I hope Key Lime Pie helps bring phone longevity to Android devicesAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
There are two main components that make up an electronic device: the hardware and the software. The hardware is your first impression of the device. What it looks like, how it feels in the hand, and size and shape. However, once you delve a little deeper than the surface you'll discover the software - the brains of the device, what makes it tick, and how it works. Although a manufacturer will likely never send you upgrades for your phone (other than perhaps replacement parts as needed) software updates are always being pushed, and usually for the better. Software updates are supposed to make the device more powerful in general, which in turn usually comes down to relying on the latest and greatest specs within the hardware to support such changes.
When it comes to Android, the hardware seems to become outdated rather quickly. Let's say you get a new flagship Android phone. Your phone will be "the best" for one to two months, maybe three if you're lucky, and then some other great device will roll out, then another, and another and another, because that's just how Android rolls. By the time one year comes around you can have confidence that your phone won't be talked about very often. And why should people talk about it? New versions of the OS have likely rolled out by now along with the new hardware, and your phone is likely showing its age when it comes to performance, unlike the new flagship Android of the year which runs the new OS like butter on ice. Lather, rinse, repeat. Fast forward another year and the new flaship is in the same boat as the old one. Perhaps nothing is wrong with it physically, it just doesn't run the latest OS version very well and probably won't even support the next update that comes out. So what do you do when support for your device stops? Probably upgrade your device.
But for those who prefer to hang on to their devices (especially if its in a physically good condition) rumor has it that the next software update for Android this fall, presumably named Key Lime Pie, will actually be able to support devices on the lower end of the Android spectrum. It has been said that Key Lime Pie will be able to run on any Android device that has at least 512 MB of RAM, which is something that most flagship handsets were being released with a few years ago and several other low and mid-range Android devices feature as well. So essentially, if your manufacturer decided to make it so, your old Androids like your original Galaxy S device, Motorola DROID 2, HTC EVO 4G or any other device with 512 MB on it could possibly get the update. That's not to say that it will, because it is entirely up to the manufacturer at that point, but they can't point to hardware requirements as an excuse not to do it.
Making an OS work with older phones isn't anything new, per se. This is something that Apple has been since the introduction of the iPhone. Many were surprised to hear that iOS 6 was able to push to the iPhone 3GS, and in my experience it actually worked very well for such an old piece of hardware. You could also look at the iPhone 4 for evidence, as the phone will be over 3 years old by the time iOS 7 releases and it will be upgradeable to iOS 7 as well. Apple has done a good job of proving that just because a device is old doesn't necessarily mean that it's unable to run newer software. Maybe not optimally, but it can still run it well enough to make it worth the update. Of course, it also helps that Apple only has a few devices it has to cater to, all of which they make themselves. That has to make general updates a lot easier to make happen.
In fact, this is probably what makes Key Lime Pie so interesting if Android can pull it off. The big question at this point is wondering just how well Android does when it comes to releasing new software for old hardware. Just because it works on 512MB doesn't necessarily mean it will work well, although that would be the hope if they plan on having a happy userbase. People who have been holding on to their old devices have a reason to be excited again. Somebody cares about their phones after all this time. This is something that Android users aren't used to, especially considering that OS updates are few and far between enough as it is, and is something I think is really cool of Google to do if rumors hold true.
What do you think of this rumor about Key Lime Pie, readers? Do you like the idea that Key Lime Pie could support older Androids, or think that it should just stick to newer devices?