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Why Android Upgrades Take So Long 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-getting-distracted-by-delicious-names dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Last month Google released the Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' code base to the general public and manufacturers but it may be a while yet before it's actually rolled out to existing phones. In an attempt to explain why it takes so long, Motorola and Sony Ericsson shed some light on the process. Motorola described the long testing process involved in getting the new code out there, whereas Sony focused on explaining the time-consuming certification process."
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Why Android Upgrades Take So Long

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @02:54PM (#38317460)

    That's why!

  • FTA (Score:5, Informative)

    by agent_vee (1801664) on Friday December 09, 2011 @02:57PM (#38317500)

    "Operators then may want to customize the software, and the OS must be localized for the market and language."

    I think that is where the bulk of the time is spent.

  • Re:Hardly surprising (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:00PM (#38317554)

    (16GB to compile ICS? jesus fuck why?)

    16GB recommended, not required, and it's because they're using memory-intensive optimization flags set.

  • Re:tl;dr (Score:2, Informative)

    by ebinrock (1877258) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:12PM (#38317710)
    Here here. Google lacks the balls Apple definitely has to dictate their product to the manufacturers and carriers (an I'm an Android user and fan). I'd love for there to be ONE killer plain vanilla (Ice Cream Sandwich, haha) Android phone, a Nexus, guaranteed never to have any bloatware on it (have you read about what Verizon did to the Galaxy Nexus?), on all carriers simultaneously, and with a much more organized way of marketing and releasing it than the boondoggle that's currently going on with the Galaxy Nexus. Great phone but the way it's being marketed/sold: FAIL.
  • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Informative)

    by thsths (31372) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:16PM (#38317744)

    > He believes this fosters creativity

    So far my experience is that the more a manufacturer meddles with Android, the worse it gets. And this is not because Android is perfect, but (my conclusion) because manufacturer are mostly incompetent when it comes to software.

  • by Troed (102527) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:42PM (#38318090) Homepage Journal

    You're welcome.

    http://unlockbootloader.sonyericsson.com/ [sonyericsson.com]

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:04PM (#38318340)

    Buying your own phone doesn't matter with Verizon or Sprint. Non-Sprint phones can never be activated under a Sprint account (they can roam, but never be the phone for a real Sprint account). Verizon will let you do it if you twist their arm and escalate it high enough (possibly due to a consent decree inherited from AT&T years ago), but they won't actually *help* you, and you'll never get EVDO to work, only 1xRTT due to radio firmware funkiness unique to Verizon. There's no actual engineering reason why it HAS to be this way (it's purely a matter of software and business process; the hardware is identical), but unfortunately, that's the way it is.

    In theory you could buy an unsubsidized phone for AT&T or T-Mobile, but in most cases you'd only be able to use GPRS and EDGE on T-Mobile (most foreign phones can't do 1700/2100 HSPA+), and I'm pretty sure most imported phones can't do HSUPA on AT&T (and often, the only models that can do 850MHz UMTS are the ones intended for Australia, which are so expensive when imported to the US that you could almost buy a Verizon phone and pay for the service for two years for what you'd pay for the imported phone alone).

    The unfortunate truth is that America's mobile phone market is as structurally fragmented and messed up as Japan's, and only slightly more likely to untangle itself over the next 25 years into something resembling tortured interoperability.

  • soak tester (Score:5, Informative)

    by MikeURL (890801) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:10PM (#38318398) Journal

    I'm in a soak test group for one of the big carriers.

    A couple of times it has turned into a very large clusterfuck. Stuff breaks that seems like it should not break for any reason ever. But there you are with 50 people saying that 911 won't work. So these updates break stuff. They break important stuff and every piece of hardware (even within the same hardware line) reacts a little bit differently.

    It is one of the glaring weaknesses of a diversified culture (as compared to the locked down monoculture of Apple).

  • Re:tl;dr (Score:4, Informative)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:29PM (#38318630)

    I might disagree, but in a slight way. Some OEMs add onto Android in nonstandard, but positive ways.

    Take Motorola's Atrix. It has security enhancements that really should be in AOSP. The first of which is encrypting everything on the internal drive as a complete image. The second is encrypting files on a memory card on a file by file basis. This way, if the device is lost or stolen, even if the MicroSD card is pulled, it is protected. This is crucial for getting Android into the enterprise.

