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Google Preps Devs For One-Size-Fits-All Android 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the ways-in-which-operating-systems-are-like-sweatpants dept.
alphadogg writes "Google is preparing Android developers for the latest edition of its Android mobile operating platform that will work the same on both tablets and smartphones. Scott Main, the lead tech writer for Google's Android Developers Blog, reminded developers on Monday that the newest edition of Android — dubbed 'Ice Cream Sandwich' — will 'support big screens, small screens and everything in between.' Main also emphasized that Android would maintain 'the same version ... on all screen sizes' going forward."
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Google Preps Devs For One-Size-Fits-All Android

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  • by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:21AM (#37454490)
    Google needs to force the carriers to keep their androids up to date. This buy a new phone for the latest android version is bullshit.
    • I think that won't happen because phone manufacturers want to keep selling phones, and carriers want you to commit to another 2yr contract for your subsidy.

      The realistic best we can get is hackable phones and CM7, because hacking frightens most people off so it won't break that upgrade loop as far as most users are concerned; and it targets geeks who will mostly update asap anyway.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:43AM (#37454628)

        And yet somehow, Apple, who does also want to keep selling phones, manage to ship at least 2 major OS updates to every device they ship.

        • by MrNaz (730548)

          There's this thing called "business strategy". It's a fairly complex subject, but the only part that you seem to need to know is that it is not identical for every company selling competing products.

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            I honestly don't give a shit about their "business strategy". All I know is that Apple is keeping devices up to date far longer than most of the Android vendors. That gives them a couple points over the Android makers in that regard.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Apple strong armed the carriers. Do it our way or no iPhone for you, and they make the device so they can do whatever they want with it. Google doesn't make phones and individual android manufacturers aren't powerful enough to bully the carriers. Google probably wants everyone to be able to update but the carriers really, really want you to sign that contract extension if you want a new phone.

        • And how many different devices with Android are on the market at the same time? There's a difference between doing 2 major updates for one specific piece of hardware on one (now two) carriers, and doing multiple updates on dozens of different phones, all with different hardware, across multiple carriers. Although this is also why people have been complaining that google needs to force manufacturers to conform to some kind of spec if they want to use android.
          • by babblefrog (1013127) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @09:34AM (#37455062)
            At some point, they will be forced to do some kind of updates, if only to deal with security issues. Imagine how things would be if Microsoft never sent out patches for Windows. That's what Android will be like in the future if the manufacturers and carriers don't get together and address this problem. Remember the days of the "I love you" and Melissa viruses? I'd rather not.
          • by Rob Y. (110975)

            This may be a stupid question, but just how hard is it to update the Android version on a device?

            It took ages for Google to put out a gingerbread update for the Nexus One. I've got a Nook Color running CM7, and the 7.1 gingerbread update for that is taking a really long time to go stable. Assuming one Android version runs on a device, what actually needs to be done to get the next version to run? What exactly are the Cyanogen folks tweaking in their nightly releases? Presumably they're using the latest

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            That's their problem, not mine. Remember, its the manufacturers that need to make the updates, not Google.

        • by robmv (855035)

          The same can be said about the Nexus line of phones, but people still buy other brands

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            Mainly because the Nexus phones aren't available on all carriers. If I was on Verizon, I'd be out of luck.

        • Apple does not only sell hardware, but also content (apps, music, movies, whatnot).
          So they still earn money from customers who do not buy a new phone. And they earn more if they make the new features available for those customers.

          Most companies that sell Android ore Windows Phone devices do not offer any or much content, so they need the customers to buy hardware to earn money.

        • by chrb (1083577)

          Apple is as bad as any of the other manufacturers. The iPhone 3G was superceded by the international release of the 3GS in July/August 2009, and the last software update was November 2010. For people who bought a 3G just before the 3GS was released, that's 15 months before updates were cut off. At least with Android you can install Cyanogen to get the latest software.

          • Apple is as bad as any of the other manufacturers. The iPhone 3G was superceded by the international release of the 3GS in July/August 2009, and the last software update was November 2010. For people who bought a 3G just before the 3GS was released, that's 15 months before updates were cut off. At least with Android you can install Cyanogen to get the latest software.

