Editorials

Smartphone updates for low-end devices are a privilege, not a right

As someone who writes for SamMobile, I’ve had my share of criticism from readers who are upset with Samsung about one thing or another and want Samsung to do something about their device issues. Some consumers complain because their devices are overheating, or have stopped working due to an Android update that’s gone wrong (which is really Google’s fault, since Google owns Android). It seems that a number of customers want to find something to be angry about. Few customers visit SamMobile and have good things to say. Yes, I work hard to bring the best of Samsung to our readership, but that often means that I’m a controversial columnist who stands in the way between disgruntled customers and Samsung. It’s a hard job, I know.

It hit me again today with a comment there that I’ve needed to stake out my position on Samsung’s decision not to give smartphone updates to low-end devices. The company is preparing to release a new Galaxy O series (what we believe to be the Galaxy Grand On), and someone responded at our social media site with something along the lines of, “The Galaxy O5 will be just another smartphone Samsung decides not to update.” The commenter then went on to criticize Samsung’s customer service and their lack of smartphone updates for low-end devices. The Galaxy O5 looks to be a mid-ranger, but it does have some low-end specs (such as 8GB of storage and about 1GB of RAM). The 5MP and 8MP cameras are pretty typical of mid-end devices, making this device “squeezed in the middle” of smartphones.

Contrary to what many believe about this issue, I have a different opinion: that is, I do not think Samsung is “on the hook” when the company chooses not to provide smartphone updates for low-end devices. And I think that Samsung customers should accept this and either 1) buy Samsung’s high-end devices or 2) buy mid-range devices. Let me explain why.

Take Apple, for example. Apple is the main rival to Samsung, but the company doesn’t make low-end devices (unless you count the 1GB of RAM, the 8MP back cameras and 1.2MP front cameras in its devices until the introduction of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus). Since Apple prices its smartphones at the $700+ mark, Apple updates them for up to 3 years. It’s astounding that, in a day and time when Android manufacturers continue to limit smartphone updates to two years or 18 months (as Google can be wont to do), Apple still provides 36 months of smartphone updates. Apple broke that this year by allowing even 3-year-old devices such as the iPad 3 and iPhone 4S to update to iOS 9. And for some customers, it seems that Apple is the better manufacturer because of that.

When it comes to Samsung, however, Samsung doesn’t control Android but does have sovereignty over which of its devices will receive smartphone updates. And, since Samsung made over 50 phones last year alone (compare that number to Apple’s two smartphones), Samsung chooses not to provide smartphone updates for the multitude of low-end devices it makes. And that has some people angry. Some customers want everything they can get for less, and, since they purchased a Samsung smartphone, they expect Samsung to update it (whether it can be updated or not).

Some customers don’t understand that Samsung has RAM requirements in its devices for smartphone updates (that is, devices with 1.5GB of RAM or higher will get Android Lollipop), or that Samsung chooses to update its most popular devices (if the Galaxy Ace isn’t popular, then it won’t get updated), and so on. But there are some customers who do, and they’re not too happy because they intend to buy low-end devices that’ll never see smartphone updates.

The problem may lie with Samsung, in the minds of some customers, but I think the problem lies with those customers. Android consumers have been spoiled, receiving updates from Google, Samsung, and others like HTC or Motorola and coming to expect and demand them. But it’s still the case that manufacturers don’t have to update their devices. So, manufacturers who make tons of devices, like Samsung, have a right to decide that some will get smartphone updates and others will not.

Apple customers pay $700+ to get smartphone updates; Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note customers pay $600+ to get smartphone updates. In this light, these customers are paying for the right to update their devices and should get the latest in Android (Android 6.0 Marshmallow, for example). But if someone is paying for the Galaxy Ace, for example, the Galaxy Ace customer who pays $165 for his or her smartphone shouldn’t demand that Samsung update it. Why? Because the device is only 25% of what the high-end customer pays for his or her smartphone. With a cheap device like that, why not buy a new one and ensure you get the latest update?

Some customers don’t like Samsung’s decisions to drop smartphone support for some devices (and I understand where they’re coming from), but Samsung does have sovereignty over its devices and a right to dictate them. Frankly, I don’t think that customers have any right to demand Samsung update their devices if they live to buy cheap ones; the reward should be that you got the device for a budget-friendly price, not that you should pay for a small cup of soda but demand the waiter bring you an entire meal for the price of that soda. Some individuals in life want something for nothing, but everything in life comes with a cost.

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