors. So when Google deploys an update, Samsung has to write multiple updates to each specific device. Throw in years of recent flagships, and the list of devices that need software updates get real long, real fast. Go to Samsung’s support page and see for yourself. There are so many phones and devices that you need to know your model number just to find it.
Obviously memory size and color don’t make up an official different model for which each needs its own update. But head over to T-Mobile and look at how many Samsung devices are being sold. Galaxy S7 edge, S7, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge plus, Note 5, Note 4, Note edge, GRAND Prime, CORE Prime, and the S5. 11 different devices at T-Mobile alone. That’s eleven devices that will need individual updates. AT&T has nine different Samsung devices it is selling, and Verizon has seven. If the carriers are still selling them, then the phones are still current…right?
Between the three carriers, there are 27 different devices that need software upgrades. Take this same evaluation across the globe and you will find hundreds of different variants which require their own updates.
On the other hand, Google only needs to keep up with a handful of devices which it does still. In the last three years we can list off the smartphones they have sold and still update. Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.
Which devices get the updates for Samsung then?
No one really knows anymore. Samsung is very guarded about this process. The two year old S5 and 1.5 year old Note 4 are probably not going to see Android Marshmallow in the U.S. on carrier models. They definitely won’t see Android N. So if you buy a Galaxy S5 from T-Mobile today, and plan on keeping it for the next two years, don’t read about what Android is getting in future updates because you’re going to miss out.
I bought the original Note edge on AT&T when it came out in 2014. It took almost a year just to get to Android Lollipop. It supposedly is scheduled to get Android Marshmallow, but it’s probably not going to happen too. That phone was almost $1000 new, and it got one major update.
There are always rumors of these devices getting updates but the sad reality is, over time those rumors only lead to frustration which leads to burned bridges. Many Samsung fans who have been burned by non existant updates have simply turned that frustration into moving to a Nexus device. Or even worse, an iPhone. Sales are declining for a reason. Many Samsung customers are not happy over the long term. Until Samsung management fixes this issue of minimal updates, they’re going to continue to see sales decline.
Why you should care about software updates
Software updates most importantly keep your devices safe and protected. You see something new threatening our personal security every week. You need updates to stay ahead of the people who are trying to steal it. It may not have happened yet, but it is an actual threat. We carry more personal information than ever on our smartphones, from pictures to banking information, to business secrets. It’s all on our smartphones. All it takes is one time and you could be exposed to vulnerabilities beyond your wildest imagination.
That Touchwiz bloat that I have been talking about is real. You may not see it today, tomorrow or even two months from now. But you will see the dreaded Samsung slowdown. All of its devices experience this. You won’t find much information on it because us writers don’t do one year reviews. Sure writers will roll their eyes at me, because no tech geek wants to keep a phone longer than six months nor do we even have the time to stick with one device. It’s the truth and it is why you don’t get the full story.
So if you’re not getting updates, guess what? You’re stuck with those bugs until you get a new phone. That’s why you should strongly consider a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, or even an iPhone. Yes, I said that.
Google is continually adding new features to its Android software. Some of the latest software upgrades are incredible, like Doze which improves your battery life immensely. Or Now on Tap which helps predict what you may need in the moment.
You might only get one major update
Samsung released Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the U.S. in mid February. GottabeMobile said AT&T might be getting Android Marshmallow today but that information wasn’t confirmed. Tech Times reported that the S6 update started on March 11 for Sprint, but the S6 edge has yet to receive it. The Verizon Note 5 reportedly received Android Marshmallow last week according to Droid Life. But then Tech Times reported that users who did receive the Android M update to their Note 5s are now experiencing a whole host of other issues. Not just issues like a wallpaper went missing, but issues like battery drain, poor WiFi reception, and more. The things you cannot afford to break are breaking. Go search “Galaxy update” and read all about it yourself. Do your research and see how bad the problem really is.
What about the AT&T Note 5? According to Android Headlines it “might be rolling out soon”.
Why is everyone reporting on what MIGHT happen?
Let’s talk about what IS happening.
The Note 4 and S5 ARE NOT getting Android Marshmallow. Some people are getting OTA updates on some devices like the S6 and others are not. Android Marshmallow was released Oct., 2016 and we are now a full 3.5 months into 2016, and these $700-800 Samsung premium devices are not getting updates. Six months into Marshmallow and last year’s Galaxy devices are in large part still running Lollipop. It’s so long into its life cycle that we are already starting to talk about Android N!
If your Galaxy devices are getting an update this is the last one you might get forever. Do you want to be stuck with issues for the life of your phone? If you’re happy with two to three months of usage when a device is released, and then you want to sell it on Swappa, go for it. But the truth is most people do not do that. Most people stick with their phones for two to three years and with the lack of actual updates they are stuck with a $700-800 device that is running old and vulnerable software.
Everyone has stopped talking about the devices that are over a year old and Samsung is happy with that. They want you to focus on what is the latest and greatest. They’ll wow you with commercials. Reviewers have given the latest S7 edge and S7 top ratings almost universally. Heck even the writers here at AndroidGuys will probably give good reviews of it. I won’t dispute that the S7 and S7 edge are gorgeous, stunning, water resistant, functional, etc. It is all of that so far. And the camera is fantastic. But you can argue that most flagship cameras are fantastic. You should expect nothing less when you spend $800. Are the differences in the camera so good that you need to buy the latest? Most likely the answer is no.
But it is buggy. All Galaxy devices are buggy.
Put the initial launch excitement behind you and look at the long term. Whether you pay for your phone in installments or not, the phone still comes out to the same cost at the end of the day. If it is worth $700-800 to have it, then get it. At the end of the day all that matters is if you’re happy with your purchase. All I’m trying to do is convey that the long term value in software is not there and long term happiness will suffer as a result.