Android

Pros and cons of OTA updates for Android ICS and Jelly Bean

Donovan Colbert recently received the ICS update for his Motorola Droid 4 and Jelly Bean update for his ASUS Transformer Pad TF300. Find out what problems and benefits he's experienced.

I recently received OTA updates for both my Motorola Droid 4 and ASUS Transformer Pad TF300. I was traveling when my Droid 4 downloaded Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and later that evening, my TF300 applied Jelly Bean. I was eager for both updates, because the Droid 4 felt dated on Gingerbread, and after getting used to Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7, going back to ICS on the TF300 was a bit disappointing.

The ICS update on my Droid 4 took most of the morning, hung at the end, and burned through my battery, which left me without a phone for the rest of that day. After recharging, the system stability was terrible. Over 40% of the battery was consumed in standby mode after only two hours away from the dock. My Android battery toolkit discovered that the Media app was preventing the Droid 4 from going into "deep sleep." The camera was also unable to write to memory after the update. Ultimately, the device was unusable. Google revealed that I wasn't alone, and that several users had experienced positive results with a factory reset.

The idea of an update needing a factory reset always takes me back to the days when Linux users mocked Windows because the conventional wisdom was, "Save yourself the misery of a Win Update and do a clean install." I find it ironic that a Linux-based consumer mobile OS now seems to require the same approach.

Unfortunately, with my corporate phone, I couldn't wait for the issues to be patched. After a couple of days of trying to deal with the problems, I gave in and performed the factory reset, which fixed everything. The update to ICS really improved the stability, performance, and usability of the phone. It didn't take long to get the phone back to the same place it was before the update -- that's one of the strengths of the Google Play experience -- and in the process, I cleaned out unused apps and out-of-date data. Like Windows, sometimes the pain of a clean install is truly beneficial.

The Jelly Bean update for the TF300 was an entirely different experience. It applied quickly and flawlessly, bringing most of the improvements that I had grown accustomed to on the Nexus 7. However, there have been several spontaneous reboots since the update. ICS was rock solid on the TF300, but there are some inconsistencies and quirks with Jelly Bean on the same device. Here are some other things I noticed:

  • The notification bar is not at the top of the screen -- it remains on the bottom of the screen in the right-hand corner
  • Expanded email notifications only work when the email notification is at the bottom of the list -- if it's higher, you can't drag with two fingers to reveal or hide senders and subjects in your notifications like you can on a Nexus 7
  • There are light skinning differences that ASUS performs on Android compared to the pure Android on the Nexus
  • The rotating home screen after getting used to the locked orientation on the Nexus 7 felt a little strange at first
  • The difference between "balance" and "performance" on ICS never seemed very drastic, but it is with Jelly Bean

Performance and battery management are improved so significantly on both the Droid 4 and TF300 that I've turned on features that were previously disabled for power conservation. For example, I enabled modest pull-refresh policies on the Droid 4 instead of manually pulling my Google accounts, and I switched to performance mode on the TF300.

The biggest problem I've had is that, between my new Nexus 7 and the updates to the TF300 and Droid 4, I just haven't had enough time to play with all the new Android goodness. Despite the challenges, I've already seen real benefits to the updates.

Have you experienced any OTA update issues with your Android or iOS devices? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

8 comments
bloodynellie
bloodynellie

Installation smooth and swift. Unfortunately the phone then started sporadic reboots - sometimes 12-20 in a continuous roll, sometimes run beautifully for days. The eventual fix was the factory reboot - after a supplier engineer observed that not all packages had been installed correctly during the update. He replaced the most common ones to no avail - Phone worked great afterward until it was stolen,

