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back to article Google to banish mobe-makers using old Androids: report

Google is reportedly embarking on a quixotic quest to unify the versions of Android circulating in the wild, by trying to bar access to Google Play if a device ships with a too-old revision. Android Police is claiming to have received a copy of a Google memo, stating that Google Mobile Services certification will no longer be …

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Different versions serve different devices

If the program is just as the Register describes, then Google is missing what I as the technically inclined user desires, that being,

1) The latest point updates for security and performance. This is only addressing major point releases. I started using Android mods because they fixed security holes and I've helped some friends who cared do so too. I'd like to see manufactures required to provide security updates in a timely manner for 2 years after the last phone is sold as new.

2) The 2.3.x branch is great for low performance devices and there is a large body of software for 2.3.x I feel like I'd be better off running 2.3 than something more current on a low end phone. I know new versions of Android should use less resources, but there's a lot to be said for that existing body of software targeted at right around those specs.

So am I wrong on 2) here? Is the current version of Android so much superior that it would be superior on low end hardware?

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Re: Different versions serve different devices

It is true that each version of Android has gradually gotten better in the Battery life department - and I am referring to the same devices across successive Android versions. 4.4 features a low memory mode (that developers need to take advantage of) which essentially allows developers to query whether the device has oodles of memory or hardly any and then turn off more memory hungry features as appropriate. It's worth noting before people wander in saying how they are sick of Google trying to run the world etc etc - that the document only formally clarifies what has basically always been the unwritten situation.

When this story first broke though, some of us were wondering what the point of it was - the companies that peddle low-end Android phones running ridiculously outdated versions, are also the ones that generally put GMS on without licensing it.....

Still the assurance that Google will do more with Platform Development Kit to allow manufacturers more time to work with the next version of Android before it is officially announced it a good step, and much less talked about.

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Re: Different versions serve different devices

I have a Galaxy S III from Sprint (for what its worth), and it was pretty good when I got it, but after the 4.3 update its really terrible. I get security alerts several times a day. The camera app randomly can't find the camera. Swipe to unlock sometimes doesn't and I could go on, but why...

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Re: Different versions serve different devices

4.4 is designed to run very well on low performance (1 core, 512MB) devices for this reason to get the ecosystem up to date.

Project svelte (http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/android-4-4-kitkat-s-project-svelte-what-it-is-and-why-you-should-care)

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This might backfire on Google

Either it encourages them to keep pace with Android development and not take up valuable time to market by developing their own skins, or they decide they don't really need Google Apps all that much and start striking deals for Bing, Nokia Maps, and so on.

People aren't too pick in the low end of the market where all the smartphone sales growth is now restricted to, they can always install a Google search and map apps if they don't like Bing and Nokia Maps or bookmark the sites.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This might backfire on Google

They could always have done that anyway, but Nokia Maps isn't going to be licensed for much less than the cost of the Google licence and they wouldn't get the Play store or any of the other apps.

All for the sake of not developing for the latest release?

Most low end devices don't even add custom software anyway so developing within 9 months shouldn't be any issue.

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Android 2.3.6 is an adequately functioning Smartphone OS

@Andrew Jones 2

I am running 2.3.6. on a Galaxy Note N7000 with all the Samsung and Google bloat removed (including Maps) and, while the phone is sitting on the shelf updating emails (K9) over WiFi and monitoring Google Voice (GrooveIP) it uses 10% of its battery a day. So there is nothing magical about the new OS releases. Except that the old releases don't get vulnerabilities patched (by Google).

However, one reason I stay with 2.3.6 is that Google has been progressively locking all users into its ecosystem with each release, I don't want to be locked into any Google ecosystem, Sorry. I value my privacy. And I prefer the older, menu-configurable systems, not the new UI. Sorry. That's just me. I have been in computer programming too long, I guess...

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Re: Android 2.3.6 is an adequately functioning Smartphone OS

"So there is nothing magical about the new OS releases. Except that the old releases don't get vulnerabilities patched (by Google)."

A bit like Microsoft and WindowsXP then, Doc?

Oh, you're not a re ... never mind

;-)

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Re: A bit like Microsoft and WindowsXP then, Doc?

If you think 14 years and 4 years are the same thing, then yeah!

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Re: A bit like Microsoft and WindowsXP then, Doc?

4 years since I was last able to buy Windows XP. Not 14.

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Google is just trying to cover up their own screwups by 'Ministry of Truthing" the older versions.

Too late, there's an entire boatload of v2 devices out there with current software still running today.

You made your bed Google, now shut up and lay on it.

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But it's not up google to support the old devices. However what google are doing is steadily making it harder for new devices to not run new software.

The sooner the laggard device manufacturers realise that the less crap they customise to put on their devices the simpler it is to support them the better. And this isn't aimed at the smaller manufacturers, Samsung are one of the worst with the gob-smackingly awful Kies software mess, their stack of crazy updating and other software and their often horrible taken on user interface design. And as for their bastard wifi-management mess that has made my S3 a pain to use with wifi... grrrr... no way to disable it either.

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure what bed they made..

The Android API is REALLY stable. There is not a whole lot developers are missing out on if they target Gingerbread as minimum sdk version in their app.

The reality is 90% of apps really only need Gingerbread or later to run. Fragmentation is a myth created by Apple to justify them selling overpriced crap to gullible idiots.

