Android engineer claims an eight month window between code and final ROM

Daniel Bader

March 29, 2012 7:05pm


, or JBQ to the affectionate, is the guy who runs the Android Open Source Project. He’s the guy who usually sets off a stream of media commentary that goes something like, “Yes! ____ device is going to be updated to Android ____ soon!” Except that, unfortunately, doesn’t usually happen the way most people want. In fact, he says that it usually takes around eight months from the time the source code is released until new devices ship with that version. In the case of Android 4.0.4, it is an iterative upgrade and most users will have received Android 4.0.3 beforehand. Nevertheless, his commentary on Google+ is valuable insight into the world of software updates, and a primer on why our impatient selves are going to keep on waiting.

Now starts another 8-month waiting game. In over 10 years working on the software side of the cell phone industry, I’ve learned that it takes about 8 months between getting the software ready and seeing it widely deployed. Edit: Meaning, deployed on new devices.

Why 8 months? It’s about the time it takes for the software to get ported to the chips that get used in a new phone, then to get it to run on the actual phone, then to have features added to it by the manufacturer, then to have it customized for the specific phone and for the specific operator, then to have it tested by the device manufacturer, then to have it certified and approved by the operator that will sell and support the device, then to have the actual devices manufactured, distributed to the stores and put on the shelves.

Now, 8 months is just an average, a rule of thumb. The real development schedules can vary by a large amount in both directions. As a rule of thumb, though, it does tell me that 4.0.4 will be quite widely available on new retail phones 8 months from now, i.e. for the 2012 holiday shopping season. 4.0.4 is a solid release, so I already anticipate that 2012 is going to be yet another great year with plenty of exciting new Android devices.

He’s saying that by Christmas of this year, new devices will likely ship with Android 4.0.4 (unless of course, there is a 4.0.5 or 4.0.6. If you’ll recall, Gingerbread went up to 2.3.7 before Google stopped adding to it in favour of Ice Cream Sandwich).

I’d argue that Android 4.0 is one of the most feature-filled mobile operating systems out there. It supports hardware acceleration, a number of advanced APIs for developers, and is much more attractive and usable than Gingerbread. This is the first time I’ve used an Android phone and I don’t feel like, “Damn, there’s so much potential here, but it’s missing something.” So I won’t mind waiting for Jellybean the way I did for ICS.

After using Android 4.0.4 for a few hours, nothing seems all that different to the previous version. This is fine — iOS 5.1 looked the same as 5.0.1 — because I immediately felt like the OS was more stable. Android has reached a maturity level that begs to be used; just over 1% of devices are currently running Android 4.0+, so it pains me to think that many users won’t get a chance to try it for months yet.

As Bell revealed today, many of its top-tier devices are going to receive Ice Cream Sandwich at some point this in the first half of the year: the Galaxy S II first, followed by the Galaxy Note in April, HTC’s Sensation and Raider in June, and then finally, in the boilerplate month of July, the LG Optimus LTE. That’s seven months after its November launch, and a long while after it was originally promised. All these devices, however, are receiving Ice Cream Sandwich around eight months after their release (some less, some more).

I’m not passing judgement on the carriers, or Google, or any of the manufacturers who push out updates later than originally intended, but it’s a necessary part of releasing an Android device these days, and the clamour is getting louder every year.

Source: Google+
Via: Phandroid

  • hhhhhheeeeyyyy

    The one thing apple is better at: rolling out updates too bad everything else about apple sucks

  • jon_d0e1

    at least i got hdmi on my phone. now i can stream movies from my phone to my tv.

  • xda hackman

    rabble rabble rabble

    my sgs2 will get updated soon, yes my old iphone 3g has apples newest software at launch but the update made it slow and laggy, didnt work as well as when i got it(for free as a contest prize). My grandma happily uses it on prepaid and plays solitaire with it.

    Funny isnt that apples real audience…..people who dont need anything too dificult to use, or cant seen to understand tech

    Android 4 life

    • Rio

      That is apples audience, people who dont know about tech. People who don’t want to spend time configuring their devices, people who want simple.

      The world doesn’t revolve around you sadly, and not everyone has time to sit and play with the settings on their phone.

    • xda hackman

      @rio But you have time to troll….#youmadbro

  • SAM

    JUST GET THE NOTE!!
    FROM SAMMIE!!!
    GO SAMMIE!!!

  • Ron Mexico

    With all the bugs present in every new release of android I believe they rush it out in 8 months

  • Tom

    The funny thing is that the CyanogenMod folks will have it ready for phones in a fraction of that.

    So, if you have a phone that uses common components and open-source drivers (or headers, at least) you can have your 404 as soon as you want it.

    What we need is better communication about which phones satisfy those criteria. Locking at the CM website it is fairly easy to see which of last year’s phone meet those criteria, but what about this year’s phones?

  • Deli

    @Tom. You have to realize many of early CM releases for many devices sometimes lack some important features (Ie. Camera, GPS, wifi, Bluetooth, etc). They need the driver to be leaked to be able to make it work. Officials can’t have these things missing.

  • Jeff

    @Deli: You also have to realize that the devices lacking important features aren’t officially supported by CM. Of the ~70ish devices that are being officially supported by CM, the features are working if I’m not mistaken.

  • chall2k5

    thats no surprise

  • Louis

    Im running AOKP (android open kang project) with OS 4.0.4 and EVERYTHING WORKS fine. Oh sorry, i lied, theres a bug where i cant change the wallpaper of my lockscreen as they rushed it out (feature that doesnt come with the stock ICS boohoo)

    Yes i am on a galaxy nexus..but those devs make the stuff work within a week’s time and that is for a BUNCH of different devices and with MORE FEATURES than the original OS.

    Would this mean that the developers that work for the different manufacturers and operators are dummer than these people who ‘live off’ the money we donate to them?

  • Daniel AJ

    This is a huge time window when there are security relevant bugs. It gives criminals a lot of time to exploit them. Especially if there is an App that is part of the ROM and can not be removed by the end user, but the phone vendor does not release a bugfix for months.

  • LeDerp

    Im running AOKP (android open kang project) with OS 4.0.4 and EVERYTHING WORKS fine. Oh sorry, i lied, theres a bug where i cant change the wallpaper of my lockscreen as they rushed it out (feature that doesnt come with the stock ICS boohoo)

    Yes i am on a galaxy nexus..but those devs make the stuff work within a week’s time and that is for a BUNCH of different devices and with MORE FEATURES than the original OS.

    Would this mean that the developers that work for the different manufacturers and operators are dummer than these people who ‘live off’ the money we donate to them?

  • Deli

    @Jeff, you would be right for devices with official CM7 blessing (thus far).

  • Andy c

    Maybe Microsofts way is better. Give a set of strict hardware guidelines and your able to push software updates to all your phones in a six weeks instead of 6 months.

    will be interesting to see how timely microsofts updates are next year when multi core CPUs and higher res screens are introduced.

    • Anirask

      Only if the carriers go along with it and push out the updates.

      Thankfully the carriers in Canada have been but AT&T in the US hasn’t for some reason. The upshot is that when they do approve one eventually, all the updates that came before are approved too.

  • jr67

    This is what happens when the carriers control the platform.

  • A. Carmine

    - 8 Months to get to market
    – 8 Months for manufacturers to update
    – 1+ Year waiting for update on non-Nexus device
    – New version out before you receive update…

    Vicious cycle.

  • Dshroyer

    Thank goodness I use custom ROM’s on my Android. I have the latest build with tweaks from the top developers for a blazing fast experience.

  • JHK1984

    CM9 or die trying.