Numbers inform me that the majority of Android device owners actually don’t really give a damn about stock Android, skinned Android and all those damned terms we spend several minutes arguing about on forums all day. Heck they don’t even give a damn about what is the latest version of Android. That is the truth, sadly. People want a device bundled with software that just works. We got that in Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 and Android 4.2). Even ICS wasn’t bad; actually it is the strength on which Jelly Bean builds on with little niceties like Project Butter and Google Now. However that one is getting stale now. We have seen Android 4.3 leak left, right and centre and unless you live on the moon, you know it exists. Still, save for the forums going ablaze with news about what is the next version of Android; there is no official word on when we are going to see it. I doubt my DNA has patience hard coded in it so it is about time I asked the all-important question, when are we seeing the next version of Android?
There was widespread speculation that the next version of Android would be unveiled at Google I/O. That came and went. There was no word on when we’ll see it. Instead we just got our bums a little bit excited with news that the most notable Android device this year, the Galaxy S4, would be available running stock Android out of the box. Of course a few days later HTC confirmed that it would also be offering it’s celebrated and well-designed One in similar taste. That already came to pass last month and the dust has settled on those. We’ve even gotten our hands dirty by porting almost everything those devices came with out of the box into our already existing non-Google Play Edition devices from the Sunbeam live wallpaper to the camera to the boot animation (I’ll show you how to get this in a few days). After all that, what next? That’s my question precisely.
Maybe we’re waiting for everybody to board the bus before travelling to the next destination
It is understandable that Google is taking cues from the analysts and the consumers and taking its time before the next version of Android is released so that the ever slow OEMs and carriers can get all the time in the world to roll out updates to the devices they support since they are notorious for delaying and counter-delaying updates for eons. This effort (or strategy if it is really intended as such) seems to be working going by the most recent Android version install/adoption numbers available. Numbers show that the install base for Android 4.x is now past the 60% mark and that Jelly Bean on its own is already doing well over 35% of all devices that recently accessed the Google Play Store. That is impressive bearing in mind that the biggest criticism that my favourite mobile platform faces (and which also happens to be its biggest weakness and challenge) is fragmentation.
If this, wait till almost everyone is onboard thing, is what I think it is then we could be treated to the next version of Android by latest December. By then the 34% Gingerbread user base would have been cut down to less than 20% hopefully thanks to many OEMs and carriers (in countries where carriers are small gods) providing updates to Jelly Bean and those with older devices having bought newer ones that run the latest Android version. With current growth rate, Jelly Bean would have hit the 50% mark that it so deserves and Android 4.x in general would be somewhere close to 70% of the total Android user base.
The reference hardware is still in the works
The other reason as to why we have not yet seen the much leaked Android 4.3 made official could be that the good folks incharge of Android don’t really want to see it demoed officially on what is considered to be old hardware. Along those lines, several arguments suffice. One, there are two officially announced and commercially available Google Play Edition devices available that have all the required hardware muscle to herald Android 4.3 (it has actually leaked on these devices, so no surprise there) so why not launch it on them? Maybe because they are not Nexus devices and won’t be getting their updates directly from Google but rather through their respective manufacturers. That makes sense. Which takes me to my second point: we are waiting for the next Nexus device so that we can see Android running on what Google intended it to at first. Then the usual quick updates would be released to existing Nexus devices and then the GPE devices and then the rest of us can begin the usual six month or so wait for updates or just flash our sorrows away with half-baked and buggy custom ROMs (six months if you have a flagship device that the manufacturer will be in a hurry to support else count anything from 8 months to 12 months. Yeah it’s that bad if the last one year of updates to Jelly Bean is anything to go by).
Those endless rumours about a refreshed Nexus 7 model being in the works come to play here. You’ve obviously heard that LG has an event coming up on August 7th where they will be announcing the LG Optimus G2. If the previous LG flagship’s design is anything to go by then the G2 holds the key to what the Nexus 5 will look like if Google decides to have LG make the next Nexus smartphone again. If so, expect the Nexus 5 carrying with it the next version of Android to be out soon after the G2’s appearance.
