I wish that there were more phones running plain Android with fast updates.
This article is exactly what we need to make that happen, though ideally we need it to be on CNN, not just Ars. But Ars is a good step. When consumers demand good update policies, manufacturers will provide them. It's a competitive market.
Actually, I think we're further down that road than it may appear. Stagefright was a big kick in the butt for the Android ecosystem. Not because it actually affected any real users, but because it got a *lot* of press. I think many OEMs have realized they need to fix their update problems, because consumers are beginning to care. The problem is that the OEMs product plans for the last few years have not included plans for monthly updates. Planning for that sort of update cycle requires them to change a lot of things in the way they do business. One is closely related to what you mentioned about carrier-specific builds: The OEMs just have too danged many products. It's not uncommon that what appears to the end user as a single model (e.g. Samsung Note 4) is actually one or two *dozen* different devices... each with its own software build. Not because they actually need that many SKUs and not because all of them actually need different software, it's just been easier to do it that way. Now that the pressure to provide updates is being turned up, I think they're looking at how to streamline their product lines and processes to make it more feasible to deliver them. Oh, and they also have to build the cost of the update-related work into their business plans.
However, building phones is a complex process, and device design and planning cycles often run more than two years, so it takes time for changes in approach to reach the market. I think it'll start getting a lot better in the next 1-2 years.
That's why I'm just sticking with Nexus phones.
Me too. Of course, in my case it helps that I get them for free :-)