back to article Want the latest Android version? Good luck with that

The latest stats from Google show that Android "Jelly Bean" continues to gain ground as the most popular version of the platform, but the very latest releases of Google's smartphone OS continue to face slow adoption. Jelly Bean is a bit unusual as Android codenames go, because Android versions 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3 all bear that …

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Does it matter?

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/09/balky-carriers-and-slow-oems-step-aside-google-is-defragging-android/

"Google's strategy is clear. Play Services has system-level powers, but it's updatable. It's part of the Google apps package, so it's not open source. OEMs are not allowed to modify it, making it completely under Google's control. Play Services basically acts as a shim between the normal apps and the installed Android OS.

"Nearly everything that can be moved out of the main OS has been. The only features left that would require an OS update are things like hardware support, Application Frameworks APIs, and Apps that require a certain level of security or access (like the lock screen, Phone, and Settings apps).

"This is how you beat software fragmentation. When you can update just about anything without having to push out a new Android version, you have fewer and fewer reasons to bother calling up Samsung and begging them to work on a new update. When the new version of Android brings nothing other than low-level future-proofing, users stop caring about the update."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does it matter?

Yes it does, but it shows the disrespect the makers have for their customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does it matter?

Kind of scary that all the functionality is being put into one mandatory super app that has scary privileges. Android shouldn't be considered open source any more.

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Re: Does it matter?

How does this affect the extra layer OEMs put on Android like TouchWiz? Would these updates wipe that out and leave them stock, or sit above or below it? Or run the risk of bricking the phone if Google or the OEM screwed up?

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Re: Does it matter?

@Dave 126 - "Nearly everything that can be moved out of the main OS has been. The only features left that would require an OS update are things like hardware support, Application Frameworks APIs, and Apps that require a certain level of security or access"

=====================

I can tell you it doesn't matter one bit to me. I've got devices with everything from Gingerbread to Jellybean and everything in between, and I get nearly all of my functionality from the apps rather than from the version of Android. Frankly, I usually don't notice the difference at all.

Since switching to Firefox Aurora on all those devices rather than Chrome for Android, I've found I've got a much more in-sync Android environment across all devices.

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Re: Does it matter?

No, it shows the disrespect the CARRIERS have for their customers. When I had my Verizon Xoom, I got no updates, despite it being a "Google experience" device. Ditto for my Droid phone.

Since I've bought my Nexus 4 from Google Play, I've had no fewer than 4 OS updates.

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Re: Does it matter?

"Yes it does, but it shows the disrespect the makers have for their customers."

The problem is that the telco is the customer, and the telco don't care about a phone they stopped selling last week. It's standard for them and not related to android. I had to hack my old Razr V3 to install updated factory code as it came with 1.0 software and the telco never offered an update.

That's why I bought a Nexus 4 direct from Google, piss on the phone company.

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@Dave 126 You beat me to it.

I was just about to post that link! It is indeed a very interesting pont. It is clear that Mountain View have decided that if the OEMs and the carriers will not work with them as far as this is oncerned then Google has to work round them. The more obvious this becomes the less the producers and the carriers are going to like it given that they all have an interest in not allowing as many upgrades as the given device would support. I wonder if any of them are considering "doing. an Amazon" forking the OS and going it alone?

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Re: @Dave 126 You beat me to it.

Just to take the point a little further. I believe that (given the brand recognition that they now have) the only thing that is holding Samsung back from forking Android and going its own way is the issue of setting up their own independent ecosystem as far as apps are concerned.

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Re: @Dave 126 You beat me to it.

I'm not sure it is carrier specific.

Clearly the carriers are worse the manufacturers, but I have never had a carrier branded Android phone, and updates are still months or years behind Googles.

The problem is that carriers then either won't roll out the manufacturer update when it does, eventually, come.

Having owned an iPhone, WP8 and a couple of Androids from different manufacturers I would say that the iPhone and WP8 are updated most often (I've had a few updates for the WP8 in a couple of months and the iPhone was updated for about 3 or 4 years before Apple stopped support (midway through an OS version I have to say, and the last update it had stopped it working, with the bug fix to the introduced bugs not being released for it, making it an ornament...)

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Re: @Dave 126 You beat me to it.

"the only thing that is holding Samsung back from forking Android"

Samsung may well go its own way with Tizen. Or not. We shall see.

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MrT
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"independent ecosystem"...