            What you fail to point out is that the 3G was introduced 06/09/08, which means it continued to receive software upgrades for 2 and a half years. Has any Android manufacturer provided two and half years of OS upgrades? I didn't think so.

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            What the fuck are you smoking? The iPhone 3G was released in July 2008. It got iOS 4.2.1 in November 2010. That's more than TWO YEARS of updates. It also originally shipped with iOS 2.0, meaning it got two major updates during that time. Most Android handsets are lucky if they get one, and not the one that just came out.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BitZtream (692029)

          The difference is:

          People want to buy an iPhone.

          If they can't afford an iPhone, they'll by an Android device that looks kinda the same and does most of the same stuff, but its not an iPhone ... :(

          So ... Apple can say 'do what we tell you' and the carriers say 'Okay, please keep sending us the most sought after cell phone in existence, we want those recuring customers'

          On the other hand, Android makers say 'Pretty please with sugar on top, PLEASE sell our copycat android device that no one actually ASKS FOR BY

      • My wife, sister, mom, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all have Android phones, actually only two variations among them. I would root them all if I could, but it voids the warranty, and I don't want to be _that_ guy who screws people from getting their phone fixed. Instead, I just listen to them complain about City ID, etc. Ah well.

        • You just unroot it if you need to take it in for a warranty replacement. I did just that. It's quite painless nowadays with all the howtos and utilities folks have developed to make it easy.
      • The realistic best we can get is hackable phones and CM7

        The problems with CyanogenMod are 1. loss of hardware warranty and 2. once you install it, you lose applications that are exclusive to Android Market, such as Chase Bank's check deposit application, unless you warez the Android Market application.

        • by nschubach (922175)

          I have CM7 and have full access to the android market. (Including the Chase Mobile app with deposit capability.) Where did you hear that there was no market?

          • by tepples (727027)

            I have CM7 and have full access to the android market.

            How did you reinstall the gapps after installing CM7?

            • by kidgenius (704962) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @10:39AM (#37455778)
              Seriously? CM tells you how to do this, as does rom manager, etc. Google and Cyanogen came to very nice terms quite some time ago about gapps. Cyanogen can't include it, but they are allowed to provide it as a separate package. So here you go: http://goo-inside.me/gapps/ [goo-inside.me]
              • Google and Cyanogen came to very nice terms quite some time ago about gapps.

                Are there any public details about under what terms the separate package may be provided?

            • by nschubach (922175)

              ROM Manager. If you have the Google apps installed on your phone, you have the rights to use them again... even if it's on another firmware. You paid the fee. It asked me if I wanted to transfer the apps to the new ROM, I said yes.

      • The converse is also true - I know a few people who have iphone3 phones and who upgraded to iphone4 b/c the regular upgrades made their phones unusable. I suggested they jail break the iphone3 and go back to an earlier OS version (not even sure if this is possible not being an iphone user) but they weren't interested.

        My Droid Eris is a lot slower than it used to be due to all the upgrades, but of course I do know that I can back-grade to an earlier OS version to get some speed back if it becomes unworkable

    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:41AM (#37454616)

      To be fair everyone whinged and whinged and whinged about the HTC Magic on Vodafone in the UK not being updated from 1.6.

      Then they updated it from 1.6 to 2.2 and it turned out that yeah the hardware really was a bit too shitty to support the new version decently. The same has happened with iOS where the oldest supported model tends to run shit with the most newly released update.

      I sympathise with some as some phones really can and should be updated, but sometimes there's also good reason not to update phones too. I spoken to someone at Vodafone outside of their official work setting where they could be a bit more frank and he said they were damned if they did, damned if they didn't - by not updating they got tons and tons and tons of flak, but then when they finally updated the Magic they then got loads and loads of flak from people complaining their phone was slow, and couldn't run some of the newer 2.2 only apps very well, the net result being post update they actually saw a higher burden of complaints. I know Vodafone et al isn't blameless when it comes to updates, far from it, their messing around with the Desire was just silly, but hearing this other side of the story was interesting. There are very real concerns for carriers if they allow any old update on any old phone - because they provide the phone people go to them for support when things go to shit.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @09:07AM (#37454810) Journal

        A fair point, but it doesn't explain the logic behind the far, far more annoying practise of installing carrier-branded firmware. It is (in my experience) invariably slower, buggier, and less frequently (often never) updated than the generic version. Thankfully it seems to be flagging a little as customers begin to understand what 'firmware' is, but it's by no means extinct. You've already signed a contract promising to continue giving them money for the next year or two, so it's not like the advertising impact of that shiny new theme in $Carrier'sColour is going to do much good to anyone - why on earth do they still insist on spending money on coders to produce these abominations?

