If your phone is not officially updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, what will you do?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| November 1, 2011

Google's Android 4.0 update, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich, is just around the corner. Sometime in the next 30 days, the Galaxy Nexus will launch, presumably on all major US carriers at some point or another. With that launch, we are sure to hear more detailed information on official updates and what phones will be officially supported by Ice Cream Sandwich.

Google's own Matias Duarte revealed that any "Gingerbread phone" should theoretically be eligible for the next tasty treat, but as Evan pointed out, that begs another question altogether. Does Duarte mean only phones that shipped with Gingerbread, or any and all phones that have been upgraded to Gingerbread? Even further, does that include phones that will be upgraded to Gingerbread? Where will OEMs cut off older devices?

There is promise, albeit slim, that Ice Cream Sandwich will reach more devices that Gingerbread ever did. For starters, one of Google's main objectives with this upgrade was to fight the ever-pressing issue of fragmentation. They tried to make this software more compatible with older phones – thanks to the inclusion of hardware acceleration, it should run fairly smoothly on older, less powerful phones – and have begun more closely monitoring the changes that partner OEMs can make to Android if they want official Google support (Maps, Market and other Google native apps).

On top of all that, manufacturers have responded to the Ice Cream Sandwich update more appropriately than in the past. Motorola has promised to announce their 4.0 update plans within six weeks of the launch of ICS; Samsung Italy confirmed six of their most recent devices will receive the update, which doesn't exactly say much for Samsung US or phones that weren't mentioned; HTC gave some very vague but promising word on their update plans; and LG, well they denied that their Optimus 2X and T-Mobile G2X phones would not receive the update and revealed that they are currently testing 4.0 on the devices.

Although there is quite a bit of promise for most phones that launched in 2011, there are definitely still some up in the air.

The unfortunate truth here is that there are some phones that would be perfectly capable of running 4.0, but OEMs and carriers have likely since moved on and neither have the time, resources or care enough to update some pre-Gingerbread (also pre-Android Alliance) phones. (They should seriously just give users the option to upgrade to stock Ice Cream Sandwich if they can't manage to work their custom skins into the upgrade. But I digress.) This means a lot of users will be left stranded on Gingerbread and even Froyo – people using phones that are barely over a year old, and likely have six months to a year left on their carrier contract.

So what's a guy who will indefinitely be stuck on Froyo or Gingerbread to do? Well, there are three options, some better than others:

  • The first is to stick it out for as long as possible and hope for better luck next time. A lot has changed over the past 12 months in the Android camp, and Google is hard at work making sure they don't run into these dreadfully awful issues again.
  • Second, you can throw caution to the wind and root your phone and dive into the depths of custom ROMs. I'm willing to bet that the CyanogenMod team will beat most manufacturers to the punch when it comes to producing a solid Ice Cream Sandwich ROM for users. That would account for 68 or more devices that will be officially supported by the next CyanogenMod version. And I'm positive there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of other ICS ROMs for your flashing pleasure. That is, if you're willing enough to void your warranty for an unofficial software update.
  • Lastly, you can just buy another phone. If you're mid-contract and have no upgrade options, you can take to sites like eBay or Craigslist (at your own risk, of course) and try to find a phone that will be updated. It may not be as ideal as upgrading and getting a brand new phone or your current phones just being updated to 4.0, but at least it's cheaper than buying at full retail, and at least you can get an official taste of that sweet, sweet Ice Cream Sandwich.

Personally, I'm just going to cash in for a Galaxy Nexus on launch day. I have a bad case of cell phone ADD, and I've already sold some things off to cover the cost of the Nexus. I'm tired of waiting months on hollow promises for software updates, and frankly, I'm sick of the custom skins that Motorola, HTC and Samsung swear by. I want my Ice Cream Sandwich in vanilla flavor, and I plan on getting it the best way possible – on the device it was intended to run on.

So what about you, pups? What will you do if your phone will not get Ice Cream Sandwich officially? Will you tread the foreign waters of rooting and ROM flashing? Will you just stick it out for your next upgrade and sign for another phone? Or will you take to online auction and bartering sites and try to score a phone that will get ICS for cheap?

Image via The Verge