Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 18th Jan 2014 20:00 UTC
Google

To be sure, it's no magic solution to the gargantuan task of moving the entire Android ecosystem forward. And the update situation for non-flagship devices remains something of a crapshoot. But it's a start, and a big step in the right direction. And as we move from Jelly Bean into the KitKat era, it's enough to give us some hope for the future of Android updates.

Read on to find out why.

Still Android's biggest weakness. Baby steps are made, but a solution there is not.

Thread beginning with comment 581026
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
BenGildenstein
Member since:
2013-09-20

And again, there's a technical solution that allows for product differentiation whilst streamlining the OS update process.

Reply Parent Score: 2

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

The guys signing business contracts between Google, handset manufacturers and carriers don't care!

Reply Parent Score: 3

Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

The guys signing business contracts between Google, handset manufacturers and carriers don't care!


Exactly. This isn't a technical problem, beyond the support requirements of building and testing new updates for every released phone (although that's not trivial, given that Samsung alone has more phone models than Apple has ever released).

Mostly, it's a political problem, amounting to "they don't care".

Reply Parent Score: 4

BenGildenstein Member since:
2013-09-20

The guys signing business contracts between Google, handset manufacturers and carriers don't care!


Here's the connection that you're failing to make: Google fully controls and stipulates the terms that allow OEMs to use Android with Play services and Google apps. Contrary to what you might think, OEMs and/or carriers are currently not free to do whatever they want to the software if they want to ship Android on their devices with Play services and Google apps (eg. maps, contacts, gmail, etc); devices must meet a software and hardware requirement. The Android Compatibility Program aims to do just that:
http://source.android.com/compatibility/overview.html

Here's a fun quote fromt the first of the Compatibility Program goals:
Provide a consistent application and hardware environment to application developers. Without a strong compatibility standard, devices can vary so greatly that developers must design different versions of their applications for different devices. The compatibility program provides a precise definition of what developers can expect from a compatible device in terms of APIs and capabilities. Developers can use this information to make good design decisions, and be confident that their apps will run well on any compatible device.


Google can amend the terms to require that key portions of the OS remain unmodified (as is already the case with certain parts of the OS), and state that they can be modified at Google's discretion. It wouldn't matter if OEMs and carriers "don't care" about updates as they would have to accept these terms in order to use Android with Play services and Google apps. This is already the case with many aspects of the OS and can also be the case for core libraries and even kernel modules.

The key would be to strike a balance that allows OEMs/carriers to differentiate their devices (can be solved technically) and keep users from holding onto their smartphones for 5 years and thus foster a healthy sales environment (solved through planned obsolescence or a update support cut-off).

In short:
1)Google makes the UI skinnable and offer OEM/carrier differentiation for other aspects of the OS.
2)Google requires that core libraries (eg. UI) are unmodifiable and subject to OTA updates in the terms that allow use of Android with Google Play and apps. Google is thus free to push updates.
3)Fallbacks are devised and implemented to ensure that updates never permanently break a users system.
4)Google pushes updates in a way that doesn't alienate OEMs/carriers.

Please let me know which part of this is impossible or unrealistic.

Reply Parent Score: 2