Published in Mobiles

Android 5.0 brings limited backward compatibility

by on01 April 2012

High hardware requirements to limit fragmentation?

Google has taken a lot of flack over the painfully slow Ice Cream Sandwich rollout and now it is apparently changing its approach, for better or for worse.

Obviously, one of the key issues faced by Google and vendors is fragmentation, as ICS is supposed to cover roughly two generations of smartphones and tablets, not to mention upcoming models. Basically ICS was designed to run on everything ranging from 1GHz A8 cores, through dual-core A9 chips, all the way to quad-core A9 designs and upcoming A15 parts. Coupled with different graphics cores and a host of other standardization issues, development was frustratingly slow.

According to a well informed source close to a certain ARM chip designer, Google is planning to shift gear with Jelly Bean, by limiting support for older hardware. While this should speed up introduction, it will also leave quite a few users in the cold. Unlike ICS, Jelly Bean will not support single core A8 or A9 processors and even some 1GHz dual-cores will not be fully supported. Our source claims that the Nexus Galaxy will probably be the slowest device to get Jelly Bean, and it has more to do with Google’s image than anything else. Bear in mind that Google has yet to finish the ICS rollout for the old Nexus S and it probably wouldn’t even bother with if it were not for bad press. The Galaxy Nexus faces a similar fate, it will get Jelly Bean, but just barely. It is unclear whether Honeycomb tablets will get full Jelly Bean support, as it appears the reference design is not ideally suited to the new OS. One possibility is a stripped down version, something like Samsung’s “value pack” upgrade for the Galaxy S.

Enter the Google tablet. It is expected to ship with ICS in a couple of months and it will be the first device to receive a Jelly Bean update. Contrary to some previous reports, Google’s new tablet will rock a Tegra 3 chip and one of the reasons Google did not go for a cheaper Qualcomm processor is, you’ve guessed it, Jelly Bean. As a result the tablet will end up a tad pricier than $149, probably $199 to undercut Amazon’s Kindle Fire. With this in mind, going for a cheaper CPU that would not offer a proper Jelly Bean experience was not an option for Google.

While a more conservative approach to Android updates would help speed up development, by simply cutting off antiquated devices and imposing drastic hardware requirements, it will undoubtedly make quite a few users very cross indeed. Basically only the fastest, high-end devices will get Jelly Bean, at least officially. Consumers who did not spend $400 or $500 on a high-end Android phone sometime in the last quarter or so can pretty much forget about Jelly Bean. The only way of making sure you will be covered is to get a pricey superphone, based on the S4 or Tegra 3, or upcoming A15 chips.

Frankly, we don't believe the decision to go with higher hardware requirements will go down well with the masses. Not at all.

[April fools guys... But with Google updates, anything is possible - they are a joke to begin with. Ed]

Last modified on 02 April 2012
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