Why don’t new Chinese phones ship with the latest version of Android?

Each time a new phone is launched by a Chinese phone maker one of the most common complaints is “why does it not have the latest version of Android?”. There are numerous reasons for this and we are going to try and answer as many of them as we can now!

Why don’t new Chinese phones come with the latest version of Android?

So another Android phone has been launched by a Chinese phone maker. The hardware is fantastic, the design is beautiful, but hang on it has the last (or later) version of Android! Why?

Time schedules and deadlines

With very few exceptions most Android phone makers don’t know what Google have planned for the latest version of Android and don’t know when the new instalment will launch.

zopo zp998 review hero

When development of a phone begins the manufacturer has to develop the phone using the latest version of Android available to them. This might mean being 2 versions of Android behind by the time a phone launches!

For example Zopo claim the ZP998 took 10 months to develop, if they had switched to Android 4.3 when it launched and then again to Android 4.4 the ZP998 would still be months away from launch!


This is especially true of Android phone brands in China where most phones offer the same specifications at similar prices, the only area a phone company can really differentiate themselves from the rest is via a custom ROM.

miui 5.0

Xiaomi has MIUI (based on Android 4.1 and 4.2), Meizu has Flyme (based on Android 4.2), Gionee have Amigo (Android 4.2), then there are the smaller brands like Xiaocai and CaiOS, JiaYu with the 3rd party Lewa ROM etc.

Each of these companies offer a different ROM to help the standout from the crowd and often these ROMs have months and months of development time in them. It just wouldn’t be possible to move from one Android version to the next.

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umi x2s

Even huge phone brands such as Samsung don’t put the resources aside to update their phones, often dropping support for phones rather than spending money on programmers. Now think of a company the size of UMi, JiaYu etc they have a tiny team working on phones and firmware, once one phone is finished the whole team move to the next leaving no resource left for updates.


Chinese phone makers are in a constant state of war. If one company slows for a second there are thousands waiting to take their market share.

Having their team work on the latest version of Android would mean their next flagship phone would be delayed allowing other companies to launch first.

The latest version of Android isn’t really needed

In reality having the latest version of Android on your phone is nice, but when it comes to actual usage it makes very little difference.

In my case I run a Xiaomi Mi2 with the latest version of MIUI V5 based on Android 4.1.1 (3 versions out of date) but as MIUI is so heavily modified I actually have many of the same features and functions as someone running a Nexus 5 with Android 4.4.1!

The same can be said of other ROMs or even a stock Android install. The differences between Android 4.2 to 4.4 are negligible and in most cases aren’t necessary.

Do you agree?

Do you agree with these reasons? Would you prefer to see hardware development slow in favour of having the latest Android OS? Would you pay extra for the latest version of Android? Let us know in the comments below!

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