        • by Xest (935314)

          I don't disagree with that, I think it's a fair point - carriers should leave firmware the fuck alone. I just think there has to be a distinction between when a phone can be upgraded by a carrier and isn't, and when a phone is not worth upgrading by a carrier. I think the viewpoint many have that their phones should always be upgraded to the latest version no matter how old they are can lead to problems for carriers and consumers alike that many consumers aren't even aware of. It sounds corner but sometimes

      • by sam0737 (648914)

        Yes they are damned. They chose to bundle the phone and the contract, and brand the phone etc etc.

        If people were just buying the phone themselves, and get SIM card from the carrier, complaints won't be directed to the carrier.

        So yes, they are damned anyway.

        • If people were just buying the phone themselves, and get SIM card from the carrier, complaints won't be directed to the carrier.

          In that case, carriers damn themselves by not offering a discount on service for buying a phone up front. T-Mobile has "Even More Plus", which includes such a discount, but it's rumored to disappear the moment the acquisition by AT&T closes. Two out of the three remaining nationwide carriers don't use removable subscriber identity modules anyway: instead of CSIM [wikipedia.org], the CDMA2000 carriers (VZW and Sprint) program the subscriber identity directly into the handset.

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        I would argue that there's really no good reason why the later android builds can't be made to work on the older phones. There are a number of Android phones with some fairly minimal specifications (500MHz CPU, 128-256Mb of RAM) which are quite responsive with the 2.3.x android build, and there are a number of phones that perform poorly simply due to the specific software build, not necessarily the "newness" or "featureful" nature of the software.

        As an HTC HD2 owner, having tried a number of different ROMs,

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)
      Prior to Google buying motorola this was my reason for not bothering to look at Andriod phones next time I needed to change for some reason (like when the hinge on this thing dies or there is a security flaw found that can't be fixed without an upgrade I'm not permitted to apply). Apple supports their devices with updates far longer, though I'm not planning to play the Apple game for other reasons (which basically leaves Windows as my next option as blakcberry isn't gonig anywhere).

      When new models get re
    • by slim (1652)

      My HTC Desire came with Android 2.1, got an official OTA update to 2.2, and I'm currently running 2.3 Cyanogenmod on it. HTC at first said they weren't going to provide an official 2.3, but have since said they'll release one.

      That's pretty good going in my opinion.

      I don't expect the Desire to support >2.3 since already in 2.3 system memory is tight.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Google clearly realizes this, and I believe that was part of their reasons for withholding 3.x source - to give them more leverage while they figured out how to resolve the fragmentation fiasco.

      Update latencies for Honeycomb devices are the lowest I've seen on average for any Android revision. No one seems to take more than 1-2 months to release an update.

      The question is - can they continue exercising their anti-fragmentation leverage once they've released source? Probably - they've shown the device manuf

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        Update latencies for Honeycomb devices are the lowest I've seen on average for any Android revision. No one seems to take more than 1-2 months to release an update.

        I'm not entirely up to date with the tablet market, but I have to wonder whether this is due to a difference in customer expectation rather than in Google's strategy. The market for "tablets that aren't an iPad" is significantly more geek-oriented than the market for Android phones, not to mention that tablets fall much closer to "computer" (which even non-geeks expect to come with a level of upgradability and customisability) than "phone" (which, until fairly recently, didn't generally have customisable fi

    • by trcooper (18794)

      I bought my Droid Incredible with Eclair, and they've upgraded it to 2.2, and most recently 2.3. It wasn't as quick as most would have liked, but I can't say that I'm languishing with the same version that I initially had. My wife's Evo also is up to 2.3.

      The beauty is most Android devices are easily hackable and you are not at the mercy of the provider. In most cases its trivial to install a custom ROM, and for those for whom it isn't, they're probably fine with the older versions. I hope we've turned t

    • I think the fact that they are breaking up parts of the system into Apps that are automatically updated by Google will be fantastic, such as the browser. The more they break out of the base system, the more control they have over updates, ironically.

