There are devices out there, like the original HTC Hero, that have both carrier branded versions, and purely unlocked models floating around. This differentiation between devices can make it somewhat troublesome for manufacturers to release official software updates to their handsets, as they not only have to deal with unlocked devices making their way around the globe, but also those carrier branded versions, which have to deal with carrier optimized software. But manufacturers, like HTC and Samsung, have figured out a way around that: simply release the updated software via your website, for the appropriate device, and let the owner update on their own.
It may not be as easy as an Over the Air (OTA) update, but at least it meas you get an update. However, if you find yourself with a Samsung Galaxy S device, and you're branded by Vodafone, you may want to think twice about upgrading any software. Apparently, Vodafone has begun terminating the carrier warranty of the device, if users install "unapproved" software upgrades to their devices. That means, even if you upgrade to the latest version of Android, no matter how small the update, and you didn't get it specifically from Vodafone, they won't do anything for you in their stores.
The carrier warranty will let owners repair or replace their devices from the carrier. So, if you didn't want to have to mess with that manufacturer's warranty, this was your other choice. (But, you do keep the manufacturer warranty.) The whole debacle came from users discussing an update that Samsung made available through its proprietary software KIES. Apparently the response from Vodafone hasn't made many Galaxy S owners all that happy, for obvious reasons. Interesting turn of events, surely, but we will have to wait and see if Vodafone redefines their position, or if they decided to stay firm.
[via Samsung Hub]