Why we don't need another version of Android this year
Android followers, more than most smartphone communities, are constantly focused on the future, be it the next major OS update, or the next big smartphone from HTC, Samsung or Motorola. So with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean due to be open-sourced in a matter of weeks, some are already pontificating on what might be coming in the next version of Android, rumored to be nicknamed “Key Lime Pie.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that, just like Gingerbread in 2010 and ICS in 2011, the next version of Android could make an appearance sometime in the fourth quarter of 2012. But the current state of the Android ecosystem indicates that this might not be the best course of action for Google, its OEMs or their customers. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at why Google should stick with Android 4.1 until 2013, and push Android forward with hardware, not software later in the year.
Android is in a great place in 4.1
Jelly Bean is the best version of Android yet. Sure, every version of Android is the best yet at launch. But in Jelly Bean, Google has directed a laser-like focus on a key weakness of its platform compared to the Apple and Microsoft-based competition. Android 4.1 saw Google “declare war on lag,” and employ a number of high-tech tricks to vastly improve the speed and responsiveness of the OS. On the Galaxy Nexus, the result is striking -- update to Jelly Bean, and it’s like a different phone. If Android can deliver this kind of performance on the Galaxy Nexus’s year-old internals, just imagine the kind of speed we can look forward to once this year’s HTC and Samsung flagships get their updates.
In addition, a wealth of new APIs have been introduced in Jelly Bean, and not all of them have fully fleshed-out UIs (one example being the new app stack navigation stuff). So it's possible that new user-facing "features" like this could be switched on through a minor OTA, or a new Google app in the Play Store. Speaking of which, it's also worth considering that almost all of the major Google apps -- the latest being the default browser, Chrome -- can now be updated separately via Google Play without a major firmware update.
In other words, Android is in a great place right now, and as such there’s no need to rush towards the next major release before the end of 2012.
Jelly Bean is very new, and updates take time
As we’re all aware, manufacturers and carriers will need time to get Jelly Bean out onto their armada of existing Gingerbread and ICS devices. That process starts when Jelly Bean is open-sourced, something which is expected to take place in mid-July. Were Google to deliver the usual one-two punch of a new Nexus and a new platform revision in Q4, it’d mean putting out the next version of Android a mere four months after Jelly Bean, just as the 4.1 updates are starting to roll out. (And spare a thought for owners of the three CDMA Nexus phones, which have lagged far behind their more developer-friendly GSM cousins.)
The mobile world moves quickly, but Google would do itself no favors by delivering this kind of lightning-fast turnaround on a major new OS version. Ultimately, it’d only frustrate manufacturers and end-users alike by perpetually keeping them one or two platform versions behind the bleeding edge. Google has to be aware that slow update times for existing handsets are a serious issue, and it seems it’s trying to address them with initiatives like the PDK (Platform Development Kit). Announced at Google I/O, this gives manufacturers early access to portions of code to assist in porting it to their own hardware. In spite of this, updates still take time, and it’d make no sense for Google to exacerbate things by prematurely obsoleting Jelly Bean.
But that doesn’t mean we won't see a new Nexus smartphone built from the ground up around Android 4.1...
The next Nexus can compete on hardware
Android needs a new Google-branded hero device to go up against the iPhone 5 this fall and into the holiday season, not to mention the impending onslaught of Windows Phone 8 devices. If last year (and the year before it) is any indication, that’ll be a new Nexus phone. Maybe we'll even see multiple Nexii, as has been rumored, although we’re still not 100 percent convinced of that. Regardless of whether a new version of Android appears, we can be pretty sure that a fourth-generation Nexus will arrive later this year, designed by Google and one of the leading smartphone manufacturers.
This year’s Google I/O conference left us in no doubt that “Nexus” is now a mainstream consumer brand. Sure, Nexus phones and tablets will always be unlockable, and we’ll be able to hack away at them as we always have. But as Google’s focus has moved to its Google Play content ecosystem, Nexus has changed from a range of niche developer devices to a brand which, in the company’s own words, means “the best of Google.”