      Also, they should take the opportunity to unify the UI a bit more. I'm not saying go iPhone, but I think it could be done better.

      Any time people leave the default, you're not doing it well enough, be it a dev or a user, such as leaving the default keyboard for

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:40AM (#37454614) Journal
    I'll be interested to see how they handle the UI design. Architecturally, resolution and screen size independence aren't exactly trivial(especially if you are on a serious battery budget and can't just scream "THROW MORE FUCKING VECTORS AT IT!!!" any time you run into a scaling question); but, so long as the device's screen is accurately reporting its resolution, size, and DPI, it isn't a thicket of unsolved or fundamentally intractable problems.

    The question of how to do a UI that scales to make efficient use of different screen sizes, though, is a bit trickier: the best UI for a teeny little screen almost certainly isn't suited to a larger one, or to a large, but low resolution, TV-style screen at a good distance from the user.

    Are they just going to have a few hardcoded presets(phone, tablet, TV?) that use the same architectural foundation? Will it be a single 'windowing' mechanism that follows certain layout rules that result in different effects based on screen size and DPI?
    • the phone reports it (Score:3, Informative)

      by jDeepbeep (913892)

      Are they just going to have a few hardcoded presets(phone, tablet, TV?) that use the same architectural foundation? Will it be a single 'windowing' mechanism that follows certain layout rules that result in different effects based on screen size and DPI?

      Android has been doing this for a while, choosing at runtime which resources to serve up based on DPI. The source tree of an Android app has 3 'drawable' directories under res/ (drawable-ldpi, drawable-mdpi, and drawable-hdpi) and it picks the best one for each situation.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      There are 'buckets' based on resolution (small, normal, large, XL - roughly corresponding to 'old phone, newer phone, 7" tablet, 10" tablet) but for finer grained control you can also numerically specify screen widths in units of 'dp' (not 'dpi'), a figure based on the total number of pixels available at a given density. There's a good amount of info here [blogspot.com], which was linked within TFA.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      I'll be interested to see how they handle the UI design.

      Google has had over a year and a half to see how this is done. Where Apple leads, Google and Microsoft follow...

  • Are we going to see it released once ICS starts rolling out?

  • ... now, if Google could only find a way to be able to push out Android OS updates onto ALL handsets, regardless of manufacturers, we'd be cooking with gas.

    Android's greatest asset is that it's open*. Sadly, it's also it's greatest enemy. When Google creates a new version of Android, let's say Jelly Bean, everyone should be to upgrade to it, regardless of whether HTC, Samsung, LG, etc. made the phone.

    Unfortunately, the manufacturers like to tweak stuff, almost to the point where things like Facebook are tie

    • by Microlith (54737)

      * no, don't start on what Stallman thinks - it's the closest you'll get to a phone that will has a global reach without closing it up entirely. A truly open system would be so fragmented that one would become completely unrecognisable from the other.

      Bullshit. By this logic it's impossible to write software that runs on Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu and SuSE all at the same time, yet it happens every day. Google's success has nothing to do with reinventing the entire userspace, and everything to do with throwing mo

  • by eepok (545733) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @09:35AM (#37455078) Homepage

    I never played with an Android device until I bought my Asus Transformer. When I set it up for the first time, I thought all the requests for my Google identity info were just to set up accounts, but it turned out that the tablet was just like the phone-- Google still treats it as a personal device.

    While this isn't new to someone who knew Android well already, it came as quite a shock to me. After all, I planned to use my tablet like a netbook-- handing it off to other people who need to use it when I don't. I can't do that, though, because all someone has to do is hit that GMAIL icon and be automatically signed into my accounts. The same with the Android Store.

    What Android needs for me to fully enjoy using it as well as for me to suggest it for other users is to provide the option to treat the device like a potentially public device as does Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It should not be assumed that the primary owner always has control of the device. It should require loging in for any GMAIL user and the device should not be tied directly to a Google account identity.

    I'll continue to use my Asus Transformer as is, but only until there's a tablet friendly of Ubuntu up and running... or maybe I'll stick with Android if such changes are made. But until then, I won't be buying another tablet as an upgrade and I will continue to stay out of the smartphone market.

