Posts Tagged ‘Firmware’

Samsung Galaxy S will not be updated to Android ICS

December 24, 2011

I’ve just read that Samsung officially confirmed it won’t update their 2010 flagship Android smartphone to the latest version of Android that was announced by Google a couple of months ago.

Although the i9000 was announced in March, it was first released in June of 2010 but only in a limited number of markets. For instance, in the country where I currently live in, Vodafone only launched it in late October of the same year.

This means a lot of people bought this phone, often attached to a 24-month contract, in late 2010, being currently within the first year of ownership.

Since Samsung will not continue to provide further support, most of these people will have to wait another year with a flagship phone running an older version of Android until they can renew their contracts and get another phone (probably not from Samsung again!).

This goes against the 18-month update commitment Google said they were trying to push along with their partners and makes me wonder if it’s really worth to buy an expensive high-end Samsung Android device, given their poor track record of updates.

On the other hand I do really understand why Samsung made this decision: their core business is to sell new smartphones!

Samsung probably guessed that most of the, let’s say 15 million, Galaxy S customers don’t really care or know what version of Android they are currently running, and the few that do really care about this are probably savvy enough to visit the XDA forum and sort this out unofficially with the community.

As I recently wrote, I sold my Galaxy S for a bunch of other reasons some weeks ago. If there was any doubt remaining in my head about if selling it was the right thing to do, after reading this disappointing news, I’m really glad now that I did, since this would be the ultimate “nail in the coffin”.

Merry Christmas!

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Thoughts on Android 2.3.5 for the Galaxy S

November 24, 2011

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using for some time now the Android 2.3.5 update for the Samsung Galaxy S and it deserves some comments.

Good news first:

– The previously reported Android OS battery drain bug is apparently gone! This just means the phone does not drain the battery all by itself in a dozen hours or so, which was a huge problem. The Android OS process is now at a more reasonable 6% share of the overall battery consumption.

– The browser scroll now works properly as in any other smartphone in the market

Unfortunately, there’s a few problems with this firmware:

– As I said in the previous blog post, the TouchWiz launcher crashes randomly.

– The phone process is also crashing a lot, especially soon after the end of a phone call, as you can see in the picture below.

– The browser may now present a correct scroll behavior but the stability is worst than before, which is not good because the browser was never the most stable app in Android.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it did compensate the lack of stability with improved performance, but running the SunSpider javascript benchmark returned a result of 6505.1 ms which is a regression compared against the 6305.4 ms scored by Android 2.3.3.

Apparently stock browser javascript performance optimization is not a priority for Samsung, neither is improving the stability of the official firmwares they release for the Galaxy S.

Manufacturer’s custom UIs for Android

November 20, 2011

Since a couple of weeks ago all the attentions turned into the new Android 4.0 release, called Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new Samsung flagship model, the Galaxy Nexus, but some may have noticed that Samsung is apparently rolling out for some European i9000 Galaxy S handsets the Android 2.3.5 firmware update, available through Samsung’s Kies software.

While it is great to watch Samsung still providing support for last year’s flagship model, it’s quite disappointing to realize that this phone, one and a half year after being released, is still plagued with some issues.

One of the problems is that the custom TouchWiz UI was never really rock-solid stable. Even after installing the latest Android 2.3.5, the TouchWiz launcher occasionally crashes as you can see below.

It’s not as bad as in Android 2.1 or 2.2 when I had to pull the battery off the phone because it crashed completely, specially after playing a game such as Angry Birds for more than 15 minutes, but I believe there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

I really do not understand what’s the point in not using Google’s Android standard launcher and spend time, money and resources working on a custom UI like TouchWiz, offering a less good user experience, decreased stability and increased memory consumption.

The only Android manufacturer custom UI that seems to offer some benefits in the UX department, in my opinion, is HTC’s Sense UI although the memory consumption is probably even higher than in Samsung’s TouhWiz, but maybe that’s why HTC’s are very generous in the amount of memory they usually pack inside their phones.

Android browser kinetic scroll bug

October 31, 2011

One of the reasons why I started using other Android browsers was because of the kinetic scroll bug the Gingerbread update brought to my Vodafone branded Samsung Galaxy S.

As you can see in the video below, since the Android 2.3.3 update, the stock browser has a different kinetic scroll behavior. Instead of slowing down smoothly, the scroll now stops suddenly after a brief moment since the start of the scrolling, which I find annoying as hell…

Where is the Daily Briefing app / widget?

