How new versions of Android will affect users

Nicole Cozma
 from Chicago
Published: October 22, 2010


A few days ago a rumor launched about Android 3.0 and 4.0 (Gingerbread and Honeycomb, etc) coming in the near future. What will these newer versions of Android mean for smartphone users? It seems the answer to this question relies heavily on the hardware requirements for the new versions of the mobile OS. For instance, it was difficult to get 2.0 features onto the flagship HTC Dream/G1, but major players in the ROM world like Cyanogen, and others, were able to make it happen. However, as the OS becomes more feature rich, and perhaps “heavy,” the actual memory space needed may become too large to run on older Android units. How about all the devices that launched after the G1?

For the myTouch line, the models that are least likely to see any 3.0+ action are the original and the 3G models. That’s because the original/3G models have specs that are very similar to that of the G1, with only a slight increase in memory. Even though later phones in the same branding line will have more opportunities for upgrades that doesn’t mean they will get them. It is very unlikely that phones from 2009—the major ones being the T-Mobile myTouch, Sprint Hero, and Cliq XT—will see upgrades to their OS unless it is at the hands of the community. I know there are still some ROM developers that work on projects associated with these phones, but I’m doubtful any companies will be taking part in this work.

So how about the Nexus One? Well, with this phone being in the 2010 line I am hopeful that it will see more future upgrades. I definitely have a personal interest vested in its upgrade status, as it is the phone I carry with me on a daily basis. I consider this device to be “Google’s baby,” since they spent a lot of time and money making videos about its production, and posted a lot of technical information on their website about it for consumers to read. Even though the sales on this device did not meet the expectations of financial analysts all over the internet, I still view the phone as a key player in spreading the “Android word.” This is the only device that is directly tied to Google, only purchasable (well, previously, as it’s no longer available) through their website. All in all, I think this phone, of previous models, has the best chance of grabbing a new version of Android mobile OS.

As for the actual new version of the OS, the major question is whether or not it will cause more fragmentation of devices and user interfaces. I feel pretty confident by answering a big “YES” to this one. While Google has been making more efforts toward backwards compatibility in their new versions of Android, this is not likely to solve all problems involving custom UIs that many companies have on their handsets. The way this process works is: Google starts on a new version of Android, the companies with custom UIs start working on a new version of their UI to work with the new version of the OS, and then they have to send it to Google for approval. By the time it is approved and perhaps pushed out to their current handsets, Google is already in the works of a new version of the OS. What does that mean for users? Well, I guess it means expect a lot of apps and such to only cater to certain versions of Android for a bit while those developers try to play catch-up, too. Since those companies with custom-branded user interfaces insist on having their own mark on Android, it means a waiting game for their users. However, since this isn’t the first upgrade to Android (think back to when 1.5 aka Cupcake and 2.0 aka Froyo rolled out), I am hopeful that a new version rolling out will go smoother than last time. What do you think will happen?