I cannot overstate how much damage Lenovo has done to its brand over the past week by failing to keep its launch-day promise, and update its once-flagship phone to Android 9 Pie.
Full disclosure, I own one. A Sprint Z2 Force. But I’m probably the least-impacted user.
As an Android device designer, I can pretty much make an Android phone do whatever I want. With an unlocked boot loader, I’ll probably be running several future versions of Android on my Z2 Force. But barring some at-cost remedy, I can’t ever trust Lenovo to make good on an upgrade commitment.
HTC learned this lesson, the hard way. Still on the brink, people just don’t trust HTC. Device after device failed to get Android updates, while the competition got them. And time after time, HTC leadership and media relations seemed tone deaf to the outcry and criticism.
This isn’t a $10 Kickstarter where you are sharing the risk. This was at one point a $730 flagship phone.
Companies can make this stuff right. I know that personally. Consumers are sympathetic, they do listen. And they do care. The trolls and haters are genuinely outliers.
To make matters worse, Android 9 would have solved real issues with VoLTE, USB Tethering, and interactivity on the Z2 Force. Most of the features in Android Q required tech like Samsung’s DeX platform to utilize. Stuff Moto Mods was supposed to deliver – such as with the One Compute mod… that of course, never shipped. The point is, Android 9 was badly needed for most users on the Z2 Force.
Worse, adding insult to injury, making Verizon the one carrier that will get Android 9 Pie shows that Lenovo’s reasoning rings hollow. The claim of “several factors” they cite (but deplorably, don’t actually disclose), simply don’t add up. There is no technical reason Verizon can get the update, but AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (or any other carrier) cannot.
Verizon is known industry wide for being the most relentless in device testing and approval for software upgrades. The reasoning is simple – Verizon sells the Moto Mod 5G. Lenovo has a profit incentive, and made contractual obligations. The “promise” they made to users, they think they can worm out of.
The problem is, neither HTC nor Lenovo would make it right. Are they willing to offer Z2 Force owners a Moto Z4 at-cost? No. Nor did HTC when it failed to upgrade any of their devices.
Apple, years after the exploding PowerBook 5300 debacle, offered to buy back each unit and give people a PowerBook G3, at cost. Literally, each and every unit ever sold. Years after the pain and news headlines, Apple made it right. It’s a template for these companies. One I have little confidence they will follow.
At a time when US-China relations are at quite a low, this gives rise to new opportunities for upstart device makers. It’s one I cannot ignore, particularly when the wound is so self-inflicted.
Lenovo media relations has been sent a copy of this article. If they chose to respond, I will post the response here.