    Then, there is the Webtop feature. It may be limited, but it is interesting nonetheless, and appears to be a decent environment for doing remote work with. With the reports of searches and seizures of phones and laptops without any warrants, having the ability to leave your data at the remote site and work with it via a glorified dumb terminal will become more useful as time progresses.

    The ideal would be to let phone makers and cell carriers have their default ROM load, but keep bootloaders open so one can just grab the latest CyanogenMod revision or a custom ROM and use that.

  • by HeikkiK (1517929) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:29PM (#38319304)

    Unfortunately the manufacturer is right here. Currently in the ARM world every printed circuit board (PCB) model requires its own kernel version - even if the SoC is the same. Even if the components in the board are exactly the same, a new kernel version is required if the components are just wired differently!

    Why is this? Because in the ARM world there is no any universal bus like PCI is in the x86 world. Typically components are connected by using quite primitive buses like I2C or SPI, which has no bulletproof way to do a listing of connected components. Also ARM is heavily power optimized - also in the PCB-level. There are software controlled regulators powering different components ON when needed and OFF to save power. Because there is no any standard way to do this - every manufacturer is designing the powering differently. Power and the communication bus are not connected by any means - powering the component on/off might require using a totally different bus - not told to software by the communications bus. This knowledge is typically just put (hacked) into the kernel code.

    In PC world most of the hardware is initialized by BIOS and all the peripherals are usually nicely listed by the PCI bus (try lspci -command in your x86 linux box). Drivers can be easily attached into peripherals by unique device IDs. The same driver works for all boards even if the PCI bus address is different.

    No such luxury in the ARM world. Typically you can see multiple versions of drivers for the exacly same component in the Linux kernel source tree. Just because the ARM architecture has brought too many obstacles for developers to easily use the same driver for different boards. You can imagine - it is a total mess. Also typically those drivers do not enter into mainline kernel so there is again more work for phone makers to port drivers for the new kernel version. Also Android kernel has some differences to normal Linux kernel.

    Correct me if I'am wrong, but in my understanding the Android HAL-interface is in the user space - not kernel space. The HAL-interface might change a lot between Android versions. But not only the interface has changed - also the kernel space interfaces - those on the top manufacturer have to implement the HAL-interfaces - have changed breaking the existing drivers the manufacturer has made.

    But there is hope in the future. Developers of linaro.org have work in progress and already very good demonstrations of how this mess can be sorted out. But we are not there yet and the work is huge. It needs also some common standards and practices to be adopted by the ARM hardware makers.

    See also: The Ugly State of ARM Support On Linux http://linux.slashdot.org/story/11/06/20/2039229/the-ugly-state-of-arm-support-on-linux [slashdot.org]

    But this ARM-problem is not just related to Linux. Windows Phone 7 is currently working only on Qualcomm SoC, probably because Microsoft wants to keep things simple at this point. Apple has solved the problem by making its own hardware and SoC and probably standardized the hardware in house.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday December 09, 2011 @08:51PM (#38321582)

    Samsung have made zero attempt to lock down the system (which is why I buy their phones). Firmware for all variants of all Samsung phones released around the world are available at www.samfirmware.com [samfirmware.com]. I remember when Gingerbread first came out of the Galaxy S it came out in the Netherlands. I flashed that firmware over my phone without problems. The carriers in Australia released their copies some SIX MONTHS LATER.

    The XDA-Dev [xda-developers.com] page should give you a good indication of what Samsung phones are capable of and requires nothing more than downloading one of the two flashing utilities for Samsung phones. Personally I run a beta of IceCream Sandwich [xda-developers.com] on my Galaxy S.

  • by cynyr (703126) on Friday December 09, 2011 @09:18PM (#38321794)

    T-mobile will sell you just about any phone they have without a contract. You can then use the very sneaky loophole of calling them and telling them that you are going out of the country, they will try and sell you the international plan, decline saying you are only going out for a few days and you don't expect to go often and would just like to buy a pre-paid sim when you get there. They should give you the unlock code for your phone.

    Also T-Mobile is one of the few where the monthly payment is less when you buy the phone outright.

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