Google Android OS upgrades may leave many consumers scratching their heads in confusion and others pulling out their hair in frustration.
The first smarpthone sporting the new Ice Cream Sandwich software, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, hit the market yesterday in the U.K. The heavy anticipated smartphone is expected to be made available in other markets around the world by the end of this month.
The biggest selling point of the new smartphone is the Operating System it runs on: Ice Cream Sandwich. This new OS not only redesigns the Android user interface and provides one release of software for both tablets and smartphones, but it also adds a whole lot of new cool features. These includes but are not limited to: facial recognition to unlock the phone, and a very cool new exchange platform Android Beam, it provides an NFC-driven feature to exchange content like maps, contact details, and YouTube videos.
The release of the Samsung's Nexus Galaxy and the new Google's Ice Cream Sandwich OS software has millions of existing Android owners wondering when or if their smartphone might get the new OS software. Even though Google said earlier this week that it's made the source code available to developers, it's unclear when and on which devices manufacturers and carriers will start rolling out the software.
Even Samsung, which is the manufacturer making the Galaxy Nexus, hasn't been clear about when other Samsung Android phones will get the update.
Other manufacturers have been just as kept in the dark. Motorola has said that its new Droid Razr will likely run on the OS software in the early part of 2012. And HTC said its new Rezound smartphone announced earlier this month is already "Ice Cream Sandwich-ready," but it wouldn't say when the device would actually get Ice Cream Sandwich.
The confusion over which devices will get Ice Cream Sandwich and when they might get it is just one more example of how the rapid evolution of the operating system is fragmenting the market. Not only are there dozens of hardware options for Android phones, but in the three years that the Google OS has been on the market, there have already been six major releases of the software introduced not including Ice Cream Sandwich. There have also been several minor point updates, or sub-updates, to the software along the way.
These software releases get version numbers and are also associated with names of yummy desserts. They span from Cupcake Android 1.5 to Honeycomb Android 3.2 and now Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.
Google is well aware of the problems associated with how different versions of software and hardware complicate the market. In May, at its Google I/O developer conference, the company announced a new initiative to reign in software version fragmentation across Android devices. Google said it would work with manufacturers and wireless carriers to develop guidelines to help get updates to devices more quickly. Google pledged that participating partners and carriers would receive the most-current version of the Android software, for up to 18 months after the device's initial release. There's been little talk of these efforts since the announcement was made.