Why Aussie Galaxy Nexus Won't Get Android Updates Direct From Google

One of the best things about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is that it comes with a vanilla OS: no crapware and no bloated UI skin. But that doesn't mean that you also get updates directly from Google. If you bought your Galaxy Nexus from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, you're not running the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich, and you probably never will.

It's a common misconception that Google-branded phones, like the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S, receive firmware updates directly from Google, similar to the way Apple releases iOS updates directly to users without the carrier middleman. On Samsung Australia's Galaxy Nexus web page, it states that "GALAXY Nexus users enjoy quick access to the latest updates and services directly from Google" (our emphasis). This is clearly not the case. The truth is that there are several hurdles in between Google releasing an update and you getting that update on your phone, which means that you are getting firmware updates months after everyone else.

For instance, the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich available is 4.0.3. It was released on December 16, 2011. Galaxy Nexus devices sold through Telstra, Optus and Vodafone do not run the stock ROM (known as yakju) and are still on 4.0.1, which means those customers are still waiting for bug fixes, UI optimisations, improvements to battery life, graphics, databases, network connections, spell-checking and Bluetooth functionality, as well as a bunch of new APIs for developers.

Being a couple of point releases behind is not the end of the world. Still, it's not wrong to expect that your phone will receive firmware updates promptly and ask why there is such a delay when that doesn't happen. Samsung Australia said in a statement to us that it works jointly with Google to release software updates, and those updates are first tested by Samsung and the carrier before being rolled out to users.

As an example, here's how the process should work in the case of the Galaxy Nexus:

1. Google releases ICS update 2. Samsung checks to make sure the update works with its hardware 3. Samsung releases the update to carriers 4. Carriers check to make sure the update works with their respective network infrastructures 5. Carriers release update to customers

The same essential steps apply for any Android phone sold through a carrier.

Each step of a process like that is obviously going to take some time. While we wish everyone involved would hurry it up a bit, we can appreciate the importance of completing checks thoroughly. Certainly, avoiding issues like the one Telstra iPhone 4S customers experienced is a priority. As one Telstra representative said at the HTC Velocity launch, “If someone can't make an emergency call because we didn't test it thoroughly, Telstra will get the blame.”

So when can you expect to see your Telstra/Optus/Vodafone Galaxy Nexus updated to the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich? We asked the carriers, and the answer depends on who your contract is with.

Telstra:

We expect to receive the 4.0.3 update from Samsung next month. We then hope to test and approve it within a couple of weeks ahead of Samsung making it available to customers.

Optus:

The Nexus devices on Optus are currently using v4.01 and we have approved the rollout of v4.02 to our customers over the next few weeks. We don’t currently have any confirmed details or timings around v4.03.

Vodafone:

The Galaxy Nexus shipped with Android Version 4.0.1. This is the current version for our customers. We are unable to provide any information on timings for the next launch.

If you really hate being on your carrier's clock for those firmware updates, you can change your carrier-specific firmware build to the stock yakju Google build without having to root your phone. We don't recommend it for the reasons mentioned above, and if you do it's entirely at your own risk. The process is outlined over at the XDA Developer forums.

[h/t Greg, @felixthinks, @samsonation]


Comments

    You may not be getting updates directly from Google, but at least you're not waiting for the third parties to update their crapware-laden custom Android builds. While not day and date with Google, it should certainly be faster than if you hadn't gotten a Nexus handset.

      If you can't wait for the carriers to release the firmware, then just make it a Google Pure handset.

      If your handset isn't carrier locked, then head over to XDA Developers, download the yakju Google Pure rom, and flash it. Of course you have to unlock the bootloader which is easy, but what the heck :-)

      • Volume is very low. The latest ICS update 4.0.2 does not fix this issue.
      • Accelerometer pulls to the left. It is not aligned.
      • Email Exchange does not allow for pin security. Customers need to use third party app such as Touchdown in order to connect to their Exchange Servers. Google/Samsung advertised that I could connect to my work emails EASILY. Actually I cannot at all. http://www.google.com/nexus/# the native mail client does not support SMIME so I really don’t understand how you can advertise that we can connect to corporate emails easily. My guestimate would be about 80% of companies are unable to connect or if not more.
      • Android on occasions reboots for no known reason. Even during a call whilst the phone rings.
      • Multi touch does not work properly.
      • Screen sometimes does not rotate with ease.
      • Phone’s battery life is atrocious
      • Poor 3G connectivity and in some cases no internet connection at all while in the middle of the city with a mobile tower above me.

    Interesting. When I was looking at getting an iPhone I was asked by somebody at a Telstra reseller why I didn't want Android. I explained my reasons, one of which was the fact that the Android update situation was a mess. His response was that the Galaxy Nexus won't have that problem.