Samsung are not far off - their Hub is quite slick and they have an app store already. There are a few issues with it though - their version control is a bit patchy, and some apps are almost impossible to update, such as Photo Editor on an SGS2 - I keep seeing an error when trying to update this built-in app on my wife's phone.

It seems like a good effort but not yet ready to replace Play. It's also not consistent across current handsets - GS3/Note 2 seems to be the cut-off there, at least from what I see on various models from friends and colleagues.

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Re: Does it matter?

"Yes it does, but it shows the disrespect the makers have for their customers."

Initially I though the same, but now I'm less sure. There is a tiny bit of this, but I suspect that it is more that hardware makers don't really understand software, and users expectations of software. In the world of hardware,you make it you sell it, and you fix or replace a few under warranty until the last warranty expires,and then you wash your hands of it (certainly the model in consumer electronics - things differ in long life white goods, for example because there's a support and spares market for a decade or more).

The other thing to bear in mind is that mobile hardware has evolved so fast that a mid to low end handset from a couple of years ago may simply be incompatible or too sluggish running the latest version. Is the user really helped by an upgrade that gives new features but makes the whole phone really sluggish?

I'm pleased Google appear to be sidestepping the whole pantomime of waiting for device makers and telcos to get their act together.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does it matter?

I note that the latest realises from the NSAs newest publicist tell us that Blackberry, Android and iPhone are all easily hacked by the NSA. It seems that Windows Phone for the short term at least is the only secure option...

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Re: @Dave 126 You beat me to it.

You mean like Samsung Apps that already comes with Samsung phones

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Re: Does it matter?

Uh, exactly the opposite. The manufacturers/carriers do not want to push out new updates because it will disrupt the user experience on their devices. The hardware was built for one piece of software. Running another on it isn't really a good idea.

I don't really get all this emphasis on "fragmentation" and why it is a problem. If you have a 486 Packard Bell computer that is still plugging along, it isn't a problem that it isn't running Windows 8. The phones that are using Android 2.1 or 2.2 are utter shit that would break if forced to run 4.3. If you don't like that or don't understand that, then technology is the wrong industry for you.

But the apps! They won't work!

I don't expect Office 2010 to run on Windows 95, and you shouldn't either. When software stops working on your device, it means you need a new device.

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Re: @Dave 126 You beat me to it.

Agreed. I'm afraid of if/when Samsung tries that. I hate their app stuff on SmartHub for my TV. Every app dials home to the Samsung server before running. If the server is down, no app for you.

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Anonymous Coward

Last I checked, there's no telling how long before Kitkat comes out, at any rate Dave_126 is right in that Play Services is going to carry the vast majority of features in the future.

Also - last I checked, Honeycomb also had multiple point releases with the same codename - 3.0, 3.1 and 3.2. Let's face it - 4.2 and 4.3 aren't exactly major updates either. though I suspect they were numbered such to encourage adoption of the latest version. 4.2 is likely more desirable to everyone than 4.1.3

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Anonymous Coward

"Want the latest Android version? Good luck with that"

In the Chinese culture, 4 is an unlucky number, so 4.4 will be really unlucky.

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Megaphone

Oh for those quaint old days where mobile manufacturers would carefully tip-toe around other cultures and avoid software version 4 or model numbers with the number 4 in.

Now MS, Apple, and Google are in charge. You get version 4, and if you're lucky it'll even get the timezones right too.

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It sounds like

Dead. Or in the case of Kitkat, perhaps something along the lines of a decaying silt dead where corpses are fed upon by the tiny flecks of life in the murk of ultra-fine particles hanging in the water column creating a thick obsidian haze in a slow decent inhibited only by Brownian motion or more literally 'dead sediment dead' but that isn't very dramatic.

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Insightful

... is what I'd mod you if we were in Slashdot.

Though let's continue: 8 is the lucky number in Chinese tradition. It sounds like 'prosperity'.

Tell this to Mr. Ballmer. He might rejoice.

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Re: It sounds like@Eddy Ito

I nominate you for the Reg commentard's James Joyce of the week award.

The prose was lovely,I just didn't understand what your point was.

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Re: It sounds like@Eddy Ito

The point is that 4 is an unlucky number because in Mandarin Chinese it is pronounced 'si4' (fourth tone) which differs only in tone from the word for dead or death, which is pronounced 'si3' (third tone). Likewise, four point four is pronounced si4 dian3 si4 and my attempt at humor "dead sediment dead" would be pronounced si3 dian4 si3.

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FAIL

Windows Mobile was worse!

