The source code for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released to the public back in November of 2011. At that point, OEMs had the option of beginning work on updates for their existing devices. Android 4.0 is the biggest departure in design and functionality the platform has ever seen, and it’s also the most polished.
It would be nice if everyone could be surprised by the lack of progress in the last few months, but things have not made much progress since we last looked. Some devices have seen updates, but the vast majority are still waiting. Let’s take a look at what the current status of devices from each OEM are, now that we’ve got more to go on.
Motorola made some news yesterday when its online update table was updated. We have to hand it to Motorola when it comes to transparency. It’s nice to have a handy table to refer to when speculating on what devices are getting updates. It also sheds some light on why most OEMs don’t do this; that table is depressing.
Motorola has sorted out the update timeline for a number of devices with the Xoom Family Edition getting its update in Q2 2012. The Wi-Fi only Zoom had its update last month, so good job on that front. Coming in Q3 2012 will be the Atrix 4G, Atrix 2, Photon 4G, and Motorola Xyboards. The third quarter is a long time to wait, but at least there is a timeline posted.
Motorola’s other devices, including the Droid Razr, Droid Bionic, Droid 3, Droid 4, Droid Razr Maxx, Xoom LTE, and Droid Xyboards (the Verizon versions) are all listed as “In Evaluation & Planning.” We know that these devices will be updated per Motorola’s previous statements, but we had hoped it to be sooner rather than later.
The perplexing thing is that Moto switched to TI OMAP for these devices, which should reduce the amount of work needed to port ICS. Google builds Android on OMAP now because that’s what the Galaxy Nexus runs. It seems likely that Motorola's close relationship with Verizon could be slowing the process. Most of these devices are on Verizon, so the listing could simply be indicating that carrier testing could take an indeterminate length of time.
If you’re looking for a good deal on a phone, and want updated software, Motorola might not be the place to go. It’s possible that updates for the Razr will sneak in during Q2, but the table isn’t making us hopeful.
The current king of Android is the Korean OEM Samsung. While Google has chosen Samsung to make the last few Nexus devices, its reputation for updates hasn’t been great. It took the better part of a year to get updates to Android 2.2 from 2.1. A sad state of affairs to be sure.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that anything running a Hummingbird SoC from Samsung is going to stay on Gingerbread. That means all the Galaxy S phones like the Captivate and Vibrant will be staying put. These devices were heavily customized for carriers, and there’s just no one left to pay for the development of those updates.
The Galaxy S II is getting Android 4.0. There is no doubt it’s coming, but we don’t know when. Samsung has had the ICS code a little longer than most because it built the Galaxy Nexus. Samsung’s TouchWiz skin has also gotten lighter in the last year, so expect an easier upgrade path going forward.
A date of March 1 for a Galaxy S II update has been suggested, with a Galaxy Note update coming soon thereafter. We can’t tell you if that’s true, and the carrier-specific versions will still have a bit of a wait after any international rollout, but maybe not too long. Samsung has confirmed that the first quarter will bring updates for phones like the Galaxy S II (all variants), and the various flavors of Galaxy Tab.
The original Android OEM has been having a tough time as of late, and we worry a bit that the drive to get new phones out the door might negatively affect updates. HTC has a heavy skin and a number of completely custom stock apps, so it takes a little longer to get everything sorted out. HTC also has a strike against it because it released a ton of phones last year.
Most of HTC’s portfolio has the annoyingly vague distinction of “early 2012” as the upgrade date. It’s good that they are at least willing to say “early” at least. Devices in this Sensation family are happening in March to kick things off. The HTC Rezound, Amaze 4G, and the Vivid on AT&T will get ICS next. The Thunderbolt is still an unknown, but we’re feeling pretty skeptical about its chances.
Any variant of the Desire HD, Evo 3D, or Incredible S are just listed as “later this year” by HTC. That might not sound great, but it’s better news than users of the Evo 4G or Droid Incredible are getting. There is little chance that these devices will be getting the ICS update. Likewise, the Flyer just got an update to Honeycomb and we don’t see it progressing beyond that. No word yet on the Jetstream, but odds are you’ve never seen one of those in real life.
Now that Sony has dropped the Ericsson surname, the company may have turned over a new leaf. After initially announcing that all the 2011 Xperia phones will get ICS, Sony has tightened up the timeline a little. Anyone using an Xperia phone that was released in 2011 can expect to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich in the March/April time frame. Devices in this category include the Arc, Neo, Play, and Active.
Sony’s tablets are also getting an update this spring. No more specific range has been decided on here, but it’s not unrealistic to expect the same March/April time frame.
We don’t really have much confidence in LG’s update cycle as of late. After initially staying silent on updates, LG has announced that its high-end devices will be updated. In that announcement, though, they only talked about phones in the Optimus line like the Optimus 2X. Where is the T-Mobile G2x in all this? In trouble, most likely.
On the surface, the G2x is a stock Android device, but if you talk to modders, they’ll tell you that there is a lot of odd LG framework code on it as well. It’s not clear what LG has been up to with the software on the G2x, but it doesn’t seem to be putting a lot of effort in. T-Mobile has moved on from the device, and it was unavailable due to serious software bugs for a large chunk of its run, so the carrier may not be interested in further support.
The devices that LG does choose to update will start to see code drops in Q2 with the Optimus 2X, Optimus LTE, and the Prada Phone. In Q3, the Optimus Black is up to bat along with the Optimus EX. Most of these devices are not US releases, but don’t count the LG Nitro HD out yet.
Once nearly absent from the consumer electronics market, Asus makes some of the most desirable Android tablets available. Happily, they are also keen on updating the devices. The just released Transformer Prime is already getting its Ice Cream Sandwich update. The update fixes a number of bugs, and improves the performance of some radios.
The original Transformer is on the update list, but the 4.0 update was supposed to have been done by now. The Transformer was one of the best selling Honeycomb devices, so there are plenty of users out there to be upset. Asus is now looking at March as the deadline for getting ICS on the Transformer.
The EeePad Slider is a less popular version of the Transformer with a big slide-out keyboard. It’s also slated for an ICS update, but Asus doesn’t talk about the Slider as often. We expect it will either be updated at the same time as the Transformer, or it will happen quietly at some point in the following weeks.
Acer has a few Android tablets for the more budget conscious consumers, and they have been fairly transparent about the update cycle. The Acer Iconia A200 got its ICS update over the weekend. This is a fairly new device with a Tegra 2 SoC and feels very last-generation. Still, it’s one of the few devices with Android 4.0.
Acer’s older tablets, the Iconia A100 and A500 are getting ICS, but Acer tweeted yesterday that the update will not be ready until mid-April.
That’s the sad, but expected state of Android 4.0 updates. A fair number of phones and tablet will get the update in Q2 2012, but that's still going to be a few months too long in our book. How does your device look? If there is no official word on an update, are you looking at custom ROMs instead?