Despite rumors, competitors moving quickly and a carrier announcing release dates, Samsung still hasn’t announced its Android 4.4 KitKat update plans for its current smartphone lineup. That means that Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2 owners, and more are mostly in the dark. With 2014 fast approaching and questions swirling, we wanted to take a look into our crystal ball and make some predictions ahead of Samsung’s inevitable Android 4.4 KitKat announcements.
For much of the year, Samsung remained stagnant with its software updates. Sure, we saw updates roll out to mid-range devices and such, but we didn’t see the company move swiftly to Android 4.2 or Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Instead, owners of Galaxy devices like the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 were made to wait, in silence, for word on their major updates.
That word finally came in October when Samsung announced Android 4.3 Jelly Bean updates for the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy Note 2, updates that have been rolling out since the end of October. The announcement and the roll outs came just a few short days before the arrival of Google’s latest Android update, Android 4.4 KitKat, an update that rolled out in late November to owners of Google’s Nexus devices and to owners of devices like the Moto X.
Many devices that haven’t seen an Android 4.4 KitKat roll out have seen their Android 4.4 KitKat updates confirmed. Even LG, a company notorious for slow software updates and a lack of information, has delivered information to LG G2 owners. The leader of the pack though has remained quiet about its plans.
Samsung, the world’s most successful Android manufacturer, still hasn’t addressed Android 4.4 KitKat, something that has left Galaxy owners in the dark about the future. Thanks to rumors and confirmations outside of Samsung, we’ve started to put things together. Still, nothing is set in stone as we head into 2014.
With questions about Android 4.4 KitKat on the minds of Galaxy owners across the globe, we wanted to offer our own, specific, predictions about the upcoming Samsung Android 4.4 KitKat update roll out, a roll out that almost certainly will be taking place in 2014.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update has been rumored twice already. The first time, by an alleged document that suggested that Samsung was looking at rolling out the update during the month of January.
While there were many that were skeptical about this sort of timing, French carrier SFR has backed it up, saying that it plans to roll out Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat in late January or early February. SFR was the first, and so far, only company to confirm an update. With that in mind, we offer up some predictions about the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update.
1. It’s Coming
No question, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update is on its way. Samsung may take weeks to announce the roll out but it’s clear that Galaxy S4 owners will be getting an upgrade to the latest version of Android. The SFR confirmation was the nail in the coffin. This is an update that is on its way and Galaxy S4 owners in the United States and elsewhere don’t need to fret.
2. Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat Roll Out Begins Next Month
The biggest question of course is about when. When is the Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update going to arrive? Right now, all signs point to January. We have a document that suggests that this is Samsung’s target month. We have SFR saying late January to early February and we know that carriers are typically well behind the curve. International devices usually get updated first. And finally, we have Samsung’s biggest Android rival, HTC, rolling out its HTC One Android 4.4 update in January.
We expect January to be the month that the Galaxy S4 receives Android 4.4 KitKat, and if it does, it would be an impressive turnaround as the Galaxy S4 Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update still hasn’t hit every device on the planet.
3. A Few New Features, Fixes for Android 4.3 Issues
A feature list is extremely hard to predict. Given that it’s supposedly coming out in the early part of the year, we doubt it’s going to have anything from the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S5 may be coming early but it likely won’t be out before March. So, we think that the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update will likely be focused on repairing issues with Android 4.3 and adding a few new features that will perhaps come from the Galaxy Note 3.
We certainly expect this update to be smaller than the update that comes later as the next one will almost certainly bring some of the Galaxy S5’s software features to the table.
4. U.S. Carriers Near the Front
Carriers in the United States showed a commitment to the Galaxy S4 with their swift upgrades to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. And while we would be shocked to see U.S. carriers release the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update first, ahead of the international roll outs, we expect the U.S. once again to be in the very front of the line.
Not only is the United States a key battleground for Samsung, but it’s also the place where the Galaxy S4 launch took place. Samsung seems to favor launch regions when it comes to software releases. For instance, we saw the United Kingdom, the place where the Galaxy S3 arrived, get the update first. U.S. carriers were among the first to the Galaxy S4 Android 4.3 update.
We think that the U.S. will once again be quick to Android 4.4 KitKat though there is a good chance that it won’t be first.
