A night spent installing missed updates, what I learned and what carriers should do

A couple of days ago my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S10 started rebooting and shutting down for unknown reasons. I did my quick technician look and all her apps were updated, storage was plentiful, nothing particularly eye catching except the WiFi was off.

The only reason this stuck out to me was because Sprint is merging/migrating to T-Mobile’s network I thought perhaps some APN or provisioning update was happening and it was maybe having issues downloading it. I don’t know.

Anyway, WiFi on, checked that it was working, and got a note that there was a system update.

This began the night of updates which stretched back to October or November 2019… such a simpler time. Each update came individually as there were no rollups. Each update took somewhere on the order of 20 minutes to install, rebuild/optimize the apps, and finish post processing at which time I’d go back in and check for updates and repeat the process.

I passed the phone back to her a few times as she needed it, and late last night finished up the last of the updates.

It appears WiFi got turned off at some point in 2019 and never was noticed. This is because the service area we’re in works fine for moderate web browsing and there’s no noticeable performance gains to be had for her connecting to WiFi.

It also appeared that the Android OS is set to not download over the carrier’s network automatically, nor is there any way evident to force it to check and download regardless of network connection.

I can’t say whether or not it ever gave her a software update notification, but I can tell you it never downloaded and installed one automatically, and that’s a real problem not just for me having to spend a night updating, updating, updating, but for the end user and carriers as well.

Her phone was running several patches back, highly exploitable, the type of phone that ends up becoming infected, participating in a botnet, answering quizzes to determine which brand of frozen yogurt you are, ad clicking, etc.

This stuff (security updates,) should be automated at the carrier level with update servers excluded from data charges. Keep your customers safe, don’t make them have to participate to install updates, just do it.

But there are no options to auto download on any connection. Just one little thing to check and download when on WiFi. Nothing forced an update overnight, and each update was long and painful, and had no visual payoff for the end user in terms of functionality or speed.

After all the updates the phone seemed back to normal. My guess is there’s an app on there that’s in a fight with a known bug/exploit, or an expired security cert or some such.

I feel much less confident in phones as a pay source/biometric identification/contact tracing device when you can be walking around six patches back thinking you’re updated automatically.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts