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back to article Ice Cream Sandwich still a no-show for most Android users

Google's unofficial codename for Android 4.0 is "Ice Cream Sandwich" (ICS), but it may as well have called it Godot, as the latest market figures yet again demonstrate. According to the most recent Android Developer Dashboard numbers, which were compiled by polling Android devices during the two weeks leading up to August 1, ICS …

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Anonymous Coward

Skin/ui customization

Google should have provided an API which would ease manufacturers and networks customization needs.

This should have been done at 2.x early times.

While technical purists love pure Android, in real world, customization by manufacturer is a must in current scene.

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Re: Skin/ui customization

Anybody who likes a phone not laden down with crapware would probably go for a "pure" Android over some awful manufacturer-buggered version.

Problem is, most people don't know what that means until you stick the two side by side for a performance and bloat comparison. Leaner? Meaner? I'll have that one, please.

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Anonymous Coward

This

Pretty much says everything regarding android updates, which is increasingly frustrating for many users.

The excuse is always that the hardware won't cope with the operating system on phones that are barely a year old. Yet Apple manage to update their OS for phones over 3 years old.

I question whether this is a way by manufacturers to boost sales of 'new phones' by denying the updates and deliberately but artificially make them obsolete to boost their profits.

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The moral of the story

Dont buy a phone that has a promise of an update, only buy them with the update.

Sales would drop but it would send a message to carriers and manufacturers of the Android phones that the buying public wont put up with the delays. They might then learn a lesson.

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Re: Skin/ui customization

I can agree with this. Wanted a cheap mobe with a big screen (bad eyesight, at the time no job) so I got the Orange Monte Carlo.

Great phone for the most part, aside from the lack of memory and the orange crapware installed for every google item (maps, shop, etc) there's an orange version. I can't uninstal this crap either so its just wasting what little memory I have on my phone.

My plan? Root it, install a custom rom for ICS and delete all that shit.

From what I've read, despite the MonteCarlo / (ZTE Skate)'s low spec hardware, ICS gives a pretty good performance boost.

Honestly I think a lot of the missing upgrades aren't down to google, but the manufacturer. Why upgrade the OS? They aren't making money out of it, they sold a 2.3 device, if you upgrade to 4.0 then that just means you're less inclined to go out and splurge on a new 4.0 phone with them at the present time.

Hence why I'm going for the root / custom ROM route, and when my contract runs out I'll be waiting until the newest Android OS comes out before I buy. Probably the Samsung Galaxy SV

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This

It's nothing to do with if the hardware is capable, it is because a phone maker would have to build the new release, create documentation, add all their customisations, QA test it, release it and then support it once bugs or problems are found.

All of the above costs money to do and it's actually losing them money since they don't make any money on the software. They want you to buy another phone which is what they profit from.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Skin/ui customization

Do it, i've got the San Fransico (blade) and ICS works fine on that, apart from youtube.It is quicker, I think it eats the battery life a bit more though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The moral of the story

The moral of the story is, if you give a shit -- and the vast majority of people don't care at all -- then root it and install it yourself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This

Apple have limited hardware variants to support, so relatively easy software support wise, compared to the myriad of Android platforms out there.

Same as Mac vs PC.

We're mainly techs reading this & many give a damn, however my friends and family don't know or care what OS or version their mobe is running.

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Re: Skin/ui customization

Spot on about the money. I think Google should share some store revenue with the ROM maker or vendor, perhaps only while it is a current version. This would give manufacturers the incentive to keep old devices updated rather than let people turn to 3rd party ROMS.

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Re: Skin/ui customization

Proprietary driver code is the real problem. I've got a Monte Carlo too, running Gingerbread still to get the video working properly. I've got Jellybean on my old Blade/San Francisco because I don't use that for anything video intensive.

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Meh

Re: Skin/ui customization

Jelly Bean is slick and seems to have improved battery life too ... I've had it installed on a Nexus S for a week now.

The rest of you poor slobs need to buy a new phone - the carriers have no interest in updating anything that doesn't force you to extend your contract - if they don't upgrade your phone then you'll eventually buy a new one with another two year contract just to get the update.

Suckers.

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Re: The moral of the story

I agree with you in principle. However, I'm not sure how the 'average' person like me could put this into practice. You're talking about opting for a higher spec phone (more RAM, CPU cores, etc), but these cost more money which isn't available to the likes of me :-(

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Re: This

.... and then there is the "per network operator" marketing/branding plus sub-development-through-deployment for each network operator's (*cough*) value-add ins...

All that eats time and money, too...

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Meh

Re: This

>>The excuse is always that the hardware won't cope with the operating system on phones that are barely a year old. Yet Apple manage to update their OS for phones over 3 years old.

