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Another consideration for your next smartphone purchase – will yours get OS upgrades?

Whenever an operating system upgrade lands on the market, cell phone manufacturers have to decide whether or not to deliver a version that is compatible for every device still in use. In some instances the equipment isn’t capable of handling the software. In others, it’s a decision solely driven by economics.

Most of us understand that if we’re still using a phone with an antenna, we shouldn’t expect to get an Ice Cream Sandwich update. However, if we have a smartphone that is capable of handling an update, has a significant problem that will be fixed with an impending OS revision or was bought before an update was released and we were told the phone would get the update, can't we expect equipment makers to provide an update for that device?

Recent decisions by equipment manufacturers like Motorola and Apple to not provide an OS upgrade for some of their older devices has left many consumers going “What the...?!”.

In the case of Motorola, they were a member of the Android Upgrade Alliance, promising customers they would upgrade specific phones for 18 months after they came out – commitments that probably drove sales of a few devices.

Recently, Motorola quietly abandoned its update pledge, killing off plans to ever update some of their recent releases like the Photon 4G, The Electrify and the Atrix 4G, a flagship phone that debuted on AT&T. The result is that thousands of people in the middle of two-year carrier contracts will never get Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and will have to keep using Android 2.3, or Gingerbread. Since ICS was a major OS update, Motorola customers with lose out on lots of new features like visual voice mail, app folders and resizeable widgets, not to mention security updates.

If you’ll recall, Apple did the same thing to its older device-holders back in June. Apple released system requirements for machines eligible OS X Mountain Lion upgrades and later revealed that pre-2007 iMacs, pre-2008 Mac Pros, MacBook Airs released in the first half of 2008 and MacBook Pros released before mid-2007 wouldn’t be getting iOS 6.

We spend way too much money on our smartphones and tablets in the first place. If equipment manufacturers aren’t willing to keep investing in products for as long as we, their customers, are under contract they aren’t keeping their part of the bargain.

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