Google is making another attempt to fix the Android update problem at
the Google I/O conference. The plan is to give smartphone, tablet and
chip manufacturers earlier opportunities to adapt their current and new
hardware to forthcoming Android versions. Google said that it hopes that
this will allow users to receive their updates faster.
To achieve this, Android executive Hugo Barra announced a "Platform
Development Kit" (PDK). Barra said that the kit contains the "required
source code" to allow manufacturers to port a forthcoming Android
version to their hardware. He added that Google will make the PDK
available to its partners two to three months before a new version is
released. The executive didn't mention what criteria Google will use to
select these partners.
Google releases updates on a six-monthly basis. With Android smartphones
sold in 2009 and 2010, it took about nine months before manufacturers
such as Samsung, Motorola and Sony passed on Google's updates to their
As a result, the software on many devices constantly lags behind the
latest version. Take, for instance, the AT&T version of the Samsung
Galaxy S II. It was updated to Android 4.0 just this week, which means
that it will likely only be running the latest Android version for about
two to three weeks, as Google plans to release Android 4.1 in mid-July.
If Google implements its PDK plan as announced, future updates may reach
the users of older devices a few months sooner. Mobile manufacturers
could work on porting a new version to their hardware while Google is
still fine-tuning the details – provided that they plan to update at
all, which hasn't always been the case even with relatively recent
smartphones. According to Motorola, adapting the code to chipsets and
other components is the biggest challenge when developing updates.
The PDK is Google's second attempt to fix the update issue. At the I/O
2011 conference, Google had promised that HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung and
Sony Ericsson devices would provide updates to the current version of
Android for at least 18 months. However, such a promise isn't worth much
if it does not state the speed of updates. When asked by The H's
associates at c't in April 2012, almost none of the manufacturers
involved wanted to comment on the "18 months" plan, not even Google
itself. This is the biggest issue with Android for most users: many
smartphones get very late updates, if they get updates at all.
|_|0|_| Marti T. van Lin, alias ML2MST