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.

Wearables

The Galaxy Watch will make you a better person

The newly unveiled Galaxy Watch pushes the edge of the wearable envelope: This smartwatch aims to improve not just your fitness but your overall wellness, explains Alanna Cotton, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Samsung.
Mobile

Bloatware could be putting millions of Android devices at risk

A study has revealed that changes to Android's firmware and added bloatware from carriers could be making millions of Android smartphones vulnerable to massive hacks and potential data theft.
Mobile

HTC confirms HTC U12 Plus, three other phones to receive 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

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Pixel 2 XL: Flagship face-off

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a productivity powerhouse. With its Snapdragon 845 processor and 6GB of RAM, it's sure to please the most demanding user. How does it compare to the Pixel 2 XL? We put the two phones head-to-head to find out.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Galaxy Note 8 vs. Note 5: All the changes of note

Samsung's Galaxy Note series features tempting, big screen, productivity powerhouses, but how much has changed in the latest release? We pit Galaxy Note 9 vs. Note 8 vs. Note 5 to find out precisely what the differences are.
Mobile

Motorola Moto Z3 vs. Moto Z3 Play: Is Motorola's latest flagship worth buying?

Motorola has finally taken the wraps off of its latest flagship phone, the Moto Z3. But with slightly different-than-expected specs and a very similar design, is it really that much better than the Moto Z3 Play?
Mobile

MetroPCS Alcatel 7 boasts a dual-sensor camera and FHD+ screen for $180

Alcatel has taken the wraps off of the new Alcatel 7, a phone that's uniquely available from MetroPCS. The new device boasts a full HD display with a dual-sensor camera and a relatively nice design, and it comes in at only $180.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Two high-end phones clash

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is here and it's a big, beautiful beast of a smartphone. But today's market is demanding -- does the Note 9 measure up to other flagships? We pitted it against the Huawei P20 Pro to find out.
Mobile

Everything that’s new with notifications in Android 9.0 Pie

Android notifications have once again gotten a makeover, this time in Android 9.0 Pie, Google's latest and greatest version of Android. Confused by all the tweaks? We've put together this guide to explain them.
Computing

Should you OK Google, Hey Siri, or talk to Cortana? Here's the top voice assistant

In this virtual assistant comparison, we examine how they're becoming an important part of our lives. So how do Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri stack up against one another when it comes to features and voice recognition?
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. BlackBerry Key2: Productivity powerhouse punch-out

If you're after a top-notch business companion and productivity is paramount, then Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 and BlackBerry's Key2 are devices you're going to want to take a closer look at. We put them head to head to see which is best.
Mobile

Marco? Polo! Let's explore the app known as the 'video walkie-talkie'

Marco Polo has been dubbed the "video walkie-talkie," but how does the video messaging app stack up against competitors like Snapchat and Instagram? From unique filters to personalized video messages, we explore the Marco Polo app.
Product Review

Someday it will do 5G, but the Moto Z3 is already a great phone

Motorola’s flagship smartphone of 2018 looks exactly like its mid-range smartphone of 2018, but powered by a processor from 2017. It’s still a great-performing phone for $480, and it will be the first upgradable 5G smartphone next year.
Mobile

Samsung confirms the Galaxy S10 won't be the first 5G phone

It may be no more than a sparkle in Samsung's eye, but the Samsung Galaxy S10 is definitely coming. Here's everything we know about what's sure to be Samsung's most amazing creation so far.