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AT&T CEO Says That Google Determines Update Schedule For Phones, Google Assures Us They Don’t

In a recent interview at the Milken Institute, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson said some curious words on Google’s process of updating Android devices. Stephenson tried to shed light on the actual happenings that take place when you wonder why your phone still isn’t updated to the newest Android OS. Should we be blaming the carriers or Google for my device running old software. He had this to say:

Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard. We know that’s important to our customers. That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting. 

The blogs and writers weren’t the only confused ones  in the building after that statement and even Google had to release a statement to try and determine just what AT&T’s CEO was trying to say:

Mr. Stephenson’s carefully worded quote caught our attention and frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to. Google does not have any agreements in place that require a negotiation before a handset launches.  Google has always made the latest release of Android available as open source at source.android.com as soon as the first device based on it has launched. This way, we know the software runs error-free on hardware that has been accepted and approved by manufacturers, operators and regulatory agencies such as the FCC. We then release it to the world.

You can watch the full interview down below and try to figure out what Stephenson was shooting for, but be warned, it’s an hour long. We can probably expect AT&T to release a statement that will reiterate what their CEO was trying to explain.


Via: 9 to 5 Google

  • Androidandwp7equalsPower

    Wow, what a liar, even Verizon of all companies had the guts to admit they were delaying the updates to test it out first. At&t sucks

    • michael arazan

      a verizon representative told me that verizon has nothing to do with the updates they do not push the updates and that the makers of the phone are the soul entities that push the updates or delay them including the galaxy nexus

  • WickedToby741

    I think he’s talking about Nexus devices. It’s the only logical argument, not that I’m expecting a whole lot of logic from a carrier CEO. The Nexus is negotiated and that is debut device for the new version of Android. Due to this, it automatically gets a head start in the marketplace while other manufacturers and carriers have to work on getting the update approved for use on other devices.

    • AndroidUser00110001

      And AT&T only semi supports one Nexus device, the Nexus S. They do not carry it in their corporate stores nor can you get insurance on it through AT&T.

  • Butters619

    I love how Google has straight up called out AT&T and Verizon in the last few weeks!

  • Liderc

    Wow, ether he has no clue what he’s talking about, or he’s blatantly lying. Both being unacceptable as a competent CEO.

    We all are fully aware that Google releases the newest versions of Android to the public. It has always been up to the manufacturers, along with the carriers to get the software working on their devices. Why would Google be on the hook for making sure, say the 5 different SGSII variants work with Android 4.0, when they don’t benefit financially?

    This is a big problem, as we’ve all seen that manufacturers have proven to be incapable of keeping their devices up to date, whether by choice or the inability to properly configure each OS release.

    If a big shot like this doesn’t understand this, how can we ever expect this problem of fragmentation to be resolved.

  • Havoc70

    Just an other CE-knownothing not surprised he doesn’t have a clue about how things are done. His only concern is how big is his golden parachute

  • Droidfan

    AT&T doesn’t sound right to me. Once Google releases an open version of their latest update, it is available for use…as I have read previously. Beyond that, I hear a lot of bitching and moaning about delays in Android OS updates by OEMs and Carriers. Once a new Android OS goes “open” there is a lot of work for OEMS and carriers to do to implement that update.

    Hardware capabilities and interface issues have to be ironed out, for use on new handsets or upgrades to existing phones. OEM skins have to be synced (would that they didn’t). Then for new handsets…production time lines have to be worked out. Clearly, OEMs and Carriers are going to get new handsets in the pipeline first. Then they can work on upgrades to existing handsets.

  • In order to get the market you need certification. Perhaps there is some truth to what he says. You can’t add the Google Apps until Google approves the build. I doubt that is really the case since I could honestly build from source for a device and submit it to Google and they will probably hand me the apps. Until someone who works for an OEM explains the process of getting the Google stack onto your phone we are not sure. AOSP does not include the framework or market. So the line from Google about just handing it all out is BS. Here is the line direct from their site about it.

    Once you’ve built a compatible device, you may wish to include Google Play to provide your users access to the third-party app ecosystem. Unfortunately, for a variety of legal and business reasons, we aren’t able to automatically license Google Play to all compatible devices. To inquire about access about Google Play, you can contact us.