That's not entirely accurate (or at least misleading) the iPhone 3GS is just over 3 years old and while iOS 6 will install on it, the big ticket features aren't supported (not forgetting that similar gen, higher spec'd iPads won't get the update), the same is true for the iPhone 4, again iOS 6 will install but only partial support, you need an iPhone 4S to get full support of iOS 6.

The same is true for other manufacturers, almost all Sony Xperias get ICS, but not the Play, despite it actually built with higher spec hardware, you can install it and it will run happily, however the Sony apps (specifically the Playstation ones, i.e. the raison d'être of the phone) don't perform as well so Sony don't certify it.

Apple isn't really any different from any other manufacturer, apart from they have sold a lot, and it's worth their investment to update the OS for older phones, after all old phones are an advert for new phones (which does beg the question, why not update the iPads? - so perhaps they are in fact *worse* when you look at the big picture)

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FAIL

It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

My Verizon Xoom 4G edition was delayed a year and a half getting ICS from the wi-fi version. They're identical hardware other than the added cell radio. Are you telling me it takes a year to write/test cell drivers?

I hear the Xoom w-if already has Jelly Bean. Any guesses how long before I see that from Verizon? If at all? I am not holding my breath.

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Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

Don't buy carrier-branded phones. Manufacturer-branded sure, but not carrier.

My Samsung GS2, for instance, was bought from dial-a-phone on a T-Mobile contract but doesn't have any T-Mobile bloat and can be updated via Kies.

...not that Kies isn't a piece of crap, but at least I don't have to wait for T-Mobile to 'approve' any updates.

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Boffin

Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

Erm, don't buy manufacturer-branded [1] phones either. Their evil is a layer deeper than carriers'.

[1] With a single exception - Google/Nexus.

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FAIL

Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

Wrong. If you buy manufafturer-branded phones, you (in general) get the updates earlier. Carrier-branded updates will take longer and not only will it come with the manufacturer branding and crud, it'll ALSO come with the carrier branding and crud!

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Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

So no operator branded phones or manufacturer branded phones? Doesn't leave much choice does it?

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Anonymous Coward

Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

ICS rolled out in US, JB already started in US too.

EU ICS variant still in development according to their Android support page.

Now Google own Moto, hoped development would be quicker.

Come on Moto!

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Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

Google "Gedify".

It's a simple process to turn your UK Xoom into a Google Experience Device. Took my UK Xoom through ICS and then directly on to Jelly Bean with no issues. Very worthwhile, Jelly Bean really (and I mean REALLY) improves the Xoom.

(no link to the software authour, just a happy user)

"ICS rolled out in US, JB already started in US too.

EU ICS variant still in development according to their Android support page.

Now Google own Moto, hoped development would be quicker.

Come on Moto!"

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Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

What he said.

I clung on for a few months like a smitten teenager hoping Motorola would lavish ICS upon me but in the end I saw the reality of it. 7 months since the US Wi-Fi only Xoom got ICS and yet we still wait for it here in the UK? F-off Motorola.

GEDify your Xoom. It's definitely worth it and once, or maybe if, Moto UK get round to rolling out ICS in the UK then you can flash back to UK ICS if you fancy. Hell, they might even jump ICS and roll out Jellybean instead, but that might be the caffeine talking. The difference in performance of the same hardware running 4.0/4.1 compared to 3.2 is frankly unacceptable in the fact that I fail to take in how much positive difference the OS upgrade makes to the same physical piece of kit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

I've been holding out for Moto ICS, as I want to keep the useful Moto addons (e.g.Office).

I don't run Windoze, so will have to borrow time on friend's machine to mod.

Other than that, Gedify looks good.

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Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

I do all my android flashing from within linux, you just need the android sdk for linux

(I am assuming you run linux and not windows)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting - now available! :-)

Did my daily check for updates last night, and the ICS update was there (96Mb or there abouts).

Install didn't take long (5-10 mins).

Had to update Adobe Flash Player afterwards (old version not work in newer Google browser).

Flash video such as iPlayer etc. now much more detailed with fewer blocky artefacts appearing.

Roll on Jelly Bean ;-)

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Unhappy

Oh I do miss Apple at times...

My ragtag experience since my Android switch has been as follows...

Motorola Atrix, Gingerbread released on its US phones, 'reaches' UK phones some 6 months later. My son has it now, waiting for ICS.... Turns out the unique selling point for their new phones is that they are on ICS...

Wife's HTC Sensation XE, came with ICS, which obviously meant that everyone else could see the improvements they weren't getting any-time soon.

Yes that included me on my Sony Xperia S, my first one had Gingerbread and the yellowed-out screen problem, they sent me a replacement after waiting a few weeks for spare parts that were 'delayed'. Even though ICS was now available for it in Europe, the replacement was still on Gingerbread. Eventually I saw my IMEI number turn up on their update website, but my 'phone is up to date' claimed the phone, the website, and the PC update software.

