Our predictions of which phones will see the next version of Android
Look at the phone in front of you. You probably love it, and chances are it's one of the most used items you own. It's OK to be a little attached to it, and it's a great idea to keep it as long as you can instead of spending money on each and every new thing that comes along.
We know that's not always easy. Soon, we're going to start hearing more and more about Android L, how great it does something, or how cool some new feature looks. You're going to want Android L on the phone in your hands. Not that you need it, and nothing that your phone does today will stop working just because there's a new version of Android. Still, as Android fans, we just gotta have it.
For some of us, that means a new phone. Still hanging on to that Galaxy S3? Yeah, you're upgrading or rooting and romming. For others, getting Android L is a given — the Nexus 5 and most of the Google Play devices will have it in short order after it rolls out sometime later this year. But for most of us, we get to speculate and talk about it a little bit.
This means Nexus phones (and tablets) and Google Play edition devices. These are your best bet to not only get Android L, but get it without waiting for manufacturers and carriers to jump in and fill it with apps and features you never will use and didn't want in the first place.
It's also pretty easy to guess which of these devices will see Android L and which won't.
The Nexus 5 is a lock. You can try out the "L Preview" on it right now if you're bold and have enough time to set everything up — and set it back up again when you realize that the L Preview is no where ready for daily use.
I'm going to say that all of the Google Play edition phones — includng the ones that were discontinued — will see Android L.
I'm also predicting that the sexiest phone ever made — the Nexus 4 — will not get Android L. And that makes me sad. I hope I'm wrong, but it's going to be two years old. That's a lifetime in the tech industry.
On the tablet side, expect the Nexus 7 2013 and the LG G Pad Google Play edition to see an update. The 2012 tablets aren't going to get any L loving. Poor, poor Nexus 10. You were revolutionary as well as fabulous.
If you draw a timeline of HTC phones, put a mark when the HTC One M7 was released. Everything later will see Android L. Everything earlier probably won't. HTC has basically said as much, and it makes sense if you look at it objectively. HTC just doesn't have the resources to update earlier phones like the Rezound.
Nobody has to like it. If you bought a Rezound or one of the HTC Butterfly phones, you know you spent top-dollar on a high-end phone that didn't get the updates it should have. HTC has clearly defined policies about updates going forward, but those went into effect after you bought your phone. And of course, adding a healthy portion of Verizon into the mix doesn't help anything.
None of this changes anything, though. If you bought an HTC phone released before the HTC One M7, I'm pretty sure you won't be getting any Android L updates.
The part of me that's been burned by LG's track record of updating phones says my G2 will never see Android L. The G3 will, but phones like the G Flex or the Optimus Pro 2 or my lovely little G2 may never see any new version of Android. LG hasn't said anything official, but that really doesn't mean too much.
But LG seems different as of late. They are making great phones, have improved their own software at least a thousand-fold, and are taking thing more seriosuly. This gives me some hope.
Since I have to make a prediction, I'll say the LG G3 and non-US versions of the G2 and G Flex will see a timely update. Nothing released sooner, and nothing a little lower on the "premium" scale. Carrier versions of the G2 and G Flex are going to depend on the carrier. And that scares me.
Prove me wrong, LG. Please.
Motorola has already said the Moto X, the Moto G and the Moto E will see Android L. We expected that the new Lenovo-fied management would keep the same pace in updating phones that the Google-led team did, and they pass the first test. We're pretty sure this includes the 2013 Verizon Droids, too.
Unfortunately, nothing else built by Motorola will see any updates. Moto seemed happy to abandon their old models, even when they weren't that old cough Droid Razr Maxx HD cough. None of those phones are going to see any updates. Motorola isn't going to spend the time or money, and neither is Verizon or AT&T or Sprint or anyone else. It's almost like there should be an Island of Misfit Phones.
Moto's been through a tough patch where they weren't making any money, and nobody seemed to want to buy their phones. I think part of their strategy to break out of that mold involves simple software that easy to update quickly. Expect to see Android L on a Moto phone very shortly after the release.
This one's easy. The Galaxy S5, and Galaxy Note 3 will get updated to Android L as fast as Samsung is able to update them. The Galaxy S4 will follow shortly after, and then Samsung is basically done. The few high-end devices that weren't sold in the west will probably see an update, but none of us have them and nobody can guess when.
Samsung's mid-range and low-end devices will sit at whatever version they are on now until they stop working. Love it or hate it, that's part of Samsung's strategy — push out a ton of new cheap devices every year to be used as "feature-phone" replacements. Maybe phones like the Moto G and E or Nokia Lumias will change this, but not this year.
More importantly is how Samsung will alter Android L to continue to offer the things people love them for offering. They weren't able to do so with KitKat and the SD card, but they will do everything they can to keep users happy and buying Samsung products. Samsung's version of Android L will be amazing if you're a Samsung fan, but it might take a couple extra updates to get it sorted, because we all want it right now instead of when it's ready. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do and how they will work the new design language into their software.
On the tablet side, I think things are pretty clear-cut. The Galaxy Tab 4 will see Android L, as will the Pro and Tab S lines they introduced this year. Don't look for an update on anything older, and if it happens nobody will be happier than I am. Sometimes, I love being wrong.
Nobody wants to update their gear to the next version of Android more than Sony does. They are big contributers to AOSP, and have a really good relation with developers. They just always seem to have one issue or another. Updating software when part of it is out of your control is hard. Sony really does try harder than anyone else, they just aren't ever very lucky.
Having said that, look for an Android L update for the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2 and the upcoming Xperia Z3. The compact versions, and carrier versions, too. Other phones are a total crapshoot. Sony will do everything they can, but as we've seen, often that's not enough. I'll repeat myself — nobody wants to update to Android L more than Sony does.
The same thing goes for their tablets. The latest models will find a way to get an Android L update, but anything made earlier than mid-2013 is too unpredictable to predict.
The best news is that Sony works well with the guys who love to do things like write kernels or try to shoehorn unofficial software onto unlocked devices. No matter which Xperia phone you have, someone is going to try their damndest to get Android L on it and share their work.
What about my Oppo Find 5?!? The truth is, we mostly have no idea. Some companies, like OnePlus, have said they will be updating to Android L in a timely fashion, others are mostly silent. You can bet these companies are all looking at what it will take to update their late-model devices to Android L, but the cost-benefit — both in time and money — has to be there. Companies like Samsung have a whole team who writes and builds software for their Android devices. I imagine they work long hours without sunlight and fresh air, and we don't appreciate the difficult job they do. But HiSense probably doesn't have such a team. Companies like ASUS are vested in Android, but as mentioned the benefit of updating has to outweigh the cost.
If you're device was well built and popular, you can hope for an update. Some companies, like NVIDIA, can afford to work harder at it than others can. There is just no guarentee that it will happen.
Remember, your phone or tablet will still work just like it did before Android L was announced, and what Google is doing with things like Play Services and pulling apps out of the OS and into Google Play means that you don't always need a full OS update to enjoy new features.
And finally, remember this is our best educated guess about what's going to happen. We've been through this a few times, and feel we've got a good handle on how manufacturers and carriers think (or don't think) when it comes to updating devices. We wish we could say "Android L for everybody!" but we know we can't. That's not how Android works.