October 8, 2011

One of the most publicized feature of the Galaxy S smartphone was the Daily Briefing application (and widget). It was a Samsung exclusive pre-installed app that allowed the Galaxy users to quickly glance at the weather, the news, the stock market and at the calendar.

Most pre-installed software manufacturers put in their devices are usually not very useful, but in this case it was a pretty nice piece of code that actually served a purpose. And apparently a lot of people used it.

Vodafone, in the Gingerbread firmware update to the i9000 Galaxy S, simply removed the app / widget. Without a warning, or an explanation, Vodafone just made it disappear, one of the key features of the phone, the main Samsung app that appeared in most Samsung pictures of the model as you can see below.

Since it’s a Samsung exclusive app, if the user wants Daily Briefing back, he can’t find and install it from the Android Market and I can’t find it in the Samsung Apps store either, so the user will have to find an alternative on their own.

Galaxy S OTA firmware updates

September 24, 2011

One of the features that became common in the last years is the ability smartphones have to update their own firmware over-the-air (also known as FOTA). This allows the product manufacturer or the carrier to push new versions of the OS to the devices and to add some features or fix some security issues avoiding the need for the customer to connect the phone to the computer.

Some operating systems, like Windows Phone 7, only give a notification to the user (so the user still has to connect the phone to the computer to get the actual update), while others, like Symbian S60v5, allow the phone to download and install the updates all by itself.

Samsung did implement this feature on their last year flagship model, the i9000 Galaxy S. As you can see below the update process is always running using some megabytes of RAM and some CPU cycles:

The problem is that, as far as I know, in Europe, the i9000 Galaxy S has never received an update over-the-air, not even a single “update available” notification. The customer always has to use Samsung’s computer software (called Kies) to get the notification of the update and to be able to download and install it, so I’ve never seen any message other than the following one, stating that there are no updates available.

Samsung could have provided (as other Android manufacturers do) a contextual settings menu to allow the user to disable the update searching feature, so one could turn off the process that is consuming RAM and CPU all the time doing nothing.

Android OS battery drain bug

September 3, 2011

About a month ago, several Vodafone customers across Europe got the Gingerbread version of Android on the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S.

It took a while to get this update because the Android update process works like this:

– Google releases a new Android version and make it available to the manufacturers

– Manufacturers like Samsung take their time to adapt the OS to their specific model and send it to the carriers

РCarriers like Vodafone take their time to add some of their own customizations and test it thoroughly before allowing it to be available to the customers

One might think that with all those eyes at different companies looking and testing the firmware, the final release would be solid as a rock and pretty much bug free.

The Galaxy S was last year’s Samsung flagship smartphone and sold millions of units all over the world, the manufacturer claims the phone can remain in standby mode for up to 750 hours in a 2G network and up to 625 hours in 3G networks. Of course nobody expects it to actually be even close to those very optimistic numbers but with the latest Gingerbread update I got a feeling things got worst.

During the holidays I decided to see what was happening: I took the phone off the charger in the middle of the morning and didn’t use it at all during the day, except for a very short phone call (less than 1 minute) and to take some screenshots of the battery usage menu to see how things were going:

As you can see in the first screenshot, even though WiFi, GPS and Mobile Data are all disabled, in just 3 hours and a half there is a significant drop in the battery apparently caused by the Android OS process.

One hour later the Android OS process is still the most significant battery consuming process, though there is this weird process called “orientationd” I suspect might also be related to the battery drain.

As you can see above I received a short phone call, and the corresponding entry appears as responsible for 1% of the total power consumption.

9 hours and 18 minutes have passed and although the percentage is decreasing, the Android OS process is still the main reason of this excessive power consumption. By this time there is less than half of the battery capacity remaining.

Finally, after 15 hours and a half the battery is dead and the phone eventually shutdown by itself.

If I was using the phone in a normal workday, sending and receiving text messages, making phone calls, using the WiFi or playing some game, the battery wouldn’t last for half of the day, which is really bad if you consider the supposed 750 hours of standby Samsung announces.

I searched around for this bug and saw this Android OS battery drain bug reported in several internet forums. Apparently it exists at least in the 2.3.3 version of Android for the Galaxy S, though there are some similar problems reported in other Android phone models and manufacturers but I can only assure the existence of the bug in the Vodafone branded Galaxy S with 2.3.3 firmware.

I’m amazed how neither Samsung nor Vodafone noticed this bug in their extensive tests and despite taking a lot of time before releasing the updates they are still released with some serious problems like this!

I’m also surprised how the media didn’t notice a serious bug like this but sometimes report on other minor problems affecting other phones or gadgets.