      They're just employed to sell phones, I have a Vodafone reseller tell me the same thing, but he recognized that I changed the firmware of my current phone at least.

    I have manually installed ICS v4.0.3 on four Nexus S phones, 3 using Optus and mine running on Vodafone. They all run perfectly, except for slightly higher battery drain.
    Vodafone's answer: "We are unable to provide any information on timings for the next launch."
    doesn't surprise me from a company that can't even provide a decent phone service. I so regret signing up with them.

      I have 4.0.3 on my Nexus S, it came OTA. Whether or not the updates come straight from Google, every update it has received has come within 48, if not 24 hours after release elsewhere in the world.

    I understand that all software needs to be tested by hardware suppliers and Telco's but how then is Apple able to provide an update without the Telco's spending months on testing it.??

      Because Apple rocks that shit!

      OK cue the 'roid rage responses.. love that term!

        Could you translate that into English?

        Ha Ha roid rage, you walled garden folks had better sell a powerful 7" soon, or you'll, loose a lot of market share, Nexus 7 flys, at half the price of an iPad!!

      Because Apple cut the carriers out of the equation, but carriers go along with it because they're both ripping you off.

    Great, there goes my reason to purchase a Galaxy Nexus.

      Get one from Kogan et al, unlocked. Pure yakju, fully updated by Google (I'm running Jellybean now), and you're not tied to a contract (which means super-cheap plans from TPG, Amaysim etc). Saves me hundreds.

    LOL, even the Nexus isn't safe anymore.

    This is why I'll never buy an Android. I don't want to hack my phone, I want it to work, and I want it to receive the latest updates within a reasonable timeframe of them being released. Those new features and security patches? I'd much rather get them than be able to customise my UI.

      haha it does work. And perfectly I might add.
      The Galaxy Nexus is easily the best phone I have ever used.
      As for the updates. A few months late is very different from HTC's a year late and I can handle that easily as long as it means I won't become a slave to Apple's systems.

      If you're not looking to do anything with it, why need the latest firmware?

      You know you don't actually have to go with the herd and buy your cheap subsidised Androids or iphones through a carrier. Get some balls and buy your phone outright outside of a carrier.

        That's what I did. If the coverage goes bad, then you can easily switch without being locked in.

        Amen to that. I've saved hundreds by buying up-front and getting a cheap $10-15 plan.

        Verry tempting at $350 for a Jelly Bean Galaxy Nexus on Google Play :).

    It'd dead easy to flash yakju on a yakjuxx device. I did it within an hour of having the phone and it took less than 5 minutes. It's very hard for it to go wrong. Just so you know, not even Google have released a 4.0.3 update, the newest we have is 4.0.2

      Yakju phones have been on 4.0.4 for months, and now 4.1.1 is rolling out OTA.

    Flash with Yakju factory image = no problem

    How about if I bought an unlocked phone and use vodafone as my carrier?

      You can check to see if your device is updated by Google or not by installing this little app from the Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=de.cbruegg.officialupdate

    "It’s a common misconception that Google-branded phones, like the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S, receive firmware updates directly from Google"

    It's not a common misconception it what happens if your Telco doesn't insert themselves into the process (un necissarily). It's what happens with the European GSM firware for the Galaxy Nexus.

    There is a bit of back and forth on the Telstra forums (I participated in some of it). http://crowdsupport.telstra.com.au/t5/Android/Telstra-slow-to-release-updates/m-p/27610/highlight/false#M1203

    and

    http://crowdsupport.telstra.com.au/t5/Android/Will-the-Telstra-Galaxy-Nexus-receive-updates-directly-from/td-p/21392/page/2

    The easiest solution (the one from the XDA forum link above) if you want to bypass Telstra meddling and get your updates direct from Google is as follows:

    "http://samsung.de/de/support/detail....7-5772e168e9e4

    download the USB driver and firmware files to Windows (may take multiple tries, keep trying).
    run USB driver app in Windows, reboot Windows
    run firmware app in Windows
    put phone in download mode (power off, volume down + power on, plug USB cable in)
    in firmware app, click start!

    and you're done!

    You're now yakju with latest Google ITL41F."

    This process flashes your phone to the European GSM firmware 4.01 (no root or unlock required as its official firmware *it will factory reset your phone*) and as soon as you reboot the phone it receives the 4.02 update. After this process you phone will receive updates direct from Google via OTA.

    I have been using it since I posted about it on the Telstra forums and it works great, NextG works the same as before (I get full bars and internet at my mums farm) the only thing that I know the Telstra firmware had over the EU one is HD voice (i dont care). Also as it asumes your british it defaults to Farenheight (impreial) and pounds instead of Celcius and Kg's (Metric) but this is easily fixed with the free market app "morelocal2".

