In the Android world, where Android maker Google doesn’t have nor exercise full control, software updates of take some time. It has been the practice, thanks to some informational pictures from some OEMs, to lay the blame of delays on carriers, who are the last step in getting out updates in a timely manner. It seems, however, that one carrier might have been a tad too eager to change that reputation. Owners of the LG G4 on AT&T‘s network are reporting that they are receiving an update that is being installed without even being asked about it.
According to some AT&T rep, the update is for some enhancement for AT&T’s addressbook, not exactly a critical update that warrant and immediate and enforced installation that takes user permission out of the equation. Then again, some might say that it’s also not big enough to make a big fuss about.
The problem, however, is both technical and theoretical. On the technical side, it is a firmware update and not just a simple app update. This means there might be a slight chance that, depending on the user’s luck and setup, things could go wrong. And it might be right in the middle of something important, when the user needs the phone the most. Fortunately, it is at least polite enough to let you finish calls before it installs and reboots.
On the theory side, it does expose, or rather demonstrates, the fact that carriers do have that much control over your device. It can push out updates and you’d only be able to tell after the fact. LG apparently claims it doesn’t have the ability to do that, but this would show that AT&T does. Not that it’s surprising, but that power has never been used before, and not for something so trivial. This could also be perverted by some less conscientious elements as a way to install unwanted software, whether malware or adware, without user consent.
The one ray of hope is that it might not be a widespread phenomenon, as some users are only reporting getting a notification while others confirm that the update indeed automatically installs without asking them first. It might simply be a mea culpa on AT&T’s part, but users should use this incident as a reminder that yes, your carrier, or at least AT&T, does have this power.