Motorola: We're at carriers' mercy on Android customization

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Motorola Mobility confirmed it is not shipping the unaltered, stock version of parent firm Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android on its smartphones because of carrier demands to customize the mobile operating system to their own specifications.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Motorola Senior Vice President, Product Rick Osterloh was asked to address whether the manufacturer plans to ship stock Android devices in the future. "Going forward, we're going to try to be as close to the base as we can be, because we think that's the right thing for users," Osterloh said, according to The Verge. "We think users also want fast upgrades and upgrades for their phones over the long haul, so we're going to be focus on that as well. It's a little bit different than what a lot of OEMs are doing and certainly what Motorola did in the past, but going forward that's going to be our strategy."

Pressed on whether operators are the driving force behind Motorola smartphones like Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) Razr HD, which integrates a custom skin, custom Verizon software and ships with Android 4.0 instead of the current Android 4.1, Osterloh said "Our partners sometimes want customizations. [...] Our interest is to make it as close to Android as possible and generally we negotiate somewhere in the middle."

Android dominates the U.S. smartphone landscape, controlling 52.6 percent of the nationwide market as of August 2012, according to research firm comScore. While the openness of the Android platform is the catalyst fueling its phenomenal growth, carrier customizations are commonly cited as a culprit behind the slow pace of Android OS upgrades and the platform fragmentation that results.

Case in point: Google's Android Developers dashboard reveals that just 1.8 percent of devices run Android 4.1, a.k.a. Jelly Bean, released in July of this year. Android 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, powers 23.7 percent of devices a year after its commercial rollout, and 55.5 percent of devices still run Android 2.3, a.k.a. Gingerbread, which Google released in late 2010.

Earlier this month, Motorola Mobility canceled plans to upgrade its Atrix 4G, Electrify and Photon 4G smartphones to Android Ice Cream Sandwich. All three devices will continue to run Gingerbread. "Motorola Mobility continues to review how each device can deliver the very best experience possible, and at times, this can mean making tough choices--especially as it relates to Android software upgrades," wrote Punit Soni, vice president of product, on the Motorola Forums. "Specifically, Atrix 4G, Photon 4G and Electrify will not receive the ICS upgrade but continue to be supported with maintenance releases to ensure optimum performance for the consumer."

For more:
- read this Verge article

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