5. Verizon Galaxy S4 Release That Isn’t Last
We also think that there is a good chance that Verizon won’t be last to the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update. Before Samsung encountered issues with Android 4.3, Verizon was slated to be among the first to the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.3 updates. It was one of the first to the Galaxy S4 Android 4.3 update.
While it hasn’t righted the slow update ship, it’s doing a whole lot better with its newer devices. The Verizon Moto X is a prime example of this. It’s hard to think that it will be first to Android 4.4 KitKat, but we’d be willing to bet that it won’t be last. It’s shown signs of improvement when it comes to speed and we think that will carry over into next year for Galaxy S4 users.
Samsung Galaxy S3
We’ve also seen the Samsung Galaxy S3 Android 4.4 KitKat update rumored for arrival. The rumor came from the same document that leaked out Samsung’s supposed Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat plans. The document suggested that the Galaxy S3 would be getting Android 4.4 KitKat and that Samsung is targeting a roll out by the end of April. We haven’t seen any sign of the Galaxy S3 Android 4.4 KitKat update since.
6. It’s Coming
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is getting older. In May, it will turn two years old. Google recommends that manufacturers stop support after 18 months and unfortunately, we’re firmly in that territory with the Galaxy S3. Even so, we don’t think Samsung skips Android 4.4 KitKat. And we have a few reasons why we feel that way.
First, the Galaxy S3 is still in the hands of millions and millions of people around the globe. It’s Samsung’s most popular phone. It’s hard to see it dropping support before the two year mark. Especially when the company made users wait virtually all year for a major Android update. Second, simple enough, the update is rumored and we find that leak to be reliable. It was, after all, the same site that first reported the delay from Android 4.2 and Android 4.3.
And finally, Android 4.4 KitKat was designed with low-end devices in mind. The Samsung Galaxy S3’s hardware is still better than some phones from 2013. And it has 2GB of RAM, Android 4.4 KitKat can run on devices running as low as 512MB.
The only way we see Samsung skipping this is if things go horribly wrong in testing. We’ve seen issues with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but we’ve also heard good things about the update. We’d be shocked if Samsung skipped a Galaxy S3 Android 4.4 update.
7. Final Update
If an update does roll out, expect it to be the Samsung Galaxy S3’s last. It’s already teetering on the edge of 18 months and we haven’t seen Samsung firmly commit to a support path longer than two years. While we believe Android 4.4 KitKat is on the way, it’s hard to imagine another update for a phone that is likely going to be two years old by the time the update rolls out.
8. U.S. Carriers Way Behind Curve
When and if an update rolls out, we expect U.S. carriers to be far behind the curve when it comes to timing. While we’ve seen U.S. carriers step up to the plate for their flagship devices, older devices have suffered. The older a device is, the more difficult it is to upgrade. Carriers also tend to focus on their newer, more expensive devices.
The Galaxy S3 was behind the Galaxy S4 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean in the United States. The device was also behind the rest of the world by a few weeks and in some cases, several weeks. The Verizon Galaxy S3 Android 4.3 update rolled out a month after the international variant got its update. The Galaxy S3 isn’t getting any younger either and with Galaxy Gear support out of the way, there isn’t a monetary incentive to get these updates out in a hurry.
We expect U.S. carriers to lag behind with the Galaxy S3 update. We think that the United Kingdom will get the update first, if it rolls out. The U.S. should be weeks behind at least.
9. Verizon Galaxy S3 Last to Android 4.4
We’re calling it now. The Samsung Galaxy S3, which was last amongst major carriers to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, will be last to Android 4.4 KitKat. Verizon has shown promise but its older devices continue to get the short end of the stick. Carriers like C Spire and Cricket rolled out their updates in the same week as Verizon. That’s saying something.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Like the Samsung Galaxy S4 KitKat update, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat update was confirmed by French carrier SFR who says that it will be rolling out the update in and around late January and early February. Again, this falls in line with a leaked document that suggested that January would be the month that Samsung’s latest flagship would get the software.
10. It’s Coming
We heard back in early November that the Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat update had entered testing at Samsung and all signs are that it’s on its way. Hard to argue with credible rumors and evidence and given that the Galaxy Note 3 is only a few weeks old, we expect a long life out of Samsung’s flagship.
11. Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat Roll Out Shortly After GS4
We think the Samsung Galaxy S4 gets Android 4.4 KitKat first, followed by the Galaxy Note 3. We would imagine a gap of at least a few days, possibly a week or so, between the updates. If we had to guess, we’d say the start of the roll out will take place in January with most carriers getting the update in February.
12. New Features, Fixes
Because the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is so new and because the roll out appears to be coming before the arrival of the Galaxy S5, it’s hard to say what will be on board the software when it arrives. No doubt, it will have fixes and enhancements for current features but it’s hard to suggest anything new for the device.
We think that it could mirror the Galaxy S4’s Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update which was relatively minor compared to the updates for the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. Both of those devices received substantial feature upgrades that brought Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 features to both devices. We’re predicting a relatively small release here with Android 4.4 KitKat and a much larger update later in the year with Galaxy S5 features aboard.
13. Verizon Galaxy Note 3 Amongst First to Android 4.4
Believe it or not, Verizon was one of the first carriers to announce Galaxy Note 3 release information. Huge, considering the carrier has normally been last to such launches. The carrier was among the first to the Galaxy S4 update and we think that this speed will continue with the Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat release.
Don’t be shocked if it’s amongst the first in the United States to Android 4.4.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was also included on the leaked document. Like the Galaxy S3 update, its Android 4.4 KitKat update is said to becoming after the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 updates, perhaps in April. We haven’t seen any further confirmation which means that the update is up in the air, at least for the moment.
14. It’s Coming
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was one of the first to arrive with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on board. And given that, we expected it to be one of the first to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. That of course didn’t happen and users were forced to wait all year for an upgrade to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Android 4.3 represented the first major update for the Galaxy Note 2 and we can’t see Samsung abandoning this phone after one major update.
It’s also nowhere close to its first birthday in the United States, or elsewhere, so we can get behind an Android 4.4 KitKat release at some point in 2014.
15. Release After Galaxy S3 Android 4.4 Update
We expect the Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 update to land after the Galaxy S3 update. Samsung almost always updates its Galaxy S line first and the moves to the Galaxy Note. We suspect that this is based on adoption rates. The Galaxy Note is simply not as popular as the Galaxy S. We think the two updates will indeed be close to each other, just like they were with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the device get upgraded in the first half of next year.
April is rumored, we know, but given the issues that we saw with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and Samsung’s focus likely on the Galaxy S5 and its newer devices, we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some carriers wait until May or June to get this device upgraded.
16. New Features, Fixes
Like the Galaxy S3, we expect this update to mimic past updates. That means enhancements, fixes and the addition of a feature or two. Galaxy S5 features are a prime candidate but so are some of the features from the Galaxy Note 2.
We would love to see Air Command, for instance, come to the Galaxy Note 2 with Android 4.4 KitKat.
17. Verizon Galaxy Note 2 Dead Last to Android 4.4
Do not be surprised when the AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile Galaxy Note 2 variants receive the update before the Verizon model. Verizon simply hasn’t shown any interest in getting its older devices upgraded in the same time frame as other carriers, choosing to march to the beat of its own drum instead.
Other Galaxy Smartphones
Those are obviously the big boys but Samsung’s smartphone lineup isn’t just comprised of four big name smartphones. There are others. The original Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S2 are both dead in the water. They’ve been out for 18 months and have received several updates already. Typically, Samsung uses Google’s 18 month rule and it normally updates its mid-range phones with two major updates. Anything after that is extremely gray and unlikely.
18. Devices like the Galaxy S4 mini, which just received the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update in the U.S., will almost certainly get the update to Android 4.4 KitKat. And given that Galaxy S3 mini just reached the U.S., we could see it getting an update too. And we have no doubt that Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active will be getting upgraded at some point down the road, it’s just a matter of when. It still is on Android 4.2, after all.
19. The Samsung Galaxy Mega should also get an update at some point in the future, but we would expect its update, and the other non-big name updates, to arrive much later in 2014 after the flagships get their fill.
20. We expect Samsung to upgrade a number of tablets with Android 4.4. In our eyes, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Galaxy Note 8.0, and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition to all get upgraded. They’re all new enough and we doubt that Samsung is going to leave them behind in the face of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display getting iOS 8.
Keep in mind, these are predictions, based on history, leaks, policies and pure old fashioned gut instincts. It’s entirely possible that things will play out differently when the time comes.