What is the best way to update a smartphone’s software?

htc software update - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereThe T-Mobile HTC One S is getting an OTA update to 1.84.531.2.710 right now. You can read about it here, but what’s interesting to me is that T-Mobile originally promised a way for early adopters to get the download early: T-Mobile’s official support page for this update previously stated that a manual download would be available online. That has since been revised, and T-Mobile now offers “only one way.”

This got me thinking: what’s the best way to update a mobile phone’s software? Should manufacturers or carriers be expected to offer manual downloads online for those who want to try it out as soon as possible, or are over the air updates the best solution?

My first Android smartphone, the T-Mobile myTouch 3G, took updates OTA. My next smartphone, the original HTC EVO 4G, could also only be updated officially over the air. (I’m not counting leaked RUUs or other update ROMs that were leaked on sites like XDA.) My EVO 3D, and now my EVO 4G LTE, also take updates OTA. Therefore, it almost seems like T-Mobile’s initial plans to offer this particular update online was breaking the mold a bit.

At the same time, OTA updates are a relatively new concept for cell phones. For many years, before the Android revolution, the most common way to update software was to download it on a PC, and then transfer it over to your phone. That’s how I updated my AT&T Samsung Blackjack, along with a few dumb phones I had before that.

It certainly seems like OTA updates are most common today, but is this really the wisest solution in our new era of limited data plans? My ASUS Transformer Prime can accept downloads both ways: from a PC download I can get from ASUS’s tech support pages, or OTA. Perhaps manufacturers and carriers should follow suit and begin offering both methods – this will keep those who like the ease of OTA updates happy, and appease the enthusiasts and early adopters like me who hate sitting around, waiting for my phone to notify me of a new update.

What do you think? What’s the best way to update a phone’s (or a tablet’s) software?

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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

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