The availability of any version of Android for a given device can be broken down into two categories: official ROMs, and all the others. “Official” ROMs come from the company that made your smartphone or tablet (or “phablet” as Tony is fond of saying in our podcasts), all the other ROMs are either ports, kangs, or custom ROMs built from the AOSP source — or some combination thereof.
How are products born?
Let’s start out with how smartphones and tablets are “born”.
Believe it or not, the phones and tablets you buy usually aren’t built for you. I know, crazy, right? Generally speaking, those products are made either for carriers to sell so they can gain or keep you as a customer (in this scenario they’re really selling you their service, not the device), or they’re made by or for a company (Apple or Google, for instance) to sell to you.
In the first scenario, the carrier usually commissions the device and tells an OEM what “stuff” to put into it such as how fast the processor should be, how much RAM is should have, etc. They do all this to carefully weigh what they need to include to entice you to buy it. It needs to be better than the competition (at the same price point), but not too much better. After all, they’re already thinking about the next phone or tablet (or “phablet”, if your name is Tony) they want to sell you.
Once they’ve decided on what they want to sell you, they have to build it for you (or, rather, have it built for you). Some really smart folks design and put the hardware together and some other really smart folks design and put the software together. They’re on a tight schedule with milestones, deadlines, and other “manager-ey” stuff.
As soon as they get it done and tested, they roll it out — and they’re on to the next project. You know, the one to replace the one you just bought (okay, or maybe another one for another company).
After a few months Google has released an update to the operating system on the device you just bought and you want it on your phone or tablet. Everyone who could do that for you is already working on another project.
After meetings are held, some people in suits decide it might be advantageous (read: make more money) if they update their “old” product to the newest OS. They call some of the smart people off their new project and tell them to update their old project. A few months later the update is ready and pushed out to the “old” product. t’s quite stressful to those developers who have to switch gears and are put under even more pressure to meet deadlines.
How about some specifics, Joe?!
Ahem, that’s “Mister ‘the Android Guy'” to you! (Joking, of course.)
Right now all of you are wondering if and when your device is going to get Jelly Bean. I don’t have all the answers. Frankly, no one does. There are some fairly reliable rumors floating around, but for this article let’s stick to logic and deduction.
Take a look at all the phones on the market from the various manufacturers, pay close attention to most recent one or two devices released by the various OEMs. Chances are Jelly Bean will be made available for those devices.
For HTC that’s the One family. Samsung will do the same with their Galaxy SIII. LG’s Optimus 4X HD and Optimus LTE 2, along with Motorola’s Razr brothers will likely get the update. Sony had a good record of updates with previous versions of the OS, but not as much lately, so who knows what will happen there.
As far as tablets (and “phablets” too, Tony), the most recent offering from the big-names will probably get Jelly Bean, but the generic cheapies probably won’t.
If your device has been around the block or is more than one or two iterations back, you might not be getting an official release from your manufacturer. I hate to break that to you, but don’t let it worry you. Custom ROMs to the rescue! My favorite to date is CyanogenMod, but not just the “official” CM ROMs, there are lots of developers working on “kanging” CM onto other devices. While these ROMs may not be as stable or released on a “regular” basis, they’re usually pretty good.
Flashing a custom ROM isn’t all that hard. Getting your device to a point where you can flash it, that’s another story, but you only have to do that part once. After the first time, you can flash to your heart’s content, and it’s super easy.
What have you heard?
You’ve put up with me blabbing on, now it’s your turn! Do you have specific dates that you’ve heard, or specific devices that you know are (or aren’t) getting Jelly Bean? Let us know what you know in the comments!