Friday, June 27, 2014

Who gets an OTA official docomo update to KitKat (4.4)?

Nestle KitKat
I never saw this in stores.
Yesterday, docomo released a notice indicating which of its handsets will be getting an OTA update to Android 4.4, aka KitKat.

The list is as follows:

  • XperiaTM Z SO-02E
  • Xperia Z1 SO-01F
  • Xperia Z1 f SO-02F
  • ARROWS Tab F-02F
  • Galaxy S4 SC-04E
  • Galaxy Note3 SC-01F
  • Galaxy J SC-02F
Furthermore, the bulletin added that they do not plan to update any other non-new models to Android 4.4, so it looks like the latest version of the docomo ROM will be the last for those with older models.
Only the above 9 models will receive a version update to Android 4.4. Furthermore, models not listed above will not receive updates due to hardware limitations and other reasons.
Sharp AQUOS Zeta SH-02E
I loved the candy red case variant of this phone.
Personally, as the owner of a handset not on this list (Aquos Zeta SH-02E), I'm a little disappointed, but this is par for the course for a company with so many models to support with smartphones lasting an average of two and a half years and often having a maximum lifetime (if you're lucky) of five years.

Up to now, my phone had received regular updates from Docomo over the two years of its life; Docomo divides its updates into regular software updates (called ソフトウェア更新 {sofutowea kōshin}) — which are often, but not always, used for updating internal Docomo specific firmware and radios — and メジャーアップデート {mejā·appudēto} (major updates) — which are used for updating changes big enough to change the "Android version number" and name. An interesting quirk about the updates is that major updates, like most Android devices, can be (and is recommended, due to their size) downloaded via Wi-Fi, whereas Docomo specific software updates are done via the broadband radio using a special APN.

When I bought my phone, it was running a Docomo specific version of Ice Cream Sandwich, aka Android 4.3. Docomo upgraded it to JellyBean, and continued to push new Android updates that changed the version number but still stayed in the "JellyBean" class of devices.

Of course, it is always possible to root some phones and install third party versions of KitKat or other firmware sets onto one's device, but depending on the hardware and software, one may lose out on access to some of the docomo software and hardware features that are unique to Galápagos Japanese smartphones (FeliCa for example).

Docomo / Samsung Galaxy Nexus SC-04D with LE back lid
Early SC-04D purchases got a limited edition back
and a Docomo branded Sharp eneloop charger
Trying to predict how long a phone will continue to receive updates is an inexact guessing game, but from my experience up to now, most people that buy their phone new after late 2011 have usually received major updates for at least a year and a half, which based on the Android release cycle is usually good for one major Android naming "leap"; Nexus devices have tended to receive updates for a longer period of time (but not faster and not as fast as Google releases updates) than Galápagos versions.

For example, my two Docomo Galaxy Nexus phones, which are considered old phones when you consider the existence of all the other Samsung Galaxy devices which have been since them, have received two major updates, including the enabling of tethering.

Docomo's Galaxy Nexus (SC-04D) is running a build that is slightly tweaked from the stock Nexus; it includes software for Japan disaster bulletins (エリアメール {eria·mēru}): "Area Mail". Released in 2011 with Android 4.0.1 (ICS), they are now running official 4.3.x docomo variants of JellyBean (4.2).

Android Game of Thrones
Choose your Android wisely; upgrade death happens early.


  1. I'm on emobile on the Nexus 5 and I'm very disappointed by both Nexus 5 as a device and Android as software. It has to be by far the worse android phone I've ever owned and I've owned a couple of them. (HTC G1, HTC Desire Z, Galaxy S2). The camera doesn't focus, the phone loses connectivity to the network with "simcard removed" messages. It's a mess. I just want to take it back to e-mobile and shove it up their *beep*, excuse the language.

  2. This is why you should buy Google Play Edition phones, since they get updated by Google for as long as Google does it. Relying on the carrier is a fool's game, since they have no desire to keep you using the same phone for a while when they could get you to buy a new phone and make more money.

    This is one of the better things about Apple's ecosystem: they cut the carrier out and do it themselves, no options. So Apple updates as much as Apple updates, instead of waiting for the carrier to maybe spend time customizing their crappy apps to work on the new OS.

  3. Have you tried Android "L" yet? It's very slick, though I'm not sure how well it addresses your issues. I haven't had those types of issues with my N5.

  4. What kind of customizations have been done on the phone. While network connectivity is not the greatest, I have never faced any of the other issues that you mentioned. I am running stock rooted kitkat.

  5. kizuki I have only unlocked the bootloader. Other than that the phone is running stock 4.4. I haven't even rooted it.

  6. I have not as I'm very reluctant to try on unstable android releases.

  7. Basically it is the same setup as mine. I also have just the unlocked boot loader and su binary flashed. I guess it might be the apps or could be a piece specific issue.

    I don't have many apps but push the hardware to limit with long stretches of video calls. Never faced any issue except frequent loss of lte reception.

  8. I love my N5 but I have noticed the simcard restart error message on a regular basis. The camera does suck too. My wife's DoCoMo SG5 has a fantastic camera. Terrible UI though.

  9. @MZ Yes the camera focus too... What's up with that? It doesn't seem to be able to focus anywhere....!

  10. dear all.. got ntt docomo sharp sh-01f
    want to update to kitkat but i cant.... couse i live in Georgia.
    but phone bring from japan when i was there :)
    so help me please some how update my phone.
    best regard Nik.