    So the question becomes “If i upgrade do I have to re-license?” Someone who will actually get a response needs to ask Google that question. Or is it once a device is licensed you can always put Google Play on it?

    I have built Android from pure source and flashed it to my NS4G and GNex and in my opinion Android sucks without the market and the other Google apps.

    • Stewie

      Yes, but lets go back a bit … the major carriers already have their licences for adding Play to their builds, as they did previously. In that regard, I take Google out of the equation.

      • But every time they make a new build does it have to be re-licensed? Which I stated unless someone knows the process you cannot take Google out of the equation. Google might say new kernel or going from 2.3.4 to 2.3.5 requires you to re-license, we just don’t know. Sadly no one else is asking these questions. I have reached out to Google via that contact link but never got a response.

  • wickets

    does apple have upgrade issues with a carrier?…….everything apple got a bug fix yesterday, meanwhile galaxy nexus is still on 4.0.2 which is ok if it werent for the fact that other devices around it are getting upgrades…..if they dont love and nurture their own baby, what hope is there???

    • Why does the GNex have 4.0.2 still? Do you know? If you did you would be a God around the Android world. No one has said one word why and we honestly don’t know if it is Verizon or Google that is holding it up. Google has had issues with CDMA Licensing, they have made that public and clear but we don’t know to what extent. Maybe Qualcomm is not letting them release the CDMA Radios for the version they have? There are a lot of factors and everyone is so quick to jump to conclusions and honestly we know very little about the whole situation.

      • wickets

        I just find it odd that one company can update across many generations of product, several different products AND across many different distribution channels whilst another leaves its customers looking for’ info gods’ because _____(insert reason here)_____! btw, don’t mind me I’m just a frustrated customer venting 🙂

      • sprint uses cdma also

        • Notice there is also no factory image for the Sprint GNex. And we know the android version not the actual radio version since the radio is not identical to VZW.

          • What i mean is pull the actual libraries out of the phone and see if they are the same as what VZW is running. Android version has nothing to do with library versions.

      • Tyler Chappell

        In the case of the Verizon GNex, it is most certainly Verizon’s fault. A 4.0.4 build leaked back in february, and it was certainly better than 4.0.2, now the newer 4.0.4 build recently leaked and it too, is far better than 4.0.2. In the very least, Verizon has no excuse to not have released 4.0.4 to every GNex on its network. Some people think the next update that gets released for the Verizon GNex will be 4.0.5, and that it may happen by mid-june or earlier, but I suspect the 4.0.4 wont be released until later this month, or early June, and by the time it does, 4.0.5 would be more than capable of running on the GNex, but then it will take them another 6 month to even get that.

        • will bartlett

          some verizon tech today told me there was an update for the gnex in april. i laughed at her.

        • Really so you can say with 100% certainty that Verizon is holding it up and not Google? Where did you get that information because Google didn’t say anything about it. It is a CDMA device Qualcomm could be holding it up too. That is the problem people are so fast to jump Verizon and no one knows the whole story. A leak doesn’t mean anything if they are having a licensing issue with Qualcomm. It very well could be Verizon but notice no one is pointing a finger at anyone else and it is all speculation.

          • Liderc

            Well considering Verizon already released 4.0.4 soak test, I have to assume Google’s given it to them within the last few weeks at least. Verizon apparently has their own testing period after Google’s given them the updates.

          • AndroidUser00110001

            It’s Verizon holding it up with their testing and adding additional software to a so called Nexus device.

    • Liderc

      Apple only has 3 products currently available and they’re all using the same OS version. They also control the hardware in sequence with the software. They’re able to be much more efficient because of this.

      Android devices on the other hand are a clusterfk of different hardware and software versions. Until Google takes control of the update process, we’ll continue to see this tangled web of android versions and lack of updates.

      As for your question about the Nexus still being on 4.0.2, Google has already released 4.0.3, it’s the carriers that are slowing the update process down.

      • wickets

        “They also control the hardware in sequence with the software.” Isnt that what a nexus phone is supposed to be like too? Anyway, 3 products, many generations of said product, but they dont have carrier issues upgrading. Google has one phone and until just recently one carrier….shouldnt be too hard to fix stuff

        • Liderc

          Google has already released 4.0.3 update, it’s even been released for soak testing, Verizon has to allow the update to go OTA though, unlike Apple devices.

