I Hope the Android Ice Cream Sandwich Doesn’t Melt

Features Marin Perez 06:57, Aug 10 2011

I’m looking forward to Android Ice Cream Sandwich but I’m worried about how and if it will get to existing users

A new rumor suggests that Android Ice Cream Sandwich could land as soon as October. I’m really looking forward to the user interface improvements and new features—but I can’t help but wonder when or if existing devices will get it. Yes, the specter of fragmentation looms once again.

While Google said it will be working with carriers and handset makers to work on fragmentation, that doesn’t mean that handsets have to launch with the latest version of Android. The search giant has also been really quiet about the particulars of that initiative and that silence is a bit unnerving.

Google itself shows that less than a quarter of Android users have the latest software on their phone. That’s unacceptable. 

Ice Cream Sandwich is supposed to be a panacea for all of these issues; it will unify the tablet and phone platforms, and make it easier for developers to create compelling apps which will work on whatever device a player is using. I believe that Google could help handset makers get on the latest version of the software by bringing in companies earlier in the software development process so things like the Sense, TouchWiz, and MotoBlur UIs wouldn’t take so much time to actually hit the market.

We can also point the blame at the carriers—as these companies would rather customers buy a new phone instead of providing software updates to increase the usefulness of that device. It’s kind of awful mentality but to be fair, the carriers are also adapting to the smartphone reality and are getting better at pushing out software updates.

The Apple approach to software updates is probably ideal—but its end-to-end control of the hardware and software is something that Google can’t or won’t do. I also think that some fragmentation is the price you have to pay for the choice and flexibility that Android offers. With the iPhone, it’s Apple’s way or the highway, but Android lets you have any form factor you want, widgets and even custom ROMs.

We’re going to have to reserve judgement on Ice Cream Sandwich until it’s actually released but I’m not that confident so far. You know the situation is bad when I’m already pre-worrying about fragmentation.

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