    If Telstra and the other Telco's in Australia can get a simple update out on time imagine how long you will have to wait (if you stay with the Carrier firmware) for Android for the next major version of Android. Even when Google tries to do the right thing as far as updates (the way Apple does it) carriers have to interfere and muck things up.

    mis typed "If Telstra and the other Telco’s in Australia can't get a simple update out on time"

    I think it really comes down to a case of to each their own here. I use a third party ROM (currently based of AOKP) on my rooted Nexus S.

    I dont own a Galaxy Nexus (yet), but even if I did I'd still use third party ROMs because they provide tweaks that even vanilla Android doesn't offer - like shortcuts on the lock screen, notification toggles and a lot of other functionality which makes Android a pain to use without.

      I did the same thing with my Nexus S before the official update dropped (and I replaced the phone with a Galaxy Nexus).

      The thing is many people aren't confident to do this and with the Nexus line of phones the idea is that you shouldn't have to just to have the latest software.

      Carriers leave Google to manage the updates on Nexus phones at least.

        I'm curious as to where anyone got the idea that Nexus handsets are updated directly from Google. The Vodafone Nexus S sold in Australia most definitely isn't; and to the best of my knowledge neither was the Nexus One before it.

        As far as people buying Nexus devices for quick updates are concerned, I do largely agree with you on that point. It's been debated in other forums as to whether the original purpose of the Nexus line was to provide a useful handset to developers, or to showcase the standard consumers should expect of Android; but I think undoubtedly that focus has since shifted.

        I think too, to be fair here - we're not talking about delays in major revisions. To the average user, there really isn't a huge difference between that of 4.0.1 and 4.0.3. To el Goog's credit too - the Nexus S line didn't have to wait too long to receive ICS; and do the best of my knowledge, these are still the only two phones officially to receive the new software.

          It says so on Samsung's website! http://www.samsung.com/au/consumaer/mobile-phone/mobile-phone/smartphone/GT-I9250TSAOPS/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail&returnurl=

            That link actually gives a 404 error - but I'll take your word for it. Pretty piss poor performance from Samsung in this case.

            In my own case - it really doesn't bother me regardless. As I stated before, even if I had a Google Nexus I still wouldn't be using the stock ROM - stock Android just isn't convient enough for me. That said, I know I can't speak for the majority, or even any other user - many have their own idea of what their phone should do and how it should do it.

            Android's biggest appeal to me isn't that it does what I want out of the box, it's that I can reletively easily MAKE it do what I want.

            Elly, you provided no evidence that the update doesn't come "directly from Google". Yes, there's an extra *approval* step from Samsung and the carriers, and that will cause delays as you state, but the software still comes from Google. Unlike other phones, the carriers cannot alter the software of the Galaxy Nexus for their own customers, ie. no crapware. For example, the 4.0.2 update for yakjuxw is rolling out now and guess where it is coming from... google.com:

            http://android.clients.google.com/packages/ota/samsung_proxima_yakjuxw/10526c617b15.update_yakjuxw_ITL41F_to_ICL53F.zip

              Makes sense to me that Samsung need to have an active role in the firmware, they assembled the hardware after all and the software needs to work with the hardware.

    The only thing that would get me to buy an Android phone over an iPhone was this..not anymore.

    Yeah how can Apple do it huh? How dont they get bogged down with carrier bs huh? HUH???

      Because if a carrier does anything to offend Apple, Apple tells them to go jump, and won't sell them the hardware any more. Apple demands that they get to do it this way, carrier misses out on large amount of iPhone sales.

      .. see previous reply to DAVE above!

        Yes RooBoy I noted your well thought out and impeccably typed reply

    I'm on Virgin and I received my update to 4.02 on Tuesday. All seems well, the updates to facial unlock and to battery life have been immediately noticeable. Quite happy all told!

      Interesting. Are you using a Galaxy Nexus or Nexus S? Did you get the phone from Virgin directly?

        Hi Elly,
        It's a Galaxy Nexus and it was direct from a Virgin store. I tweeted them asking about it a few weeks back after reading a previous article on here and they replied directly to tell me they expected it in Feb.

        Actually I've been very impressed with them, I wrote the customer review on their website and they sent me some mp3 playing headphones as a thank you. Cheapest plan I could find too! (amazing phone too)

          Dan, if you don't mind me asking, what is your build number in Settings->About phone?

            It's ICL53F.I9250XWKL2

          Yup Virgin are $20 a month cheaper than my Optus contact.

    So what about devices that you can buy from overseas such as HongKong. Are you able to get the updates without any delay?

      The non carrier handsets are generally updated directly by Google.