          With Apple products, you plug your phone into your computer with Itunes to get updates, they don’t go have to go through carriers.

          • wickets

            “they don’t go have to go through carriers.” Well that’s sort of my point….why can apple do an upgrade willy nilly like, but google has to do circus tricks to get verizon to play along with an upgrade

          • Liderc


            Sorry, I thought maybe you weren’t capable of reading anything but caps or something.

          • wickets

            Well instead of getting into a pissing match with the carriers, why doesnt goog do that????

          • Liderc

            I actually have no idea why Google wouldn’t just let you update via their source site. Maybe because Verizon still puts 1 or 2 apps on the Nexus? Not sure.

        • trumpet444

          “3 products, many generations…” Wow, so like 9-15?

          • wickets

            moot point: its one more product than google so the quantity is irrelevant. I;m guessing 3 generations of iphone and 3 of ipad….6 at the very least? All run the same software….goog has had 3 nexus phones….are the other two even on ics 4.0.0 yet????

  • yarrellray

    This guy is just as much of a CLOWN as the CEO for Verizon…

  • Droidzilla

    I love seeing confident yet moronic statements from CEOs. Why not simply say nothing at all?

    • EC8CH

      They like to hear the sound of their lips smacking together echoing through their empty craniums.

  • frankandsimple

    who cares. it’s a mess.. and that’s all that matters to the consumer

  • EC8CH


  • Iny

    More finger pointing.

  • Prime7

    Now might be a good time for one of the other carriers to call AT&T out on its nonsense.

  • Austin

    i bet the carriers hold everything up in reality

    • Josh Groff

      Carriers+FCC= most of the delay time obviously not the OEM’s problem if they’re throwing out leaks and soak tests, and it sure as hell ain’t Google’s.

    • sk3litor

      i absolutly agree. google has nothing to gain by holding up upgrades. they only put out one phone a year which already has the newest software. its always the carriers and somewhat the oems. i can understand why though to an extent to nsure the software works well with the hardware to ensure it works for the consumer so whether or not its legit or not iys kinda irrelevent, the point is its always the carrier. good reasons or bad

  • Hmmmmmmmm, who to believe??? Who to believe?!!!!!!!!!………….

  • Destroythanet

    So obvious AT&T is lying about this.

  • He’s a liar. Never trust CEO’s. And @PhillipCun:disqus you’re right, he doesn’t even know what’s going on with his own company. He’s just speaking on stuff for the media and cashing checks. Anything else that goes on, he is ignorant to. especially the issues. we never hear him them. BOO At&t.

    • trumpet444

      “never trust (all?) CEO’s” …………thats a little ignorant

  • c4v3man

    That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting. ”

    aka “Is the recorder off? Good. Software releases are delayed temporarily so we can ensure customers don’t get features we can otherwise sell for free, and to allow us to bundle software in from our partners for additional profit. Sometimes software upgrades are outright cancelled, to give customers a reason to want a new phone. Alright, you can turn the camera back on…”

    • EC8CH

      “That’s kind of an ambiguous answer”

      What just came out of my mouth smells like it came out the back end of a male bovine.

      • noyfb

        I bet he got a second bonus check for that statement too, or is it considered a mid year bonus?

  • duke69111

    I mean its common knowledge that google controls the source code release, but since the oem’s carriers add their skins and modifications, its clearly up to the oem/carrier for a release date.

    • sc0rch3d

      i would disagree….that’s common knowledge to us, not the average user

      • duke69111

        I guess that’s true.

  • lye

    Fine. Everyone just be public about when they want updates to go out. Google, when you’re ready say so and it should go out immediately right?

  • RedPandaAlex

    If by Google, you mean the manufacturer?

  • Stewie

    Gads, I suppose his PR dept is working just as hard as the Jha’s is …. Short Point: Just how far out of touch need these CEO’s actually be from the real world?
    What a load of total BS.

  • PhillipCun

    I hate AT&T, but its obvious the CEO doesn’t know what’s going on in his own company. Most of them don’t anyway…. The actions of this CEO really sheds some light on how the company does business; never take responsibility and always blame others.

  • Nemesis099

    Something tells me AT&T just wants to blame someone else like they do for everything!