So I downloaded a European copy of ICS for it and promptly flashed the phone with a config file! Fortunately it was not bricked, flashed it properly and it worked. Only annoying thing being that a so called full 'backup' program didn't quite work as it should have so I lost some save games.

Then there's the sole iPhone user in the house, who will just plug in, backup, update and restore when the iOS version is released. Or just do it over wif-fi. Bliss.

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Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Lucky iPhone user, my iPad 1, bought slightly over a year ago, won't be getting any upgrades ever.

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Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

See, the iPhone is Apples hardware, they write the software for it which means they get the updates out as soon as they are baked.

Nexus phones are Googles hardware, they launch them every 12 months or so, like Apple, and they get the updates as soon as they are available.

All other Android phone makers hardware is their own, they take Googles software and make it their own, like a Linux distro. It uses the same core code, but they alter it and write their own drivers.

You made this choice when you picked a Sony or Moto phone, you trusted that manufacturer to keep you up to date. Truth is, they never promised to roll any updates onto your phone, your phone works as advertised when you bought it, they are under no obligation.

If you buy a Nexus phone Google promise prompt updates for at least 2 years, probably longer, but 2 years minimum. Seamless OTA updates that finish in minutes, don't even need to use Wifi.

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Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

I wonder if you're not upgrading for the same reason as me.

I have an iPad 1, and theoretically it'll run the latest 5.1 branch of iOS but there is no way I'm upgrading even if Apple are pushing it out: while the hardware will support this version, the RAM limit in the iPad 1 means that things like Safari often run out of memory and close.

10 out of 10 to Apple getting new versions of operating systems out to their devices promptly, and for supporting older hardware, but minus several points for the fact the newer version of the OS doesn't work as well as the previous one in terms of things like memory economy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Nexus is pitched as a developers handset though. So obviously it will get lots of updates as developers need to do a lot of testing.

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Meh

Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Not True...

On the box for the Xperia S was the sticker for 'Upgradabe to ICS!' It was promised, and came (and did a great job of improving the phone too) - it just took too long.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Apple have limited hardware variants to support, so relatively easy software support wise, compared to the myriad of Android platforms out there.

Same as Mac vs PC.

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Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Titanium Backup - problem solved.

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Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

Its pitched as a reference device, or a Google Experience Device. It just means all the software updates come direct from Google. Nexus devices use the same update model as iOS, or as close as is possible in the Android ecosystem.

I think a lot of people don't really understand how software and updates work on Android, if you buy a phone 'based' on Gingerbread. That doesn't make it a Gingerbread device, the manufacturer has likely removed features, added their own, ripped out the skin and replaced it.

When Google release the next version, the manufacturer can choose to take parts of that new code, features, bug fixes etc and try and roll them into their own version. It doesn't mean they take Googles version and start again with their modifications.

In ICS Google tried to limit what manufacturers could alter, by making them sign agreements, to try and limit the effect of fragmentation and make Android easier to develop for. But a lot of people are stuck on Gingerbread devices just because it is almost impossible for a manufacturer to update without a lot of effort they won't be rewarded for.

In short, if you care about having the latest and greatest from Google itself, you really should get a Nexus device.

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Anonymous Coward

Some HTC users are rather annoyed after they decided not to go ahead with the previously announced ICS update for the Desire HD. Users (including myself) have been waiting for it since march, when they said we'd get it in July/August, then week or so ago they changed their mind. According to information posted on the petition that was started (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/give-us-ics/) it's due to the storage partition sizes, but I would certainly be interested in a 'factory reset' ICS update for mine.

Then again, I suspect that the major cause of the 'gingerbread problem' is honeycomb, a lot of devices are stuck at 2.3 because there wasn't anything to update to for the lifetime of 3.x.

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My unbranded HTC Sensation got the ICS update and is now a buggy shadow for its former self. Beware what you wish for.

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Unhappy

@ LarsG

My unbranded/SIM Free HTC Sensation worked lovely when I got the main update to ICS 4.0 (Android 4.0.3 HTC build 3.32.401.5). That was back in Feb I think, and it was a noticeable improvement over 2.3.4 which it had when I got it.

Then HTC pushed out a 60Mb "bug fix" update about a month ago - apparently this was to fix problems in the Radio firmware and other sundries. This kept Android 4.0.3 but updated the build to 3.33.401.6 and my handset was a buggy mess after that. Smooth and responsive became laggy with flickery screen transitions. HTC told me to clear the Cache partition. When that caused a whole bunch of other bigger problems (which thankfully have settled down now) I got the standard HTC support response "Do a factory reset" [because we haven't a clue WTF is wrong].

