The Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 KitKat updates are heading to the United States. And with releases on the way, we want to take a close look at these updates and detail exactly how we see the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 KitKat roll out going down in the U.S.
Several weeks ago, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 KitKat update rumors started flying around. While they didn’t confirm anything, they did instill confidence in owners of the two aging flagships.
Google recommends 18 months of software support for Android devices. And while the Galaxy Note 2 hasn’t hit the 18 month mark just yet, the Galaxy S3 is approaching the 24 month mark. The device, which arrived back in May of 2012, turns two later on this year. Given that Google killed off an Android 4.4 KitKat update for the Galaxy Nexus due to the 18 month rule, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 owners were unsurprisingly on edge.
The rumors pointed to releases in either March or April, specific dates unknown. Specific dates still are up in the air but now we at least know that Samsung plans to upgrade both devices with Android 4.4 KitKat in the United States.
Earlier this month, Samsung issued a press release confirming updates for the Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2 and a handful of other Galaxy-branded devices. The company confirmed many of the features coming along with these updates but it declined to get into specifics about carriers or release dates. Those remain up in the air.
Because they are up in the air, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 owners are looking for answers. We don’t have them all but after years of covering the Android update process, we feel like we have a pretty good idea about how the Android 4.4 KitKat update situation will pan out for Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 users.
Here, we’re going to set the table for those that may not be familiar with the Android update process or simply want someone to help set their expectations.
We’ve already taken a look at what we expect from the roll out in the U.S. and now, we reverse gears, and take a look at what we don’t expect from the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 update roll out in the United States.
U.S. Android 4.4 Release That Isn’t Near the Front of the Line
First things first. Do not expect the United States to be near the back of the line in terms of timing for these two important Android 4.4 KitKat updates.
Samsung made it a point to confirm these updates for the United States because it sees the United States as an important battleground in its fight against the likes of Apple and HTC.
HTC recently adopted an open door policy with its Android software updates in the United States, putting an emphasis on its users in the United States. Samsung seems to have done the same, first with the arrival of that press release, but also with the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat updates.
Sprint was one of the first carriers to push out the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4 KitKat update. We’ve also seen AT&T and U.S. Cellular follow close behind with their own Android 4.4 KitKat updates. Sprint and U.S. Cellular have also pushed out Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat updates. While they weren’t first to the update, they were among the first.
Those who need further proof only need to look at the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean roll outs in the United States. American carriers were near the front of the line for Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.3 updates as well. While that might not seem important, consider that there are still plenty of Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 users still waiting for the update, four months later.
Carriers to Miss Out
Samsung didn’t single out any updates for arrival. Instead, the press release was extremely generic and simply confirmed Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 KitKat updates for the United States. While we don’t have any carrier confirmations just yet, don’t expect any U.S. carriers to miss out.
While owners of the Galaxy S3 model with 1GB of RAM might be in some trouble, the major U.S. Galaxy S3 variants all use 2GB of RAM which is more than enough to run Android 4.4 KitKat, an update that was designed to run on as little as 512MB of RAM.
Carriers also don’t want to grant any advantages to their rivals. How bad would it look if AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint rolled out Android 4.4 KitKat updates but Verizon decided not to? That wouldn’t look good and it would be especially bad given that this is a contract year for many Galaxy S3 users.
Don’t expect any of the major carriers to miss out on Android 4.4 and we’d be shocked if smaller regional carriers didn’t join the Android 4.4 update party as well.
Smaller Carriers Out in Front
Just don’t expect them to be out in front of major carriers.
The Galaxy S3 is found on a number of carriers inside the U.S., not just the big names. Regional carriers like C Spire Wireless and pre-paid carriers like Cricket offer the Galaxy S3 on their 4G networks. They work hard to get major Android updates out to their users, something that we saw in action with last year’s Galaxy Android 4.3 updates.
Traditionally though, they simply are a little bit slower to major Android updates. Larger carriers have more resources and thus, can dedicate more time and effort into the testing process.
We don’t expect smaller Galaxy S3 carriers to be at the front of the line but don’t expect them to lag behind by too much either.
Drastically Different Release Dates
As for the release dates themselves, not only should owners not expect to see drastically different Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.4 KitKat release dates but they also shouldn’t expect there to be large gaps between carrier release dates. Allow us to explain.
The Galaxy S3 Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update arrived first but the Galaxy Note 2 Android 4.3 update wasn’t too far behind. Same goes for the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat updates. While we saw an initial Galaxy Note 3 push, the Galaxy S4 update actually beat the Galaxy Note 3 update to punch in the United States. They are now rolling out simultaneously.
Both of these updates are rumored for March or April and we simply can’t see Samsung and its carrier partners putting a huge gap between their releases.
As for the specific carrier releases, well, we usually see releases cluster around one another. Once one carrier releases the update, we usually see the other carriers follow within a few days and weeks. Case in point, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 KitKat updates which have both gathered steam after the initial releases.
Look for all of the major updates to roll out within a few weeks of each other rather than a few months.
A Clear Future
The Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 are getting older. Even before the Android 4.4 KitKat update confirmation, there was some uncertainty about whether Samsung would upgrade these to Android 4.4.
We have a good feeling that this will be the last major Android update for the Galaxy S3 but there is certainly a chance that the Galaxy Note 2 could see another big update. Whatever the case may be, don’t expect Samsung to make it clear.
When these Android 4.4 KitKat updates arrive, don’t expect Samsung and its carrier partners to explicitly say whether these are the last updates for the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 leaving a cloudy future for users.
That information will likely come out at some point but don’t expect Samsung to offer a clear cut future about the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 when Android 4.4 does arrive.
The End of the Road
That said, don’t expect this to be the end of the road for the Galaxy Note 2 or the Galaxy S3. While we could see support for major software updates end, carriers typically breath new life into older devices with bug fix updates.
Often times, it will take months but carriers generally roll out at least one more bug fix update after the last major Android update arrives. Android 4.4 KitKat is almost certainly going to bring bugs along with it, Android software updates always do, so we should see carriers look to patch things up in the months after its release.
Just don’t expect an immediate release though. It’s going to be a slow process.