Google first pushes its updated Android software to the members of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a consortium of more than 80 companies. Each manufacturer will then tweak the code for their respective devices. For example, Samsung must build TouchWiz — its unique skin, which modifies the look and feel and adds various distinguishing features — around each new version of Android. The same goes for HTC (Sense UI), LG, Sony and Motorola.
(For manufacturers that use a totally customized “fork” of Android — such as Xiaomi, Amazon and others — the customization road is an even more extensive process, but not really relevant to this conversation.)
If you have an unlocked (non-carrier specific) phone, that’s the end of the process — you get the update once the manufacturer distributes it. But for most of us (in the US, at least), the phone is bought through a wireless carrier, adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to the software update process.
None of this is anything new.
But I have to reiterate that Sony deserves credit for doing customers right by offering Android 5.x for so many of their older phones. Sony is basically hanging on to the mobile world by their fingernails. Meanwhile, market share behemoths I won’t name — and a new entrant I will name: ZTE — blithely move on to new phones and abandon the older ones. That is no way to impress customers and to engender brand loyalty.