The Asia Economic News is reporting that Samsung will hold its press event on March 22 “at Apple’s doorsteps” in the U.S., highlighting the increasing rivalry and war between Apple and Samsung, though the publication did not specify the exact venue. The phone is expected to be announced in March and available in April to consumers, though it remains unclear if the U.S. will be among the first markets to get the Galaxy S4 given tight carrier control and rigorous testing in this market before any device does launch. However, there is one major problem with a March launch date: it’s two months short of Google’s I/O conference and the Samsung flagship will debut with what will be a stale version of the Android OS shortly after it becomes available.
Drawback: Won’t Launch With Key Lime Pie
However, even as hopefuls want the Galaxy S4 now, the major drawback with a late March announcement and April availability is that the Galaxy S4 will miss the next major version of Android at debut. With Google scheduled to hold its developer Google I/O conference in mid-May, the Android-maker is expected to debut Android 5.0 rumored to be called Key Lime Pie at the venue alongside new Nexus smartphones and tablets as well as the rumored Motorola X Phone. With the announcement of the Galaxy S4 to precede Google I/O, the Samsung flagship would only be launched with Android Jelly Bean and would be dated in a few months until Samsung updates the Android OS.
The problem with waiting for an update is that it has to go through carrier certification and approval, a process that can take months to accomplish.
Even devices that launch shortly after Google I/O would not get the latest version of Android at launch. This is due to the rigorous carrier and OEM testing process that was mentioned.
This issue has to do more with Google than with Samsung, but as flagship smartphones launch with old OSes in order for Google to debut new Android versions on Nexus hardware, this issue is becoming more problematic.
Working on Google’s Terms
Typically, Google likes to debut new Android versions on new Nexus devices. This means that any flagship device launching around the time of a Nexus device–even a high profile device like the Galaxy S3–would have to launch with the current version of Android. Though Google quickly makes the source code available to its partners for software updates, the update process is typically lengthy in the U.S. where the OEM would have to test the Android version with their software packages–in this case, the Android 5.0 upgrade would have to work well with TouchWiz, Samsung’s proprietary UI–and carriers would have to ensure everything works flawlessly on their networks.
Theoretically speaking, if the Galaxy S4 launches two months before Key Lime Pie, and it could take Samsung two months before the update is available, the device is already 4 months into its life cycle–which is typically a year before Samsung releases a new flagship–before it would even get to taste the latest Android dessert.
Other ecosystems are more fair. Apple, being the software and hardware builder, distributes its new OSes around the same time new devices are released to all supported older device models. Microsoft tries to roll out all Windows Phone updates at the same time to all devices.
Though Google had blessed the Nexus with a low price to consumers, it has to update the way it operates the ecosystem before hardware partners turn elsewhere. Samsung is already investigating Tizen, and HTC, Huawei, ZTE, and LG are also hedging bets with Windows Phone.
An Aggressive Samsung Could Mean U.S. Availability Not Too Far Away
In our discussion with Samsung at the Galaxy Note 2‘s announcement late last year, Samsung’s U.S. reps promised that the U.S. launch of flagship products will be closer to the launch of international variants. If this holds true, the wait for the Galaxy S4 in the U.S. shouldn’t be too long after the device is announced internationally.
This should also give Samsung some lead time if Apple decides to debut the next new iPhone in the summer, as it had previously done, or even the fall as Apple had done with the iPhone 5 last year.
Rumored Power of the Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4 promises to be a compelling upgrade for power users with features like a 4.99-inch full HD 1080p display, 8-core Samsung Exynos 5-Octa processor, 2 GB RAM, 13-megapixel rear camera, wireless charging, and 4G LTE.