Google Android and ICS updates - What's the real deal?

Barely had the dust settled on the dud Honeycomb version of the Android operating system that the news about the promising Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version started making rounds. ICS appeared to be the most highly anticipated Android operating system, owing to its seamless user interface for multiple devices (read tablets and smartphones). ICS was announced alongside its fierce competitor, iOS; so, we had the iPhone 4S pitted against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While iPhone 4S soon enough entered the Indian terrain, the Galaxy Nexus hasn't yet made it here. Surprisingly and unfortunately, there haven’t been many devices with the taste of this coveted flavour of Android. Taking into account that the newest Jelly Bean flavour of the OS is expected to launch in the third quarter of this year, where is ICS heading.


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We tried getting in touch with some leading manufacturers, but didn't get a response, while the Google spokesperson said that they cannot comment on this at the moment. So, we decided to pen down why there has been a long delay in ICS devices and with rolling out of ICS updates.

The possible reasons for delay could be as follows -

Adding skins
With nine months gone by since the launch of the Ice Cream Sandwich, and not many ICS-based devices available in the market, we think the possible delay could be as manufacturers spend time testing devices with their own skins and add-ons. Giving devices a personal touch and customized interfaces, would take time testing for bugs and minor errors.

Xperia Gingerbread interface...

Customized interface is fine, but not at the cost of long delays in updates

ICS for high-end handsets
While Gingerbread was quickly rolled out onto newer handsets, we haven’t seen ICS updates reach older devices soon enough. The possible reason could be manufacturers hoarding the newest Android flavour for high-end devices, instead of giving it away on to handsets that are priced around 10k to 15k. Although ICS has been promised on many handsets, we haven’t seen the upgrade come by. HTC has a slew of Android handsets, but we have seen only its One series feature ICS. On the other hand, the Xperia line-up from Sony Ericsson haven’t received ICS updates yet. The picture is completely different for tablets. Surprisingly, we have ICS tablets (sub-10k) hit Indian markets quicker. The first batch of ICS tablets came through Zync and iBerry, and not under the leading banners of Samsung or Sony.
Ashish Garg, Chairman, Apple Group of Companies who got one of the first ICS tablets (sub-10k), the Zync Z990, to India points out that "The pace for ICS products was slow initially, but now in the next 6 - 8 months, ICS upgrades and tablets will be made available to consumers across a range of tablets, which is fast catching up.”
The Jelly Bean factor

This is  bit of a long shot, but it is possible that manufacturers may skip the ICS update altogether and focus directly on Jelly Bean. According to a study performed by Android Developers that shows the distribution of the various Android releases over the years, it took Gingerbread just about a year, before it spread to over 50 percent of all Android handsets. It’s already been nine months now since Google announced ICS, but we are still at a measly 7 percent for ICS based handsets in the market. It’s sad, but Google’s best offering till date seems to be crawling its way to handsets right now. The idea of skipping ICS and focusing on Jelly Bean is not the worst case scenario, since Jelly Bean seems like it’s going to be a slightly tweaked version of ICS, so we hope that manufacturers are being proactive and focusing on this task, else there will always be a huge gap between Google launching a new OS and manufacturers actually implementing it.

Jelly bean

Jelly bean coming soon...


In closing
I guess we’ll never really know the exact reason behind the delay of Android updates, as no one seems to be willing to come forward and take the blame. From our point of view, the bottleneck clearly lies at the OEMs end itself. Why do you think the Motorola XOOM received an ICS update eons ago? Simple, it came with stock Honeycomb, so updating it was a no-brainer. This annoying delay between updates will only end once manufacturers stop skinning Android. Google’s OS has matured to a point a now, where it can do without the training wheels. If manufacturers want to set their product apart from the crowd, how about focusing on the hardware and design of the product itself. If this continues then don’t be surprised to see loyal Android users shifting base towards iOS. It maybe a more confined ecosystem, but at least when an update is released that brings in new features, you know for a fact that you’ll get it, no matter where you are in the world. It’s this little aspect that could really hurt Google in the long run.

Published Date: Jun 06, 2012 09:38 am | Updated Date: Jun 06, 2012 09:38 am