rhonin
rhonin

GSM Galaxy Nexus - to 4.1.0 and 4.1.1 - smooth as Butter (pun well intended) - my phone SGS2 Skyrocket to 4.0.4 - failed in the middle of the first try, went smooth on second try. Had to hard reboot phone to get all the apps to work as intended. Had issues with a couple of AT&T apps. The hard reboot fixed. - my sons phone SGS2 to 4.0.4 - OTA failed, failed, and failed. Tried the tethered update: failed to. Finally had to side load via SD card. - my wife's phone Nexus 7 - came with JB and works spooky cool. Thing almost reads my mind at times. - my tablet. Transformer to ICS (original model) - Smooth and completely uneventful. Have noticed a couple of quirks but both battery life and usability have dramatically increased. - my sons tablet. That said, with the latest versions, my hope for good OTA updates has been restored. It does seem to be mainly a carrier issue. The one unlocked off contract device was awesome along with the tablet.

junk
junk

The update process was smooth enough, but the phone is less responsive, less stable, and uses more battery than before. With Samsung's TouchWiz, ICS and Gingerbread look very similar and I mostly regret doing the update. Some folks at the various forums have suggested a factory reset, as you did on your Droid. I did not think it would help much and have not done so, but I hear this more and more so I may have to hunker down and do it despite the obvious pain involved in reconfiguring the device from scratch.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Could not have gone more smoothly. I did a little trick to "force" it to go rather than wait for Google to initiate it, but it was just clearing one bit of cache. Then it downloaded and installed as neat as a pin. ICS was already a strong performer on my phone, but Jelly Bean is essentially flawless, and I'll never go back to a carrier-hobbled phone again.

greenbaum
greenbaum

I am not lucky enough to get an OTA update of JB yet, Verizon Nexus, but I never had a problem with OTA updates on my Droid X. And updating to the leaked JB build for the Nexus went very nicely. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

ICS *should* be more stable and quicker than Gingerbread. If it isn't - you've got a couple of options. Now that it is working right, I wouldn't go back willingly. 1: It could be a problem with particular apps not playing well with ICS. This can be a nightmare to track down, and was probably my problem with the D4. The fact that you're hearing reports of people clearing it up with a clean install makes me think this is the most likely culprit. 2: Something with the Samsung skin might be a problem with ICS. That would be a worst case scenario. I'd recommend you back up all of your critical data to SD or via USB to a PC, backup any critical apps using something like Astro File Manager to .apk files, and just bite the bullet. I know it is less than ideal, and hopefully we see improvements in this in the future. I tend not to blame Google or the manufacturers so much - they have a vested interest in making this process less painful. I think the major roadblock with updates remains the wireless carriers. Sorry to hear you're having a difficult process too. One of the things that got cut in editing on this article, that wasn't really relevant, is that the same week I gave an iOS guy a bunch of grief because he had to factory reset his iPhone to get a ringtone from one device to another. I included this in the original story because I wanted to illustrate that all of the mobile platforms have their struggle with these kind of challenges. There just wasn't a good way to fit it into the main article without having it come across as a "Oh yeah, well, iOS is no better, so nyah..." fanboy kind of statement. Best of luck.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Unfortunately the Galaxy Nexus Sprint is among the few "non carrier hobbled" smart phones on the market. The Verizon Galaxy Nex is still carrier crippled. This leaves an unpleasant choice for a lot of consumers who want Verizon's network but don't want Verizon's device restraints. Honestly, if I were not on a company plan, I'd probably have moved to a Nexus on Sprint for this exact reason. The difference with Jellybean running on my lightly skinned TF300 versus Jellybean running on my Nexus 7 isn't outrageous, but it is noticeable. The pure Google experience runs better. The Nexus 7 has a slight edge in stability and performance in this regard.

dcolbert
dcolbert

How many of the problems with my OTA update to ICS on the D4 were directly related to Verizon being involved. It is too bad that Verizon was able to position themselves between Samsung/Goolge and the Nexus on their network. If it wasn't a company phone, I'd switch to Sprint at this point, just because I think it is about time that Verizon started to feel a pinch to let them know that they can't keep doing this with update cycles on the devices on their network. I like Verizon - but they'll push the limits as long as they can on issues like this.

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