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Boffin

Re: "Fragmentation is a myth"

No, it's not, but it depends entirely on the amount of flash memory and the flash controller in the device (and the version of Android). And 'memory fragmentation' is a bit of a misnomer, because it's really a result of flash controllers only being able to mark a 256K (typical) block of memory as available for re-use once all of the 4K (typical) pages have been removed. Eventually all of the blocks are in use, even though there may be a lot of free space as far as the filesystem is concerned. This leads to a lot of on-the-fly housekeeping to make space available again. Google TRIM or fstrim if you want to find out more about the problem.

For a device with small (4GB or less) of built-in flash, the time it takes to get to the point where it slows to a crawl because of this 'memory fragmentation' can be as little as a week or so (depending on what the device is being used for). Devices with more memory take much longer, and some devices may not show it until they are a year or more old.

Unfortunately, the way I read this is that all of my current android devices (including a phone that is still in warranty but unlikely to be updated because the ISP will not re-package the manufacturers more recent releases) will become unable to connect to the Play store when they bring this in. Most builders of these devices lose interest in packaging new releases of Android once they stop selling the device. This includes big names like Samsung, LG, HTC and even Google themselves, once they deem a device too old to take a new release.

This means that my perfectly usable 9.7" tablet running 4.0.4 is extremely likely to become less usable. Looks like I will have to play around with CyanogenMod after all.

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Re: "Fragmentation is a myth"

@Peter Gathercole. Your old devices with an old version should still have access to the Play store. It is just new devices shipped with out of date versions that would be blocked. So this should not effect existing devices and owners just those that buy new devices with old versions.

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Facepalm

Re: "Fragmentation is a myth"

That's not the way I read it, but I see my error now that it has been pointed out by several people.

It was not helped in that I was interrupted while I was writing the comment, and did not read comments posted earlier in time but after the comment I was replying to.

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My phone came with a 2,2 version but there is a cyanogen version for it. That works well. I have a tablet with 3G that is on 4.2 and it's already different enough from 4.4 to be occasionally confusing.

It's swings and roundabouts. Do you want to use a MicroSD card? Or do you want the latest Android version? Neither is a crazy choice.

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???

I have both the latest version of Android and a MicroSD card on a year old phone updated with Cyanogen so I'm not understanding your point here.

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Anonymous Coward

If this was Apple people would be crying "planned obsolescence".

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Stop

Google, Apple

not the same thing. Google just provide a free OS which any mobile manufacturer (even Apple) were/are free to use in their devices.

Apple provide the whole kit and kaboodle.

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Anonymous Coward

It has nothing to do with devices that have been sold, they will continue to be able to access Google Play. This is about new devices that the manufacturers are submitting for approval for Google apps licensing that must meet the minimum version.

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Facepalm

Another brick in the wall...?

Unification of Android? Hmmm, interesting. Difficult to flood something with adverts/mine data from something that is not completely under your control...

Has the openness of Android backfired on Google, and now they're trying desperately to wrestle back control over the various forks?

If they do manage it, what then? What comes next? What other little "requirements" will be added on top of this until all of a sudden, Android is firmly in a Google-shaped walled garden, with all the adverts and spying that such a thing would entail?

And worst of all - how many of the Google-hugging brigade would embrace this without a thought, all the while still crying out about how evil Microsoft is?

The wheel of history turns...

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Re: Another brick in the wall...?

Surely this is a good thing.

I'm no massive fan of Google. I've been quite rude about them. In fact, about this very issue, since the days of Android 2.3 being a year old and devices still being released on 2.1 - while Google did nothing.

This doesn't stop people forking Android. Since they're already not allowed to use Google Play. People are still free to do that. Although there's a separate argument that Google are moving more and more services out of the open source bit, and into their closed source apps...

What Google seem to be doing here, is giving the manufacturers a gentle kicking. While still giving them time to be slow and release stuff on old versions, they're now saying please stop taking the piss and shipping stuff which has software that's more than 9 months out of date.

Now if they can also get the manufacturers and networks to start passing on security and bug patches (even if not actual updates), we'll really be getting somewhere.

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Better than shutting out users like Apple does.

It is new (old)hardware getting shut out, not apps like happens with IOS 6 etc.

If you have your iDevice functioning like it used to, then there are no new apps available.

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I'd rather see drivers committed back to the public source tree - and a guarantee we can run "stock" firmware if and when we want. (Which, I suppose, is why I picked a Nexus 4 last time I bought an Android phone, and a Nexus 7 for a tablet.) I'd hate to be reliant on the manufacturer for a software update: imagine if you needed Dell or Acer's permission before updating Ubuntu or indeed Windows on a laptop they sold you?

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I too would like to see a mandate that the device can be loaded with custom/stock Android ROMs after the manufacturer moves onto a new device, maybe 2-years post release of the device. I don't know if Google can force such a thing but I'd like to see it happen. HTC used to allow a user to unlock and load custom ROMs. I don't know if they still are.

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Perhaps they should get the manufacturer to provide the drivers as a separate module with a defined interface, and then android would talk to this, (and be the same code on all handsets).

Much like the old DOS/BIOS situation.

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I have my S3 from Three, from almost 2 years ago (yep, renewal in April.)

But my phone isn't upgraded from 4.1.2 yet :(

I hope Three get their finger out, or a lot of their customers are going to be stuffed.

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To iterate a point made several times earlier

This only applies to new devices yet to be shipped with old software. It won't cut off any existing users with devices already bought.

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Anonymous Coward

Vodafone & Movistar

[ For most users, “get a new version of Android” is synonymous with “buy a new device”. ]

For Teleco customized Androids are:

"You wont get an update of Android. Shut up and buy a new device"

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