Meet Jean-Baptiste Queru. He’s Google’s lead technical developer for the Android Open Source Project, the open-source Android code that manufacturers and ROM developers use to create updated versions of Android. And he’s not nearly as upset about the lackadaisical state of Android updates as we (and probably you) are. In a Google+ post yesterday, he broke down some of the reasons that Android updates in general and Ice Cream Sandwich updates in particular take so long.
Giving the recent example of Sony’s ICS update for the Tablet S, Queruhad this to say:
This is actually a very reasonable time, since under the hood Ice Cream Sandwich is quite different from Honeycomb (and upgrades from Gingerbread are likely to take longer as those differences are huge).
He went on to praise Sony for their many contributions back to Android’s open source code, something that’s hard to deny. He notes that since Ice Cream Sandwich differs so greatly from Android in its previous incarnations, longer than usual updates aren’t all that bad.
We’ve got a couple of points of contention with this approach. One, Sony took nearly six months to release an ICS update for its Tablet S, and there are still too many tablets and phones out there (like the Xperia S) that are still without ICS despite being launched months after the source code became available. If small teams of independent developers can create Android 4.0 ROMs from scratch in weeks, why does it take international companies months?
Queru also notes that it takes time for manufacturers and carriers to customize their own software for a new version of Android. That’s absolutely true, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good reason for huge delays. If it takes 7-8 months for Samsung to release Ice Cream Sandwich for the Galaxy Note because they want to cram in some extras with their own software, maybe that software isn’t worth the wait. Even on Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus, which is supposed to be a developer device, stock users have been stuck on Android 4.0.2 for months while newer phones and ROMs are released.
Jean-Baptiste Queru posted his thoughts on his personal Google+ account, so his opinions shouldn’t be taken as representative for Google itself. But if this is what one of the most important Android developers out there thinks, I can’t help but be worried that Google is just fine with the status quo, while Android users wait for updates that are almost universally late or never come at all.