One of the big problems facing android right now is market fragmentation. It seems that every android phone you see is running a different version of the operating system. Here in New Zealand there are two android phones available through the local providers, one is the LG GW620f and the Sony Ericsson X10i. Both of these phones are running the outdated 1.6 version of android. When Google is up to version 2.1 with 2.2 about to be released.
So what's the problem with this? Well the problem is that users are missing out on a whole bunch of new features and on a lot of applications in the market which are not available for version 1.6.
The reason that the Sony Ericsson phone is still on 1.6 according to their blog is that they have made their own custom user interface. When Google releases a new version of android Sony has to test the new version with there custom interface and fix any problems which might result from the changes. They also need to add the ability to use the new features which Google has added. And while they are doing all this you the customer misses out. You miss out on the new features and you can't install the new applications.
So if having their own custom interface makes it so hard to upgrade in a timely manor then why do they bother. The reason is that marketing theory says that your product needs a 'point of difference' in order to 'differentiate' it from the competition. HTC has their Sense UI, Motorola has their motoblur.
The problem is that this marketing theory does not take into consideration the huge disadvantage that your product has in the market place when it is out of date. How big of a disadvantage well people in the know just wont buy your product. And those who do will very soon become upset and disgruntled.
Windows has faced a similar problem with OEMs. The problem is that OEM's try to 'add value' (another marketing buzz word) by including all sorts of crap ware applications on their computers which are for sale. I once set up a windows net book for a friend. It came crammed full of trial versions of all sorts of security applications so much so that it took forever to load and when I opened the internet browser over half the screen was taken up with the tool bars that the OEM has pre installed for me. The area that was left for actually browsing the internet was so small as to make using it almost impossible.
That is why apple has been so successful. Because they control both the Software and the hardware they can prevent this kind of crap from happening.
So what can you as the consumer do about android market fragmentation? Firstly don't by android phones with custom user interfaces. Don't buy android phones pre installed with stuff that the manufacture decided adds value.
What you want is plan vanilla standard android. All the OEM will have to do with new releases of android is test it against your hardware and then push it out.
There is a name for a phone with plan android on it. It's call Google experience. You know when you get a Google experience phone that it will not be full of crapware, and that it will be updated in a timely manor.
Currently the best Google experience phone is the Nexus One. This is sold and marketed by Google itself. And it gets upgrades rolled out as soon as they are available.
So don't buy an android phone with a custom UI, which is full of crapware. Get Android as Google intended it to be and ensure that you will never get left behind.