AT&T is now trying to do right by Android by upgrading all 2011 phones to Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread.
The upgrades start today with Motorola’s Atrix 4G, followed by HTC’s Inspire 4G in a few weeks. Also on the update list are LG’s Phoenix, Pantech’s Crossover and Samsung’s Infuse 4G. The Samsung Captivate, which launched last year, will get the update as well.
Gingerbread is the latest version of Google’s Android OS for smartphones, and includes improvements to the software’s keyboard, text selection and power management. A minor update for Gingerbread phones with front-facing cameras also added native video chat through Google Talk.
This is a significant development for Android, which is notorious for inconsistent software updates that can cause app compatibility issues — Skype video chat, for instance, only supports Android 2.3 handsets for now — and generally depriving users of the latest features. It’s fairly common to see carriers promise updates for individual handsets, but I can’t recall any wireless carrier vowing to bring all of its recent smartphones up to date.
For Google, however, there’s still a lot more to be done. In May, the company announced an ambitious plan to ensure 18 months of updates for all Android handsets, working with several leading handset makers and all four major U.S. wireless carriers. It’s unclear when this effort will begin or how Google will execute it. Presumably, AT&T’s commitment isn’t part of the plan — if it was, I’d expect to see an announcement from Google — but at least it shows some willingness to support the software even after the customer has paid for the phone and signed a contract.