    • All the major tablet and phone OSes work this way, even the recently-defunct ones like WebOS, so I'm not sure why this is a surprise. These are designed to be personal individual devices used by one person. You want another login, buy another device. (That part is by design to sell more things).
    • by Lord Grey (463613)

      After all, I planned to use my tablet like a netbook-- handing it off to other people who need to use it when I don't. I can't do that, though, because all someone has to do is hit that GMAIL icon and be automatically signed into my accounts.

      Excellent point. All tablet vendors seem to be missing the multi-user feature, and they really need to add it. As you pointed out, tablets are less intensely personal and the owner is more apt to loan a tablet than they would a phone. A tablet is expensive enough to be a "family device" as well, where many people use it for slightly different things, like that desktop system sitting in the corner of the living room used to be, 15 years ago.

      In addition to supporting multiple users, I'd like to have a "

    • What Android needs for me to fully enjoy using it as well as for me to suggest it for other users is to provide the option to treat the device like a potentially public device as does Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It should not be assumed that the primary owner always has control of the device. It should require loging in for any GMAIL user and the device should not be tied directly to a Google account identity.

      No. In fact, HELL NO. The number one convenience that comes with android is the automatically tying in to Google services.

      I understand your problem, though. You just have the incorrect solution. What tablets need to do is have multiple user accounts (and include a guest account that doesn't even display apps like gmail or facebook). This way you log out, somebody else logs in, they have their account associated with it. Guest accounts for people who shouldn't be keeping a personal profile on your tabl

    • You're a bit weird in this respect, most PCs are set up to one account as well. For example, Outlook doesn't ask you to log in everytime you start it. What you want is a multi-user environment on a device typically bought for a single user.

      Anyway, why not set up a dummy GMail account? Then replace the Mail icon with a shortcut to the GMail login page.

      • by eepok (545733)

        Most PCs are set up with one account because almost all private things can be password protected. If you sign into Gmail from a PC, you have to enter a login and password. Not so with the stock Gmail program in Android. If you turn on Steam to download games, you can have to request a password-- not so much of a security feature with the Android store. The device always assumes that the main device owner is the device user. But that's not sufficient for tablets. Smartphones, yes. Tablets, less so.

        And Outloo

    • by wiredog (43288)

      Perhaps as an option, but not by default. Otherwise people will just buy Windows or Apple devices that don't require a login to use them.

    • Just look at the Chromebook. I don't see why this wouldn't eventually translate. The problem is purchased apps. I can't imagine them letting you install a $20 app on a phone just because you borrowed it.

      One mod does support Guests, from what I've read. MIUI. You have to root and flash to get it, just like CyanogenMod, but it's gotten great reviews.

  • I want to up date my G-Tablet with ice cream sandwich. I'll also need some display drivers. I'm looking at you, NVidia.

    (disclaimer: I'm a lazy parasite who has great toys because I benefit from the fruits of the labor of others. I don't actually need the source code and drivers, the awesome devs who breath new life into the G-Tablet on a monthly basis are the ones who will need them. Thank you all so much for your amazing efforts).

  • There will be tablet bodies that are screen only and no brains for me to plug my phone into.

    Imagine where you could your phone as a phone, a tablet, or plug a keyboard / mouse into it and use it for browsing / word processing, etc.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      I think it is pretty obvious the future is heading towards your phone being so powerful you will be able to drop it into multiple types of docking stations and use it for a different task. When you go to work you drop your phone into your workstation dock and do your job. When you get home and want to watch a movie or listen to music, drop your phone into the multimedia dock. In a couple more years, you will be able to swipe your phone on your fridge and know what groceries to buy on your way home. You

  • That's great.. So, any chance of getting some native SVG support for drawables?

    There are some third party libs for it, but if you're going to actively target "any resolution" then svg support would be obvious, no?

  • If the application is written for the smaller screen why not allow it to run in an area on the screen the size of the smaller device? I've moved to writing interfaces in SVG and use a container. If your moving between 320x240 480x320 640x480 then you don't have many problems letting it stretch or shrink. If your writing a UI that needs to go from 320x240 and 1080p you have to really rethink text, constantly adjust text, or create limits to the size it can grow. I prefer the later. Having an XML file te

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