AT&T CEO blames Google for delayed smartphone updates

CEO Randall Stephenson says the reason Android smartphones don't receive updates is the result of Google's decisions. The Web giant retorts that this is simply not true.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Stephen Shankland/CNET

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently made some public statements about Google that the Web giant says don't really pan out, according to 9to5Google.

During a panel discussion put on by the Milken Institute last week, an audience member asked Stephenson why there's such a delay in updating Google's operating system on devices carried by AT&T. Basically Stephenson blamed Google for delayed updates.

"Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when," Stephenson replied. "Oftentimes, that's a negotiated arrangement and that's something we work at hard. We know that's important to our customers."

In response to Stephenson's statement, Google told 9to5Google:

Mr. Stephenson's carefully worded quote caught our attention, and frankly we don't understand what he is referring to. Google does not have any agreements in place that require a negotiation before a handset launches. Google has always made the latest release of Android available as open source at source.android.com as soon as the first device based on it has launched. This way, we know the software runs error-free on hardware that has been accepted and approved by manufacturers, operators, and regulatory agencies such as the FCC. We then release it to the world.

Despite Stephenson holding Google responsible for the delays, he also said, "the Android platform is something we are committed to."

These remarks come on the heels of AT&T announcing that it generated $3.6 billion in profit in the first quarter of this year, with smartphones playing a key role. By the quarter's end, 59.3 percent of the carrier's wireless subscribers were using smartphones, up from 46.2 percent a year ago.