This makes hardware more important than ever, and given the Nexus brand’s renewed importance to Google, we can’t imagine them leaving the year-old Gnex to fly the Nexus flag against the iPhone 5. So there’ll be a new Nexus, and we think it’ll be differentiated by hardware more than software. Naturally, we’d expect improved internals, build quality, display and camera tech, and Jelly Bean should come into its own on such a flagship Google phone. Incidentally, the next iPhone looks set to follow a similar pattern, with hardware features like a new chassis design and widescreen display likely to turn more heads than any software improvements in iOS 6.
But affordability will also be key, especially if Google intends to continue selling directly to consumers through its Play devices store. And so if earlier rumors of multiple Nexus phones come to pass, it’s possible we may see both entry-level and high-end Nexii at varying price points before the year’s out. Another possibility is that Google may reposition the Galaxy Nexus as a budget offering.
Jelly Bean is a big enough deal
More updates are almost always a good thing, and with Jelly Bean's status as a "point release," it's understandable to see some looking past it to the next major version. But the 4.1 update is of incredible importance to those who care about having a fluid, responsive UI that's on par with the latest devices from Apple, and that alone makes it a big deal. Remember that more than half of active devices remain on Android 2.3 Gingerbread or older versions, then consider how momentous an upgrade to 4.1 would be for them. We'd rather Google gave everyone a chance to catch up and enjoy the buttery goodness of Jelly Bean, even if it means waiting a little longer for a slice of Key Lime Pie.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.
The default of ANYTHING is never going to please everyone, so it makes no point to demand a perfect default color scheme, or camera, or brightness. Get the aps that supply the "defaults" that you want. Maybe be more accepting of skins too. In android, you can have your cake and eat it too.
2. dont like stock? get an app that does.
3. I agree
4. ICS scheme is completely fine, in fact I love this scheme better than any skin i've ever used. I have no problem on my nexus.
5. never had a problem with voice handling.
This way Google can keep the Nexus brand a premier item. If you decide to buy anything except a Nexus you should have the understanding that you will never be truly up to date. If Google can follow this model the Nexus brand will sell better than iPhones. Sorry OEM phone lovers. Its really time to ROOT. From your friend DWR_31, a.k.a. (RootUserKernels)
2) want to find *something* to complain about, so *nothing* is *ever* good enough (we all know these people).
3) lie, because they have an ulterior motive (or because they, themselves, have been fed mis-information but recite it as fact).
- browsing pictures in the gallery
- listening to music while browsing the internet these are tasks many people will perform very often and now think how jelly bean will ramp up the cpu clock speed to more than double of that and you can easily see how this HAS to impact battery life. if i would have to choose between smoothness and battery life i would definitely choose battery life. we are not talking about small margins, but essentially doubling the clockspeed just to please your eyes. i can imagine that the nexus 7 will have a mediocre to poor battery life because Jelly Bean does put tegra 3s one-companion core trick to save battery ad absurdum. Nvidia says the core will be the only active core, when low level tasks are done and by this save energy. since every touch of the screen will ramp up speed this core will only be used when the screen is off and so the effect of this "technology" will be even less effective (you have to consider that tegra3 is already worse in regards to battery life compared to the exynos even with ICS). it's even funny how google again implemented things that are standard on samsungs touchwiz into the new jelly bean version.
In my layman's view it seems like the step up from ICS to JB wouldn't be too difficult for manufacturers?
As Alex stated the internals for the GNEX show that a lot of newer phones can easily utilize it if they have ICS. I'm on the ATT GNote and we still haven't 'officially' received ICS. This makes some speculate that perhaps Samsung will just skip it and modify the ICS build into JB.
Processing power and memory are equivalent to laptops. Only the wrappings need improvement, and battery life is number one, memory number two.
All of that can be done with no new OS upgrade.
