A closer look at Google’s handset unity initiative for Android

open handset allianceAt Google I/O’s Android keynote yesterday, product manager Hugo Barra mentioned the company would be working with mobile manufacturers and providers to curb any division the brand is experiencing. Despite Android’s incredible breakthrough into the mobile scene, it unfortunately hasn’t been able to entirely escape those infamous fragmentation issues Steve Jobs warned us all about.

It’s an unavoidable problem for a platform such as Android. Users are bound to get stuck waiting for their phones’ manufacturers and carriers to independently give an update the go-ahead. And with the number of Android phones only growing, it’s increasingly difficult to implement a smooth, simultaneous OS upgrade.

Various carriers and devices have experienced these growing pains when it comes to Android upgrades. Motorola admitted at this year’s Mobile World Congress that it had botched its handsets’ Froyo and Éclair updates, T-Mobile has made statements saying it originally mismanaged rolling out updates, and Samsung has secured itself the spot of worst Android manufacturing when it comes to new operating systems. There were even claims that the manufacturer was purposefully holding off on Android users because of carrier disputes, and most recently it had to delay the long-awaited Gingerbread upgrade for the Galaxy S. It’s an issue Google is well aware of, and has been for awhile: Last year, Google announced it would try to alleviate some of the upgrade pain when it introduced Froyo, which didn’t solve the big picture problem.

android chartAccording to the Android Developer’s blog, about 66 percent of users are operating on Android 2.2  (Froyo) and nearly 25 percent on Android 2.1 (Éclair). A measly4 percent are using Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), although many manufacturers are telling consumers this update will be rolling out shortly. But considering how many Android users are still waiting to get Gingerbread, how long is it going to take them to get Ice Cream Sandwich? Simply put, it’s a bit of a mess.

And that’s why Google is creating a partnership with various carriers and manufacturers to try and find some sort of middle ground. Verizon, HTC, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, AT&T, Motorola, LG, Vodafone, Sprint, and Samsung are just a few of the companies on board. At yesterday’s keynote, Barra said that provided your hardware supports it, this team will guarantee that Android handsets get the latest Android OS for at least the first 18 months after that particular device hits shelves. That’s a big promise: Buying the hottest new Android phone now won’t mean you’re stuck with whatever OS it came with, and you won’t be sitting around for months, a year even, waiting for the latest upgrade. Good news right? Well from the sounds of the Q&A session following the event, this plan is more in the idea stage than anything else. Here are a few things worth noting that are still up in the air:

  • How quickly updates come after a new OS is introduced is completely undetermined thus far.
  • It’s uncertain whether this new policy begins now or once Ice Cream Sandwich is introduced (FYI: There is no Honeycomb for phones – Ice Cream Sandwich brings Honeycomb features to the phone).
  • What if a user buys a phone 10 months after it’s been on shelves – do they only get eight months of guaranteed upgrades?

According to Google’s blog, the initiative’s partners will be “working together to adopt guidelines for how quickly devices are updated after a new platform is released.” It’s great, inspiring news for Android users – but know that this is a step in the right direction instead of a guaranteed solution, and the details are vague at best.

Product Review

This $295 smartwatch has the Armani name, but not the looks

The Armani Exchange AX Connected smartwatch does everything right. It has strong technical features, a good design, and isn’t over-priced. But is subtle brand name appeal enough to recommend it?
Trash

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.
Mobile

The OnePlus 3 & 3T both receive an open beta for Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

The Avalon V is Alcatel’s first Verizon-exclusive smartphone

Alcatel is has announced a new phone, the Avalon V -- but this budget device isn't what makes the announcement special. It's Alcatel's first phone on the Verizon network, and it's available now.
Mobile

The Pixel 3 range will soon be coming to T-Mobile's network

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

Leaker claims we'll be saying hello to the new OnePlus 7 range on May 14

The OnePlus 6T may still be new, but we're already looking ahead to the upcoming OnePlus 7. It will use the Snapdragon 855, and may have a new pop-up front camera, too. Here's everything we know about the OnePlus 7.
Photography

Family feud: Huawei P30 Pro vs. P20 Pro vs. Mate 20 Pro camera shootout

The Huawei P30 Pro's camera has an amazing zoom mode and low light capabilities. But take these away, and how does it compare when facing its sibling phones, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, taking regular photos?
Mobile

Apple and Qualcomm settle all disputes, reach six-year agreement on chips

Apple and Qualcomm have announced that they have settled all disputes between them around the world -- and not only that, but have also agreed to a six-year agreement for Qualcomm to supply Apple with chips.
Mobile

Spruce up your Lenovo smartphone with the best Moto Mods for the Moto Z-series

Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories compatible with Lenovo's Moto Z-series smartphones add a lot of value without adding a lot of bulk. Looking to try one out? Here are a few of our favorite Moto Mods.
Mobile

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL will be coming to the U.S. with T-Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
Mobile

The black satin Razer Phone 2 is now available for $500

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Mobile

The best LG G7 ThinQ cases will keep your phone looking new

The LG G7 ThinQ comes with a powerful processor, versatile cameras, and amazing sound. But a powerful phone still needs protection and you might want to change the style. Here are the best LG G7 ThinQ cases.
Mobile

Multiple phone leaks show May 21 is going to be a big day for Honor

Honor will launch at least one new smartphone on May 21, at an event taking place in London. Leaks have indicated the Honor 20 will take center stage, with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

Breaking news: Samsung responds to reported Galaxy Fold display issues

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.