Google shouldn’t allow HTC to abandon software updates for last year’s One S

Struggling HTC isn’t doing itself any favors by abandoning software updates on a phone that’s just over 14 months old. It doesn’t help Android at large, either. Unfortunately for owners of the HTC One S, the company’s flagship phone for T-Mobile(s tmus) in the U.S., that’s the situation they’ll be facing. On Tuesday, HTC made an official statement saying the handset won’t see any more Android or Sense updates:
Android Central receieved the statement from HTC, which reads as follows:

“We can confirm that the HTC One S will not receive further Android OS updates and will remain on the current version of Android and HTC Sense. We realize this news will be met with disappointment by some, but our customers should feel confident that we have designed the HTC One S to be optimized with our amazing camera and audio experiences.”

I don’t even own an HTC One S and I find this completely unacceptable for a number of reasons.

Who owns the customer relationship?

First, as I see it, HTC is effectively putting new customers ahead of its existing ones. Building, testing and distributing software updates for the One S will take time and resources. That I understand. And I also realize that HTC has seen its sales generally decline for the last 18 months, so it’s focusing its efforts on new devices to revitalize the brand. But loyal customers are going to pay the price now because they invested in a phone for up to two years that is effectively getting one year of software upgrades.
HTC One S trio
Of course, there’s always the question of who owns the customer relationship here. Is it HTC, who built the phone, or T-Mobile, who sold the phone? I’d say T-Mobile has some responsibility here as well because it sold the devices and it charges monthly service fees for HTC One S owners to use the phone on T-Mobile’s network. In fact, if this is all about money and effort, perhaps T-Mobile should consider spending some of its own money to assist HTC.

So much for Google’s promise of updates for at least 18 months

Let’s not forget Google, either. Even though it only provides the base Android software for others to use, Google touted a new partnership with its hardware partners at its 2011 Google I/O event. The company presented the relationship — with HTC specifically named as one of the companies involved — as a way to both speed up the delivery of Android updates and to guarantee software updates for up to 1.5 years after a device is released:

“The founding partners are Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Motorola and AT&T, and we welcome others to join us. To start, we’re jointly announcing that new devices from participating partners will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released, as long as the hardware allows…and that’s just the beginning. “

The HTC One S launched in late April 2012, so it should continue to receive software updates through late October of this year. The hardware is surely capable of Android 4.2 (and probably the next version of Android as well), so there’s simply no excuse for this situation.

My recommendation: Google needs to manage this issue

androidHere’s what I’d like to see, based on Google’s statement of support: It should strike a deal with HTC to either devote Google resources to assist with updates on the HTC One S or HTC should consider letting Google take over the software relationship for this phone entirely. Of course, the latter solution would likely give access to HTC’s secret sauce — HTC Sense — to Google, and that’s not likely. So, I’ll vote for plan A and see if Google steps up to help out.
HTC One S owners deserve at least that much. And it would speak volumes to the Android market overall as well, by sending the message: “Google is here for you.”