As bad as Android is for dragging its heels for updates Microsoft's now defunct Windows Mobile was much worse. The best thing to do was to forget it! Updates were like hens teeth unless you wanted to seek out an unofficial ROM which could be troublesome. Microsoft have learned from the experience with Windows Phone.

Still on the bright side at least Apple has managed to get updates right.

Google need to be a lot firmer with operators and manufacturers.

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Re: Windows Mobile was worse!

>Google need to be a lot firmer with operators and manufacturers.

Google don't need to get firmer because they have introduced a cunning workaround. Basically, Google have moved much of what Android does into a piece of software that is updated through the Play Store, and so doesn't involve the carriers in any way.

Have a look at the linked article in the first post.

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Re: Windows Mobile was worse!

I wonder why google did not do this before, my N900 used to get OS updates through the application manager(front end for apt-get etc.). Even though it isnt as fancy as the play store it did allow you to install any package through it. Surely they must have seen the writing on the wall?

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Re: Windows Mobile was worse!

Can't Google release an installer for Android that will install it on any compatible hardware much like Windows (or Linux / Free BSD etc) does on PCs, then they can release updates with out the manufacturer having to do anything?

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Forced vendor waits, aimed at forcing customers' hardware updates?

Forced vendor waits, aimed at forcing customers' hardware updates?

Seems like it to me.

My tab's Android version: 3.2

Kernel: 2.6.36.3

Se.infra@SEP-40#1

Samsung surely can do better, considering I bought this thing in July of 2012.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Forced vendor waits, aimed at forcing customers' hardware updates?

Which honeycomb tab is it, Samsung have been releasing lots of jellybean 4.1.2 updates for their 2012 kit this summer on Samsung Kies android updater and Over-the-air.

e.g. Galaxy Tab 7.7 P6800 Receives Official Android 4.1.2

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Angel

Use Play Store, don't use Unknown Sources

Still lots of fear about this - you don't need to be on Android 4.3 to be safe:

- If you only install from the official Google Play Store, you're fine - Google can scan their store server-side.

- If you don't install any apps, you're fine.

- Stay clear from Allow Install from Unknown Sources, which by default isn't enabled anyway.

- Vulnerability that trojans are installing via is a phone-side weakness, which is only a problem if the app source you're using (pirate app store, spam email or mms containing installer) isn't vetting the apps before they reach your phone.

Re: stuck on Gingerbread are budget 512mb ram and/or 320x240 screens, they just don't have the grunt needed for the newer Android releases.

Lowest spec owned by my family members is a Galaxy Ace 2 and that's on an official Jellybean 4.1.2 now.

My almost 2 year old midrange Galaxy Nexus is running 4.3 like a pro.

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Re: Use Play Store, don't use Unknown Sources

Not true - Malware has also been previously found in the Google Play Store apps....

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Re: Use Play Store, don't use Unknown Sources

... and there are plenty of legitimate 3rd party stores like Amazon or f-droid.

The flaw in the design is in Android which only allows Play or everything when the design should be any app downloaded from any of the installed app stores or everything. But Google's interest in fixing this is low, that might change the perception that Play is good and everything else could be dodgy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use Play Store, don't use Unknown Sources

Except, if you have an older phone, you won't be able to connect it to the Play store and be forced to install apps that are from another source on a phone that has an outdated OS.

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Anonymous Coward

MTP vs UMS

I heard that as of 4.1 Jellybean, Google did away with USB mass storage as the method of accessing files stored on the phone and replaced it with MTP. You know what, I'm happy with my 4.04 thanks.

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Actually, I wonder if Microsoft's trolling over FAT had anything to do with the move away from USB mass storage/SD card support in newer releases?

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Google actually set MTP as default as of 3.x (Honeycomb). Others have adopted MTP at different releases, however. For instance, CyanogenMod didn't change over until 10.0 (Android 4.1, Jelly Bean Ⅰ).

If your phone itself supports Mass Storage mode and is rooted, you should still be able to set 4.1 or higher to act as a USB Mass Storage device through the terminal. At least, you still can in CyanogenMod 10.0 and 10.1. (Mileage may vary. You and only you are responsible for whatever you do to your phone. No guarantees!)

PS: I really wish I could edit a post without withdrawing it and re-posting. I never used any Honeycomb devices, so my first encounter with MTP on Android was in 4.0. Further research on the matter tells me it actually showed up in 3.x though - not quite sure whether it was 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2.

