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Google to manufacturers: Use the latest version of Android, or no Google Play for you

A rumor has emerged that Google may be insisting manufacturers producing Android phones use the very latest version of the software, which in this case is Android 4.4 KitKat. It’s apparently planning to enforce this by not giving permission to use the Google Play store or any associated Google apps to those who flaunt the new rule.

The news comes from an internal Google memo leaked to the Mobile Bloom website, which says there’s a nine month window for approval by Google, which starts ticking away when a new version of Android is released. It’s worth noting there’s no official source here, and it’s impossible to judge whether the memo is genuine.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting story. It’s a sensible move on Google’s part, and one which could help reduce fragmentation of the Android OS in the future. Android 4.4 KitKat has been specially designed to run on both high-end and low-end smartphones, so those companies which produce cheaper Android phones no longer have any excuse to use Android 4.3 or earlier. Google is just making it in their best interest not to cut corners. 

The memo suggests the new rule came into play at the beginning of February. Judging by the pre-announcements and rumors about new Android hardware expected at Mobile World Congress, most will come with Android 4.4 KitKat installed, but we’ll be watching Huawei and ZTE closely. The former is a serial offender. Earlier this week, it announced the basic Y530 smartphone for Europe, which runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. 

While Google’s new initiative, if it’s true, isn’t a cure for fragmentation, it’s another step in the right direction. According to Google’s figures, 4.4 KitKat is on a mere 1.8 percent of Android devices, while Jelly Bean – in all its forms – inhabits 60 percent in total, with the 20-month old 4.1 version responsible for more than half that number.

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