Google Lays Down the Law: No More Device Launches With Dated Android OS

If a leaked document is to be believed, Google may be instituting a policy with Android device-makers that will force new devices to launch with a somewhat recent build of the mobile operating system. According to a report on Android Police, if a device manufacturer–be it Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, Motorola, ZTE, or others–chooses to launch an Android device with Google Mobile Services and be granted access to the Google Play Store, then such devices will need to launch with a recent build of Android.

Still, this doesn’t guarantee that these devices will launch with the latest version of the operating system like what Google does for the Nexus series of smartphones or tablets, but at least this rumored policy would help to reduce fragmentation. Google, at least in some part, feels that it is silly for device manufacturers to launch with Android 2.2, for instance, when Android 4.4 KitKat is on the table today.

The publication had obtained a tablet that was allegedly communicated “to at least one major Android OEM partner from the Android team.” That table is re-posted below with dates for when Google will stop certifying devices for access to the Google Play Store and be granted Google Mobile Services.

In the leaked memo, Google’s Android team states:

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.)

According to the very same table, all devices that are launching in the near future would have to debut with at least Android 4.2 as Google has closed the GMS certification window for all editions of Android up to 4.1. By the end of July, Google will force manufacturers to Android 4.4 or higher.

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Theoretically, a device-maker can get GMS certification, but not release the device until a later date. However, with the rapid evolution of mobile technology, it seems unlikely that manufacturers will wait too long before pushing the hardware out the door.

And while the solution does appear to reduce fragmentation, we are still waiting for the day when Android device-makers could release products with the latest iteration of Android out the door at the same time that Google announces Android and the newest Nexus. Right now, it may be weeks or months before an Android-maker could push out the latest version of Android to devices. Given that Android 4.4 was launched late last year, we’re only starting to see select versions of the HTC One in the U.S. get pushed that software update as we speak. The goal, hopefully, is that in the future when Android 5.0, for instance, launches, not only can Samsung launch a Galaxy S8 or whatever it will be called alongside the Android software, but it can also push out an update to Android 5.0 to older Galaxy models on that same date.

This should be good news for owners of more affordable devices, which sometimes lag behind more expensive flagships in software versions. It’s beneficial as Google had said it had invested a lot of work into optimizing Android 4.4 to run on low-cost devices, so theoretically it would want the owners of these devices to be able to benefit from that. So moving forward, we may see not only see reduced fragmentation, but low end devices with decent Android performance benefiting from having android 4.4 or later on board.

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