CDMA phones will usaully be slower to get official updates over GSM.
GSM phones get third party updates like cyanogenmod first if ever, with the current CDMA/LTE phones on verizon, I'm not seeing any being added to cyanogenmod, which is a pity because I love Verizon LTE. I've had enough of manufacturers bs updates and constant delay's. My next phone will be a nexus, looking forward to the fall/winter nexus hopefully.
And do you mean something like Windows 8?
I'm a Samsung hater now. Nothing's good except hardware. (Especially considering they're getting sued most.)
Agree that it is bit ridiculous that we get next release while Ice Cream is still not on majority of devices. I am all for leading/bleeding edge but...I like ApplePie...wouldn't that be fun....
I will never buy a non Nexus device. when you go Nexus you never go back :-)
Also, I'm worried that putting ICS or JB on older phones will compromise the ability to heavily develop new features going forward, as everything has to be so legacy compatible. I have an original international SGS on GB, and I'm happy if that is where it stays. We should get out of the mindset of buying phones for the upgrades and ignoring what version they are running at release, as in my experience it doesn't matter much what the hardware looks like, or who the manufacturer is, it takes a lot of time (case in point: Razr, Rezound, etc) I hate iOS, but no iPhone buyer ever bought phone and gave a rats ass about when they were getting their upgrade to the next iOS. hell, no iPhone user i've ever met even has a clue what version of iOS they are running. its a different user base, and different eco-system, so the comparison of android (hardware or software) being compared to iPhone or iOS seems like apples and oranges. All that being said, regardless of what we think or write, Google is not going to sit back on its laurels and let Android get stale - they can push development on JB point releases, and work on the next version of Android at the same time, then everybody wins!!1! btw, not to sound like a fanboy, but awesome article Alex, your writing skills are astounding.
If Google handles to manufacturers their latest code and wait 9 months to announce it, each and every manufacturer would have had someone from the inside leaking the new code. That's what always happens. I've had ICS on my SGS2 since january thanks to firmware being leaked from inside Samsung (official ICS has just been released last week).
of neglect from Microsoft & Wn's, putting something in my hand that "just fucking worked" and better than that I new how to use and discover shit without a computer science degree was a breath of fresh air. So unfortunately with android,the talk of rooting and malware on top of a choppy os all I could see we're those years battling wn to do what I needed it to do (rember trying to sync songs to ur moto razr ugh!) And I have to agree about google enforcing the updates it's their os just like ms and wn and apple and X they don't wait for nobody. MS is the better example cuz there software is on other brands devices and they push the updates to wn. Maybe google could force their updates through and if the the oem isn't ready then their "skIn" will have to come in a later update? not really sure how they navigate that mess. Either way I'm pretty die hard apple and google raised my brow so it's a good bet their headed in the right direction And for those worried about Surface COME ON!... U really think Surface and win 8 will work seamlessly together yeah just like my Media Center on PC and Xbox (spotty at best) and have u tried metro on anything other than a touch device like Xbox or kinect it's unintuitive and cumbersome now imagine a mouse and pointer(maybe all Wn pc's will require touchscreens now?). Or most likely Jobs was right you can't really blend the 2 UI's without serious compromise to one or both of the experiences.
1.6 Donut............Sep 15, 2009
2.0/2.1 Eclair.......Oct 26, 2009.......(3 updates in 2009)
2.2 Froyo............May 20, 2010
2.3 Gingerbread......Dec 06, 2010.......(2 updates in 2010)
3.0 Honeycomb........Feb 22, 2011
4.0 ICS..............Oct 19, 2011.......(2 updates in 2011)
4.1 Jelly Bean.......Jun 28, 2012
?.? Key Lime Pie.....???????????? Do you see the pattern and the point of the article now?
We've found that anytime there's a change in Android there's been hate, confusion, envy, a sense of being left out. These decisions need to be taken OUT of the hands of the carriers, and left to the manufacturers, though the both have the same motives for not upgrading. Sales