    So is there anywhere we can buy a pure Google handset that isn't subject to carrier delays?

    I know we can load custom ROMS but can I buy a vanilla device that will be updated by Google?

      Buy an unlocked GSM version. They aren't subject to carriers and you can use any SIM and switch between carriers.

      Sure. Kogan and many others will sell you an imported model with full warranty (900MHz, so better for Optus & Vodafone, not NextG). Pure yakju and updated by Google.

    A little bit of research would have shown that 4.02 for yakjuxw has been being pushed via OTA for a few days already (staggered rollout). Poor timing for the article. Probably also worth noting that 4.03 OTA rollout for yakju was pulled back, so 4.02 is really the most current version for mass consumption.

    Though I guess the article isn't so sensational, then...

      Several months after all the standard yakju devices got theirs though and its not like there is any difference in the hardware.

      4.0.3 is the current version on the Nexus S, and indeed the first version of ICS for that handset. It seems that the Galaxy Nexus launched with 4.0.1, and the version customised for the Nexus S (ie, support for the legacy hardware buttons, etc) was numbered 4.0.3 to distinguish from 4.0.2, which is the first update for the GN branch.

      No story here I think, just confusion from arcane version numbering.

    Can CNET please investigate why this process does not apply to the iPhone / Apple?

    It is about time we find out the real reason why. So many people blame the likes of Samsung for delays when in reality it is the carriers.

    Take the SGS Optus is still on 2.3.3 - yet the Samsung release is up to 2.3.6. With even an unofficial Samsung release that includes Face Lock etc.

      Because the carriers are playing along with Apple's demands. If they want the shiney, they have to give up those rights or lose the account. Whereas no other manufacturer is so demanding. It's not just the user base who loses control of their content to Apple.

      Firmware really is an area that I trust the user base to perform better than the manufacturer and carrier, which is why my next phone won't be a bother to unlock. On saying that, the Nexus is still in my sights.

        No. If you actually understood the process you would know the only thing the carrier has to be concerned with is if the handset wireless chipset firmware is set to work with carrier signals and bandwidth. That is all. Apple don't play that BS game with the all mighty carriers. The phones OS has nothing to do with the carriers. Google are pussies as they're happy to let the mob fight over who gets what. Microsoft don't have this problem either so if they had the balls, Google could push the issue and get the updates out to the masses. In the end, people will move away from android because of fragmentation.

          Again, more baseless conjecture from Kroo. As I've told you before, getting Android out there in many applications, whether Google endorsed or not ensures it will survive some way or another. You're ignorant if you think fragmentation is a limitation.

          Most high end smartphones are Quad or penta band units which will work on virtually all networks, limitations in network locking notwithstanding. It's no secret that in an effort to make huge profits, Apple is willing to play hard ball with anyone who "stands in their way." Microsoft are trying to do the same thing, with minimum specifications (to keep manufacturers to some kind of standard) and and a fairly closed ecosystem. Microsoft also have virtually no market penetration.

          I guess that would be why Android market share has jumped from 36% to 51%?

    My Samsung Galaxy Nexus came direct from Optus, and it upgraded itself just a few moments ago.

    Android version 4.02

      Ditto

    I just picked up my first android (Gexus) after being an iPhone owner for 3g and 4.

    I was looking around on the net for some bug fixes (volume and battery life).

    After checking my software version I was running 4.0.1. I tried to update but it said it was up to date. In the end I found I wasnt running stock google Firmware. About a day later it was rooted running Open Kang Project ROM 4.0.3.

    Why are we forced to hack our devices to make them work properly? And why has Telstra put their own firmware on it? And what the F have they been doing since mid December! The phone has some critical faults such as low ring tone volume. They give you no indication that the 4.0.3 update is even being assessed!

    Anyway custom ROM''s from here on out for me. The phone did not last a week before being rooted.

      At least the userbase can fix it. Disappointing, but not a deal-breaker for me.

      Info for anyone else affected:
      http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/11/23/google-galaxy-nexus-volume-bug-is-not-hardware-related-software-fix-already-on-the-way/

    Sorry, I don't think this really matters. If you're the kind of person who cares about what version of the OS you are running, you are probably going to be the kind of person that knows how to get the latest version on their phone.

    Hell, I'm still rocking an HTC Desire HD and even it has ICS 4.0.3 running on it perfectly.

    Elly Y U No answer about apple?

      Because she too is being bent over by Apple.

      What is with these Tech sites and their inability to comment and criticise Apple and their products or processes?

    My Nexus S does update directly from Google, but then i bought it outright from Best Buy and not a carrier. The same will apply to the Galaxy Nexus.

    In any case it is almost always faster to flash the rom yourself.

    Latest official firmware is 4.0.2 for galaxy nexus

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