All eyes are currently on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update, an update that has yet to hit four of the five major carriers in the United States. However, in the next few weeks, the dust will settle and Galaxy Note 2 users will start looking toward the future, the future after Android 4.3. Here, we take a close look at what not to expect from that future.
Last year, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 arrived with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on board, one of the first devices to do so. After a few weeks on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, many Galaxy Note 2 users started to wonder about the future, about what would come next for the Galaxy Note 2. That’s because Google quickly announced Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, an update that arrived with the Nexus 4, and an update that was pegged to arrive on the Galaxy Note 2 numerous times.
For reasons that have never been stated publicly, Samsung decided to skip Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and offer Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update. This choice led Galaxy Note 2 owners to wait for more than a year for their first major Android update, something that was extremely surprising given Samsung’s track record with software updates.
Last month, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.3 Jelly Bean roll out finally began, starting with devices outside of the United States. And now, at the beginning of December, the Sprint Galaxy Note 2 is the only Galaxy Note 2 in the United States with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and its features. Owners on AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon continue to wait.
In the next few weeks, these carriers will roll out their updates, and a couple of weeks after that, Galaxy Note 2 users in the U.S. will likely set their sights on the future, a future that looks fairly bright. Already, we’ve seen Android 4.4 KitKat rumored for early in the year and it could be that another major update isn’t too far behind Android 4.3.
With Android 4.3 as widely available as it is, we don’t blame Galaxy Note 2 owners for looking at the future and here, we take a look at what we expect for Galaxy Note 2 owners, after the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update roll out completes.
Samsung to Skip Android 4.4 KitKat
Do not expect a repeat of 2013 in 2014. Certainly, there is a chance that Samsung could run into some major issues with Android 4.4 KitKat, but we would be shocked if Samsung decided to skip the update in favor of one much later in the year. The Android 4.3 roll out process hasn’t won Samsung a lot of fans, in fact, the roll out has been nothing short of a black eye with issues, stoppages and more.
Software support is a big deal for many users. New software brings new features, bug fixes and enhancements and in an age with a lot of choice, users want to choose a manufacturer that is reliable, year-after-year. Samsung, prior to this year, was that manufacturer. For whatever reason, Android 4.2 and Android 4.3 gave it a lot of problems. Next year is a new year, a chance to turn a new leaf and a chance to redeem itself.
The release of a timely Android 4.4 KitKat update will go a long way with consumers. A delay into the middle of the year or to an update beyond Android 4.4 KitKat won’t. And with the iPhone 6 and a larger screen rumored for 2014, Samsung will need to do everything that it can to secure a solid customer base. Look for Android 4.4 KitKat to be next, even if Samsung encounters some difficulties in the testing process. There is no way it waits more than half a year to update the Galaxy Note 2 again.
To Be First in Line
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 had its chance to be at the front of the line in terms of timing but Samsung blew it for its users. It, along with the Galaxy S3, would have been first to Android 4.2. Instead, Galaxy Note 2 users will now be relegated down the totem pole, behind the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and now, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3’s arrival in particular means that it will be treated as a second-class smartphone from here on out.
Once the Galaxy S5 arrives, it will be pushed further down in the food chain. It will likely be one of the last to Android 4.4 KitKat, if not the last, and we don’t expect anything other than dead last if Galaxy Note 2 owners are lucky enough to see something past Android 4.4 KitKat.
To Know When Software Support Will End
Do not expect a brand new Samsung next year. Samsung has not shown a willingness to change its approach to public relations, choosing to keep its customer base at bay when it comes to software updates. And while challengers like HTC have made it a point to start openly communicating with users about updates, we just don’t see Samsung making an about face next year or at any point after that unless it’s absolutely forced to.
This will have repercussions. As we’ve pointed out numerous times, it means that Galaxy Note 2 users likely won’t have any clue as to when Android 4.4 KitKat will roll out. Samsung rarely announces release dates. More importantly though, Galaxy Note 2 owners will likely never know which update will be their last Android update.
— Mo (@moversi) November 20, 2013
At Apple events, Apple always confirms which devices will be getting its update and which devices won’t be getting it. Samsung hasn’t done this and has not shown a willingness to do it. That means that if Android 4.4 KitKat is indeed the last update, users will probably never know and will instead be kept in limbo.
HTC has even started to rule out updates, telling users that it currently doesn’t have any plans, a company line for “no.” Galaxy Note 2 owners shouldn’t expect this approach from Samsung.
Official Support to End After Last Major Update
We’ve said that we expect the last Android update for the Galaxy Note 2 to either be Android 4.4 KitKat or the update that comes after that. We could see Samsung adhere to Google’s recommended 18 months of software support. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is turning 24 months old this summer and that makes another update past Android 4.4 KitKat unlikely. If the Galaxy S3 doesn’t get updated, we have a feeling the Galaxy Note 2 won’t either.
That said, don’t expect support to simply die off once the last major update is rolled out, Android 4.4 KitKat or otherwise. Typically, we see devices get support for several months after their final update, in the form of small bug fix updates aimed at enhancing stability. We’ve even seen updates roll out long after a device was thought to be dead.
Development Community to Crumble
In addition, don’t expect the Galaxy Note 2 development community to crumble any time soon. Even if Android 4.4 KitKat is the device’s last major update, the Galaxy Note 2 development community will continue to thrive. How do we know this? For one, the device is in the hands of thousands and thousands of people. It’s not going to die overnight. Heck, we still see devices with far less adoption thriving on places like XDA.
Better yet, while there will certainly be a last official update, Galaxy Note 2 developers will almost certainly release unofficial ROMs of future updates. That’s the beauty of Android. And it’s also a sign that those who are unfamiliar with rooting, unlocking bootloaders and what not should start investing some time into that right now.
There will be a point in time when official support stops and at that point, the development community will come in handy. And unfortunately, mastering those things doesn’t happen over night.
Anything But Bits & Pieces
Going forward, don’t expect robust Galaxy Note 2 Android updates. Sure, we’ll see some features pulled from the Galaxy Note 3 and we’ll probably see some Galaxy S5 features make their way to the Galaxy Note 2 at some point as well. However, don’t expect to get all of the features on board the aging former flagship.
Samsung needs ways to sell these smartphones and one of the ways its able to sell new smartphones is by adding unique features. Samsung is also able to sell older devices by keeping their software fresh. It does this by adding new features pulled from newer devices. The Galaxy Note 2 should be the beneficiary of these TouchWiz enhancements but don’t expect it to steal the full Galaxy S5 TouchWiz update. It won’t ever be on par with the Galaxy Note 3 either.
Instead, given how old it is, we should see only bits and pieces of Samsung’s brand new software going forward. Those looking for more will be able to consult the development community.