HTC Desire won’t get Android 2.3 Gingerbread after all. Here’s why

If you own an HTC Desire, here’s some bad news. Oh, and if you don’t own a Desire yet, but were thinking of buying one, you probably shouldn’t. Here’s why.

Earlier today HTC’s UK arm took to its Facebook page to announce that despite previous promises, the HTC Desire will not be updated to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Ever. This was an update that was widely expected, as HTC had previously said that it will come.

Here’s the entire paragraph that HTC posted to Facebook today regarding the Desire’s Gingerbread update:

“Our engineering teams have been working hard for the past few months to find a way to bring Gingerbread to the HTC Desire without compromising the HTC Sense experience you’ve come to expect from our phones. However, we’re sorry to announce that we’ve been forced to accept there isn’t enough memory to allow us both to bring Gingerbread and keep the HTC Sense experience on the HTC Desire. We’re sincerely sorry for the disappointment that this news may bring to some of you.”

Now let’s try to cut through the marketing/PR speak and see what this is really about. At first glance, it would seem that HTC’s proprietary Sense UI overlay is the culprit here, as it’s unable to run atop Android 2.3 Gingerbread with the amount of memory the Desire has.

That argument sounds valid enough, especially as anyone who’s ever had a Sense-ified HTC device knows that the UI overlay that HTC loves so much is in the habit of using quite a bit of memory.

That all makes sense until you remember the HTC Wildfire S. Here’s an HTC smartphone that has even less memory than the Desire, yet runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sense UI on top without any issues. For what it’s worth, the Wildfire S even has a much less powerful processor than the Desire – I’m saying that even though HTC didn’t blame the processor at all.

Yes, the Desire has 576 MB of RAM (that’s the memory we’re talking about here, not the internal storage space that usually gets confusingly referred to as ‘memory’ too), while the Wildfire S has 512 MB.

So let’s consider that the HTC employee who guards the Facebook page is really technically challenged, and has mistaken memory (a.k.a. RAM) for storage space. But this argument falls too, as the Desire and the Wildfire S both have the exact same amount of ROM – 512 MB.

Yet there are a few possible explanations here.

First of all, if the issue is indeed memory or storage-related and that’s not just a neat way to cover up something else (which I’ll get to in a moment), it may be that the screen has something to do with it. One major difference between the Desire and the Wildfire S that may matter here is that the former has a higher-resolution screen. So, and believe me I’m just speculating here, while the Desire has a bit more memory than the Wildfire S, perhaps it isn’t enough to run the Android Gingerbread version of Sense on a 480×800 display. Or maybe the internal space just isn’t enough to accommodate the new, Gingerbread Sense in all its glory on a 480×800 screen.

Think about it. After all, Sense is mostly about graphics. Graphics shown on the screen. So the above may make a bit of sense (easy pun, I know). If it isn’t that, then only two other options are left as to why HTC would choose to cancel this update (if you see another, please let us know in the comments).

HTC may mean that there isn’t enough storage space in the phone needed to perform the actual update – as in, it won’t be able to backup your settings, apps, and so on. But in that case, there’s an easy fix – just require that everyone that’s updating use HTC’s own desktop Sync software to backup and restore that data. Easy. Which means this is probably not it.

What’s left, then? Well, you know what. HTC may just want you to go and buy a brand new, Android Gingerbread-running HTC Desire S instead of holding on to your beloved original Desire. Or, better yet, go buy an HTC Sensation, this year’s flagship Android smartphone from the Taiwanese manufacturer.

It looks like Android smartphone manufacturers such as HTC still haven’t figured out how to keep customers happy about OS upgrades while also selling new devices. It’s certainly an interesting dilemma, and perhaps more interesting is the fact that Apple doesn’t seem to ever face it. Of all the things a company could ‘copy’ from Apple, this is one of the easiest. Yet no one has even tried so far. I wonder why.

Note: Please don’t comment saying “HTC should release an Android 2.3 Gingerbread update without Sense”. They won’t. Sense is (mainly) how they differentiate in the Android world. They won’t give it up. You may not agree with their viewpoint, but for them it’s what makes an HTC Android smartphone an HTC Android smartphone. They won’t give that up because you can shout loud or use all caps.

Update: HTC has changed its mind.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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  • Anonymous

    appl only have 1 device to update, not 5 or 10 with differing specs in one’s portfolio. 

  • Zamolxees

    Ok but then the least they can do is push an update to decrypt the bootloader and make it easier to unlock and root the device. They also promised to do so (only for newer phones?). I’m really disappointed by this decision, breaking promises – whatever the reason.  

  • Zamolxees

    Ok but then the least they can do is push an update to decrypt the bootloader and make it easier to unlock and root the device. They also promised to do so (only for newer phones?). I’m really disappointed by this decision, breaking promises – whatever the reason.  

  • Flavio

    The old Desire has never been blocked, so you can root it with ease whenever you wish.

  • Flavio

    Vlad, you made a good analysis. The only point I want to correct is the one about HTC Sync: HTC has always released all its upgrades OTA, and always said you don’t need a PC to update your smartphone. The HTC Sync software doesn’t have the capabilities to perform a firmware update, so it would have been necessary to design a new Sync software only to push out this update, and maybe even another intermediate OTA update to tell the phone how to communicate with it.

    Could HTC have done it? Maybe. Could they have released a reduced version of Gingerbread cutting on the included apps and functions? Maybe. But considering that Gingerbread doesn’t add practically anything to the Froyo experience users have, on the opposite it would only reduce the amount of storage at their disposal, I completely understand HTC’s choice to quit working on the update.

    And I am sure it’s not a marketing move: HTC always showed us they listen to the user-base as we recently saw with the bootloader issue, so if they say there was a technical issue I am sure they are saying the truth.

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