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Bah! Apparently CyanogenMod 10.1 stable did get rid of mass storage mode as well! It worked in the milestone build I was using but not on stable when I just attempted to re-apply it. I guess Google probably did in fact remove it from Jelly Bean.

As to why Google switched from mass storage to MTP, I found this article on reddit with a response from an Android dev: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/mg14z/whoa_whoa_ics_doesnt_support_usb_mass_storage/

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Some Sony Xperia phones give you the option to connect as Mass Storage Class, since Google did away with it.

Just what is the world coming to when a Sony device connects to a computer more easily than its rivals, and without any special software? It must be the end of days...

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Cheers Jordan, that's a good link!

"However the cost [ of a unified storage model] is that Android can no longer ever yield up the storage for the host PC to molest directly over USB. Instead we use MTP. On Windows (which the majority of users use), it has built-in MTP support in Explorer that makes it look exactly like a disk."

The annoying thing is that MTP support in Windows Explorer might look like a disk, but doesn't behave like a disk. Example: Explorer doesn't present an 'Open with...' option in the context menu for files on a MTP device. So, even if you normally have .JPGs associated with Picasa Photo Viewer or IrfanView, Explorer will open pictures on your phone with Windows Photo Viewer (urgh).

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Well, as I understand it, one BIG reason for the switch to MTP is the fact that MSD require DISMOUNTING the device on Android so the other OS can mount it (it's a limitation of the spec's definition because USB assumes a master-slave relationship--multiple masters breaks the spec). Since many more apps are calling up the MSD, even in the background, this can be potentially destabilizing. MTP at least has the benefit of being usable on a live-mounted system.

That said, Google realized this isn't perfect. They've been trying to extend the spec to account for this, but I think they would appreciate a different specification to be adopted by the general computing world. It's just that no such alternative is forthcoming.

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Re: MTP vs UMS

Well, as I understand it, one BIG reason for the switch to MTP is the fact that MSD require DISMOUNTING the device on Android so the other OS can mount it (it's a limitation of the spec's definition because USB assumes a master-slave relationship--multiple masters breaks the spec).

Not just that, but also the FAT filesystem driver on Android will probably do strange things when something (namely the OS at the other end of the USB cable) modifies the partition's data behind its back. Likewise the other OS will misbehave too.

The only way around that is to use a file system that can handle concurrent access from multiple instances. That is the likes of OCFS, GFS2, etc. Given Microsoft's allergy to EXT3, I don't see them supporting GFS2 anytime soon, and I think most people would balk at having to use a clustered file system just to have simultaneous access to files on a SD card from a desktop computer and the phone it's installed in.

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Re: I really wish I could edit a post without withdrawing it and re-posting.

Just get 2000 commentards to upvote you and you can edit for 10 minutes after posting. Have one from me. Only 1999 to go...

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Re: MTP vs UMS

They did a 180 after the debacle wityh the X10. I know, I had one and was pushing a campaign to populate discussions forums with simple accounts of how Sony was not updating its past phones, so why would anyone choose to buy their current ones. For about six months, I couldn't find any mainstream reviews that didn't have one or more conspicuous such comments.

I'd like to think that forced Sony to face a truth they were trying to deny. Soon after, they went from threatening modders to actually sharing code with them -- and they lightened and de-integrated their propritary UI.

Sony has been one of the best (non-Nexus) developers now for a couple of years now. I wish they made an Xperia Note.

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Anonymous Coward

google play

If this post was about Apple, there would be hordes of Fandroids crying 'walled garden'.

Before you downvote this post into hell, just stop and think for a moment and ask yourself this question

"Could this be the first part of Google's very own walled garden?"

One of the advantages of Android is the ability to tinker with it. Now the Chocolate Factory seem hell bent on removing that. erg, Walled Garden.

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Boffin

Re: google play

Yes, it's a walled garden, always has been, but one with plenty of gates to allow users to leave should they want, and tinker as much as they please. That's good.

GJC

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Re: google play

"Could this be the first part of Google's very own walled garden?"

Of course - but Google Play doesn't have a very high wall. It is easy to install things from outside Google Play.

However, that isn't really the problem that the article describes. Whereas Apple do provide O/S updates to users, Google does not. It is all left in the hands of the device manufacturers and cellular network carriers, who typically don't care about devices they sold last year.

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Anonymous Coward

KitKat?

Is this a commercial tie-in or a furture litigation on the horizon? Perhaps they intend to take a break from OS making for a while.

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