Google is about to get tough on Android smartphone makers. Google is seeking to enforce a new rule that all smartphone makers must ship their smartphones with Android 4.4 KitKat if they offer their phones with access to Google’s Services Framework and the Google Play Store. Google have apparently spoken to all major smartphone vendors like Samsung, HTC, LG, ZTE, Motorola and others to inform them of the change. The main justification for a new strict policy on the Android operating system is because of the criticism Android has faced for its version fragmentation.
That is to say that currently the Android market is comprised of a wide range of smartphones and tablets running on different versions of Android which makes it problematic for developers to develop apps that work on all versions. According to the most recent figures Jelly Bean is installed on 59.1% of devices (35.9% 4.1.X, 15.4% 4.2.X and 7.8% 4.3), Ice Cream Sandwich on 16.9% (4.03-4.04) and Gingerbread on 21.2% of devices (2.3.3-2.3.7). Android KitKat (4.4) has just 1.4% of the market share which is barely ahead of Froyo (2.2) which has 1.3%.
Google’s memo apparently reads:
“Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases. Each platform release will have a “GMS approval window” that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available. (In other words, we all have nine months to get new products on the latest platform after its public release.) “
Given Android 4.4 was released on the 31st of October a 9 month window gives Android partners until the 31st of July to ship everything with Android 4.4.
Google getting tough on its partners certainly could work to the consumer advantage. The measures will mean that whether you buy a budget smartphone or a high-end smartphone you will still have the latest version of Android which should bring better performance and better features across the board. However, some partners and consumers will not like the idea that they are being “forced” to run the latest version of what is supposedly an open source operating system. Some hardware may simply not be compatible with Android KitKat so how will Google deal with those instances?
Image courtesy of Google (Android.com)