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Tell me about it. Got the HTC Desire HD on the year dot (1 month after release). It's from Carphone Warehouse so devoid of all carrier nonsense.

Barely 1 1/2 years later, I'm being told that it's not getting the 2nd-latest Android available, so literally a year after the device is released, there is a release of a OS that it's incompatible with. This might be OK anyway, but the problem is there are apps coming (and some out now, like Chrome) that REQUIRES 4.x+. So I'm suffering the same problem as my 2nd-gen iPod Touch which is stuck on 4.2 - and that lasted 2 1/2 years till the release of an incompatible iOS version!

So why do these manufacturers spec phones without future-proofing it enough?

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And I'd just like to add that it's all this nonsense that is causing me to rethink getting an HTC One X when my contract is up in November - it's already been out for months and my worry is that it'll be replaced by another phone that HTC have specced up (like the HTC Desire HD - replaced by the Sensation) straight away and subsequently the One X is deemed unfit to receive Android 5.0.

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Re: @ LarsG

I thought my Sensation was really slow after the 2nd ICS update but recently found a really simple fix.

Try disabling 'fast boot' (Settings > Power > Fast Boot) and reboot.

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Android is a ghetto

Why would anyone want go develop for android? It has serious fragmentation and according to a news article on the BBC today, it's making devs less money than even RIM or Nokia and is nowhere near iPhone.

It just isn't attractive as a platform. Google needs to do something about that.

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Re: Android is a ghetto

The "fragmentation" is not a problem because they designed the platform to allow multiple versions and hardware configurations. Design it properly and your app will work on a huge range of devices. Convert an ios app and you'll fail.

That BBC story was from 9th May. The sales figures have improved since then, and those don't include the Amazon store. Freemium and Free With Ads are popular models on Android, so the ad revenue should not be ignored. I suspect the main reason the sales are low is because there are so many developers offering free apps. With no fragmentation issue, it's easy for people to develop so whenever you need to get something done, there's a free app that will just work.

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Re: Android is a ghetto

Except it isn't just Android, most devs, especially those doing games, aren't making much money on any platform and the reason is the thousands of similar apps and wading through the pit that is the app stores. Sure you can catch fish in the same hole with a million other Apple and Android hooks in the water but it might be easier going to have a small pond practically all to yourself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Android is a ghetto

Except Microsoft does the same with Windows, but that assumes everyone plays by the rules.

Guy a work starts Android game on his Galaxy 3. Ooops, no sound. So this strategy to cope with multiple hardware/software versions obviously works.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Android is a ghetto

>> Galaxy 3

What's that?

Everything that I had on my Moto Atrix (GB) works on my Galaxy SIII (ICS), only faster and smoother.

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Linux

Re: Android is a ghetto

People develop for Android because it's the largest smartphone platform.

Fragmentation is only an issue for developers needing features available on revision 3.X or 4.X not present on revision 2.X. If they target revision 2 their app works on 2, 3 and 4. As to end user concerns about not having the latest and greatest OS upgrade, that can be similar to the idea of trying to run Vista on hardware designed for XP. If you're the kind of person who upgrades your OS every 6 months, you can try it if you want to, but you will often get a bad experience until you've upgraded your hardware to suit the software. All I can suggest to those who want their phone to support upgrades not yet available from the vendor is to get a rootable phone which can handle CyanogenMod and then some.

Which leads to the one serious criticism I do have of Google's Android development model, which is the closed source internal development then throw it over the wall approach so it then becomes open source instead of developing it in public in the same manner as the Linux kernel. The over the wall approach disconnects the interests of those who really do want to do their own phone modding and hacking (e.g. the CyanogenMod community) from mainstream developers working within Google, and it doesn't result in as high quality software as a more fully open source development approach allowing more interested eyeballs to find more bugs and contribute to stronger features earlier in the software pipeline.

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Re: Android is a ghetto

What Pylets said. But it should be pointed out that you don't have to use ONLY 2.x APIs if you want to sell to 2.x devices. You can use 4.x APIs and make that functionality available only to 4.x devices. It's like developing a website for multiple generations of browsers with various screen sizes. El Reg is an exception, buy many websites function nicely across devices, as do many Android apps.

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Re: Android is a ghetto

According to the Apple-loving BBC you mean.

The reason it's harder to make money, is there's plenty of free stuff there. That's *good* for consumers. Sure, on Apple you can get away with charging loads for a sat nav software, when Android and Nokia get it for free. Why is that a plus for Apple users, exactly?

For whatever reasons, there are plenty of Android developers writing software for free or low cost. If that pushes down the ability to make a profit, then great. That's what you get with a mature popular OS, that's well supported by developers.

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