Maybe Android 4.3 won’t come at all but we’ll just jump straight to Android 5.0
This could make sense if the endless teasing of Android 4.3 we have witnessed is anything to go by. Seriously even if Android 4.3 were to be launched today, it would lack the wow factor. Yes the final release will be more polished and complete than what we have seen in the leaked firmwares for GPE devices but nothing will be new. The only thing that can get us really excited is Key Lime Pie (or whatever dessert name that Android 5.0 will be given… Kandy Kane?). Anytime we have a new version number for Android the core of what the user interacts with on their Android devices is bound to change a lot. That will surely arouse our interest. Still, since Android 4.3 is nothing more than just an incremental update with no new stuff, it makes sense that we’re being spared for the best we are yet to see. Just like when ICS came with all its freshness that no one had anticipated back towards the end of 2011, maybe this is what there is in store for us. Though I won’t get my hopes pumped up since Jelly Bean is just so good that there is little imagination how better the next major overhaul of Android can be.
The update cycle of old is being adhered to
The period going into the holidays or the last quarter is when the Android magic has been known to happen. The Jelly Bean release in the middle of the year that we saw in 2012 was a one off. Going by what we have seen this year, it won’t be too wrong to say maybe it was a one-off and we’re just back to the conventional Android release cycle. End year to end year. That has been the case for all major Android updates that have involved a change in the version number right from the days of Android beta, Android 1.0 to Android 2.0 to Android 4.0. The only exception to that rule was Honeycomb (Android 3.0) which was, well, a very rare iteration of Android that we can only remember through the soft button controls that became the true face of Android from version 4 (ICS) and maybe the resulting terrible tablet sales that followed. If you have been using devices with hard buttons then you need not even remember Honeycomb.
If history is anything to go by and my earlier theory that we might just skip the 4.3 update and dive straight into Android 5.0 is anything to go by then this makes total sense. We could just be sorted any time from September.
Now that iOS 7 is out…
Come on, you know the iSheep will be upon us to dominate the headlines in tech blogs for several days when the next version of iOS, iOS 7 is finally out of beta and released to the masses together with a new iPhone version. Tech companies hate the competition getting a lot of attention. It happened last year, it has already happened this year (remember the June 20th Samsung event and all that cropped up around that time? What of the hurried Galaxy S4 announcement before the expected timeframe?) and it will reoccur before the year ends. The next version if Android could just drop like that from thin air in the wake of iOS 7’s global rollout to also counter all the wild speculation that normally precedes the launch of a new iPhone and also to gain from any backlash that the new iOS version may face from its user base who have faithfully stuck with the legacy iOS look for close to six years now.
The Moto X question
The blogosphere is abuzz with every bit of news imaginable about Motorola’s next straw. The X phone. Not that Motorola is a very exciting company to everyone interested in the Android space but because of Google acquiring Motorola Mobility, the parent company, and Google’s history of working with Moto to the extent of debuting the first ever Android version specifically meant for tablets, Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) on the Motorola made Xoom tablet. Moto has been mean with its devices to us not inhabitants of North America but who admire the Kevlar build of its RAZR device lineup and the superior battery life of devices like the RAZR MAXX so there is little excitement from the boy inside me but if history is to repeat itself, and Google now being on the driving seat (hope you have seen the new Motorola logo. Speaks volumes), we ought to be interested. Many are speculating that the X phone could be our bridge to seeing the next version of Android. This even leaked way back before the devices making headlines today like the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 started leaking so the speculation is pretty solid. I am tempted to join the speculators. Let’s see what comes about. It will be a win if the gorgeous X phone (the leaked photos point to a very beautiful device) comes with Android 4.3 goodness.
The July 24th Breakfast
The latest word in the blogosphere is that during his breakfast with members of the media on July 24th, Google’s Head of Android, Sundar Pichai, will have some new dessert to show off on his breakfast table. That dessert could be served on a new Nexus 7 tablet or something else. It is mere speculation, Google just sent out clueless invitations and it seems the ever keen on details press is cornered as no one has a hoot of what the breakfast is all about. After all Google doesn’t just give out free breakfasts every other day. Least of all, with the new Android head. If July 24th is the date then let it be. The sooner my mind is cleared of all doubts, the better.
Maybe We Already Have It
This video by Android Central just went live a few hours ago. Look carefully, there is what they say is the next Nexus 7 with the new Android version… I don’t advise people to take anything with a grain of salt so figure out what you want to believe.
Maybe mine is just wishful thinking and building many castles in the air. That notwithstanding, just give us the next big thing in the green robot space. Please!