Yesterday we witnessed the intersection of two-year contracts and the perpetually updating Android platform. Four Android devices are stuck with their current operating system. Well, there are probably more than four, but there were four officially announced. This isn’t a huge issue for Motorola Flipout and Charm users. They still have Android 2.1, which is adequate. I’d still be a bit peeved at the lack of Froyo, and I’m not saying these customers shouldn’t get satisfaction. But owners of the i1 and the Cliq Xt have to be quite miffed. They sit in that small sliver of the Android population that runs version 1.5. And for them, there’s no way out. That’s the final operating system for these devices. That seems a bit unfair, considering the circumstances. The problem mainly stems from the two-year contract standard. T-Mobile released the Motorola Cliq XT not even a year ago: March 10, 2010. Sprint released the Motorola i1 in July, while its subsidiary, prepaid carrier Boost Mobile, released it about a month earlier. When Sprint and T-Mobile customers bought these devices they got a discount in return for signing a two-year agreement. But they signed that two-year agreement with the notion that they’d get an upgrade past Android 1.5. After all, Froyo had just been released, and while it might not have made it to those relatively low-end devices, surely there would be room for Eclair 2.1. Yet that was not the case, as we learned yesterday. T-Mobile customers who purchased the Cliq Xt might have an exit option. TMoNews.com reports that T-Mobile Customer Loyalty Teams “have ben given specialized authority to work with the affected customers in an effort to save those customers.” I’m not sure exactly what they’ll get, but knowing carriers it won’t be overwhelming. After all, it was relatively cheap for a smartphone, $99 at launch. But that doesn’t mean customers can just throw away that $99. Chances are there’s an upgrade involved, though the terms of said upgrade are not yet known. Will T-Mobile offer a new upgrade? That would involve a customer picking a new Android handset, paying the subsidized price, and extending their contract by two years. That seems the most likely option. They could also offer a free Android handset (excluding maybe the Vibrant 4G and other premium handsets) with a contract extension. Or maybe they’ll offer a subsidized device without contract extension. Any way they do it, it’s better than letting Cliq Xt users hang out to dry. I certainly hope Sprint follows suit for i1 users. When Sprint released the i1 it charged $149 with a two-year contract. Those customers have a few months to go before they get to the one-year mark, never mind two years. Is Sprint going to let them just deal with the device they bought with the idea that it would get an upgrade? Or are they going to do something similar to T-Mobile. I certainly hope they would. If I had bought the i1, knowing it ran 1.5 but also knowing that they planned a 2.1 upgrade, and then I didn’t get the upgrade, I’d be furious. And if Sprint did nothing to help my situation, you’d bet that I’d pay my early termination fee and refuse them my business. That’s not the way you treat a customer you’d like to retain. Even Boost customers might have beef. They might not have signed a two-year contract, but they had to pay $200 more than Sprint users. That’s $350 down the drain. Maybe that’s a bit strong, but seriously, it’s Android 1.5. There was word that it would get a 2.1 update soon enough, but that’s not happening. So now a customer who spent plenty of money up front in order to buy the device is stuck with it and its Android 1.5. We can invoke buyer beware here, but I’m not sure that’s fair either. Android is a constantly changing, constantly updating OS. When we get these devices and they run an older version of the OS, we expect them to get an update. When that doesn’t come, I can understand the cheated feeling. Thankfully, T-Mobile wants to satisfy its customers. Will Sprint do the same? Or will they just ignore those customers?
T-Mobile doing the right thing; Sprint should follow
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