With more and more new products hitting the market and service providers / carriers being the medium to promote these products / firmware, an interesting question has surfaced on the method of some manufacturers trying to charge for their OS and software upgrades. It has been reported that Samsung, a key player in the tablet market, along with Apple, HTC, Motorola and others, have been withholding Android 2,2 upgrades, due to their expectation of an upgrade charge from carriers.

Before we continue on the above issue, let us review the definition of upgrades and how different players for different equipment have been working their way around this issue. Whenever a new product is introduced into the market, the developers work around a set of features to be provided, and dump the product into the market announcing an edge over all the other players. Naturally, the phenomenal amount of work put in by hordes of developers culminating into a product would definitely have various bugs which would need fixes based on research and also reports from users. Here the manufacturer decides to provide updates of three types – critical updates, maintenance updates and feature updates.

Critical updates are needed to resolve a critical bug in the product. Maintenance updates are routine updates, to take care of bugs and other issues reported by the carrier. Finally feature updates are included in addition to new features in the software that were not available earlier in the product. Generally, critical updates are free. A manufacturer would not like to have bad publicity due to serious problems. For the overheating of a phone, a company may provide free upgrades to resolve the issue. On the other hand, maintenance could have a maintenance fee attached to them, but generally nominal in nature. Feature updates are always costly and expensive. Only users needing the specific features, giving them an edge in their operation would be willing to shell out that extra bit.

Most updates would be critical or maintenance updates and users and carriers never objected to any such thing. On the other hand, feature updates, are ones that carriers never want to incur the cost of, because of very small benefits to them, adding very little to the device, on the other hand involving phenomenal amount of testing on the carrier end.

Since the Android open source project is under constant updating and such information is also being made available to the world across the Internet, there is severe pressure for the devices to be constantly updated with the newest version of Android. Erstwhile, manufacturers like HTC, and Motorola have been providing this as maintenance upgrades. Samsung however, calls it a feature update. Samsung requires carriers to pay per device update fee for each additional Android update. Carriers in the US believe that Android updates are based on Android open source project efforts, and Samsung’s involvement is minimal. Several US carriers have refused to pay for the Android 2.2 updates for the Samsung Galaxy S line.