Anybody who’s bought an expensive Android phone in the last couple of years can probably commiserate with all those waiting months and months for an official update. Many times users root and install custom ROMs not out of any particular desire to mod, but just to get the features in the current version of Android. US Government officials made a bold claim on CNN this morning, saying that they can send out major software updates to their secure Android-based phones in just two weeks, side-stepping both manufacturers and carriers to deliver updated code based on Android’s open-source releases.
The official further stated that the government’s choice of Android for secure phone operations was specifically because of the operating system’s open-source nature. Publicly-available code enables modifications like the NSA’s ultra-secure Android variant, not to mention all the changes that OEMs and carriers place on phones and tablets. But since the government’s changes are relatively small and only apply to a few thousand phones at most, it follows that they could keep a tighter lid on their changes. The official said that they had approached Apple for customized versions of the iPhone and iOS for government use, but were denied access to the software’s source code.
Of course, updates to secure government-issued hansets aren’t going to grace the headlines of gadget blogs any time soon. But given the generally deplorable state of Android updates, wherein some customers wait for six months to a year for new software (if they get it at all) would seem a might bit more pathetic if Uncle Sam could do so much better. Private sector, consider yourself bested.