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Leaked Google memo says all new Android phones must run the latest version of Android

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Leaked Google memo says all new Android phones must run the latest version of Android
Google is apparently tired of reading the distribution numbers each month, and hearing about the "f" word, fragmentation. A leaked memo that allegedly was sent out to at least one handset manufacturer, states that "Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases."

According to the memo, "each platform release will have a 'GMS approval window' that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available." Considering that GMS stands for Google Mobile Services and covers apps like Google Now, Google Maps and the Google Play Store, a manufacturer is going to be damn sure that it follows the request on the memo.

"Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases. Each platform release will have a “GMS approval window” that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available. (In other words, we all have nine months to get new products on the latest platform after its public release.) The policy could only mean good things, especially for the smartphone user."-Leaked memo from Google to handset manufacturers

Android 4.4 was designed to work with devices using 512MB of RAM or higher, allowing low to mid-range models to use the OS build. With this in mind, Google does not see the need for outdated versions of Android to be powering a new phone. Considering that we are past the halfway point of February, the policy certainly should be in effect now.

If you're interested in reading an intelligent look at the fragmentation issue, check out this report written back in December by our own Michael H.

source: KnowYourMobile, MobileBloom via Pocketlint

39 Comments
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posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:25 12

1. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 840; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


Seems alright.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:57 3

12. james004 (Posts: 441; Member since: 15 May 2013)


should have been forced along ago, may be after ice cream sandwich release.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:13

16. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5282; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Better late than never.

This should help get the latest and greatest editions of Android out when the phones ship, rather than months and months afterwards. Side benefit could be the streamlining of manufacturer-specific skins - if the skin takes too long to get to work with the latest release of Android, the manufacturer doesn't get to ship their toys.

Net-net, I think this is a positive development.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 19:42

33. james004 (Posts: 441; Member since: 15 May 2013)


well not entirely. google is still giving 9 months of support after discontinuing distribution of service. so companies still have 9 months to procrastinate.
that 9 month should be cut to 6 or 3. or atleast in near future.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 20:15 3

34. aditya.k (Posts: 409; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)


3 months? Google won't be releasing another version till then! 9 months is correct because, Google comes out with new versions after almost 6 months, so it takes time to prepare the skinned version. So yeah 9 months is the correct decision.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:58 1

22. Heretic (Posts: 14; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)


Yes, it should've been. My phone (inc 4g by htc) has been sitting on 4.0 since december of 2012. My contract expires 12/14. At that time i'll start looking for the OEM that updates their phones the fastest.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 15:56

25. PapaSmurf (Posts: 6631; Member since: 14 May 2012)


HTC and LG are out of the question. Samsung and Moto are your safest bet on Verizon.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 18:48

31. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5282; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Meh. I am running 4.4.2 on my unlocked One. My Maxx is still on 4.4.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:26 11

2. Adrian38 (Posts: 71; Member since: 05 Nov 2012)


AWESOME :)

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:37 4

4. ihavenoname (Posts: 963; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)


Indeed. This has been a issue with Android, great that Google seems to be doing something to it. This is awesome especially for people who are buying low- and mid-range devices.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:53 3

10. Adrian38 (Posts: 71; Member since: 05 Nov 2012)


Exactly. There really isn't any excuse for a new device in 2014 to be released with anything older than 4.3. Very excited for this :)

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:34 3

3. imyourpapi (Posts: 62; Member since: 04 Jan 2014)


It's about time

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:40 6

5. mayur007 (Posts: 277; Member since: 10 Apr 2012)


moto g is best example ...

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:41 11

6. Topcat488 (Posts: 1040; Member since: 29 Sep 2012)


Kit Kat for everyone, EVERYBODY have a break.... YEEEEEAAAAAH.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:46 3

7. pradeepreddy (Posts: 34; Member since: 01 Apr 2013)


gr8.
if PCs can get windows updates no matter who is the manufacturer,
then why not Phone!!!

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:58 1

14. Tuxedo (Posts: 100; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)


Exactly, it shouldn't be any different.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 16:03 1

26. sprockkets (Posts: 940; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


There are plenty of pcs that can't be updated to a newer version of windows due to lack of driver support. Same with Android.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:51

8. CreeDiddy (Posts: 203; Member since: 04 Nov 2011)


This should have been their policy back in 2007. Why now?

I have been saying it time and time again about Google taking more responsibility with updates. Good for them...

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:15 2

19. downphoenix (Posts: 2232; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


Google probably had a lax policy to lure in manufacturers, that would be my guess.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:52 1

9. PBXtech (Posts: 630; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)


Optimizing the OS is something that Google did to make this happen, and it'll pay off big time. Kinda sad it took so long, but considering how much Android has changed since the G1, they've been more than busy packing it with features. Now hopefully OEMs will keep updating phones already sold.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:57

11. Tuxedo (Posts: 100; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)


About time!!

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 13:57 1

13. IliyaBeshkov (Posts: 212; Member since: 09 Jul 2012)


Good job! :)

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:08

15. 1701nino (Posts: 216; Member since: 07 Dec 2010)


I'll beleive it when i see it.Ohh and one more thing my nexus 4 with vanilla kit kat has random reboots especially when i'm in the camera app.Any expanation?

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 18:10

30. Professor (Posts: 115; Member since: 02 Aug 2013)


I also have a Nexus 4 with the latest version of kit Kat and I do not have any problem with the camera. My problem is with the Navigation program or better explained no longer having a Navigation program since Kit Kat upgrade deleted the program and the Maps program don't work anymore after the Kit Kat upgrade. The map program opens but is only able to locate where you are located (and only sometimes) but is unable to locate any typed address to navigate to... So the Kit Kat upgrade eliminated my navigation or GPS and somehow just increased drastically battery use plus makes my phone to work way hotter to the point that I have to turn it off sometimes for fear of damaging it due to feeling it working way too hot.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:14 2

17. lewis14 (Posts: 5; Member since: 11 Jan 2014)


Finally. They shouldve had this a long time ago. And there should be a mandatory update for all devices android 4.1+ to update to 4.4

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:15

18. Qbancelli (Posts: 42; Member since: 11 Mar 2010)


Yes, you have a defective phone. Fix it!

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 15:49

24. JunitoNH (Posts: 758; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)


No, he has an Android device.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:30 2

20. Genersis (Posts: 167; Member since: 29 May 2013)


So come July, no more new Jelly Bean phones will be approved for Google services?
I wonder if this counts for incremental releases too...

Either way, I hope this is genuine. :)

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 14:48 1

21. Mr.Mr.Upgrade (Posts: 425; Member since: 30 Aug 2011)


Other manufacturers should let Google control updates 100%

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 15:23 2

23. terabyteRouser (Posts: 407; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


I'm not sure if it is clear but, this will only impact new phones. Will not impact the phone you currently own. This may speed up the upgrade process but it's also possible that it will not.

It depends if they mean, shipping the phones from manufacturer versus phones that are already sitting on shelves and have not been sold outside of that nine-month window.

If it does apply to phones that have already been shipped and are on store shelves, then it's a safe bet that everyone would get upgrades within 9 months, but if not we're looking at the same thing.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 16:07

27. npaladin2000 (Posts: 53; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


I see the need for outdated versions of Android to be powering a new phone. ART compatibility is still hit-or-miss out in the world of apps. Joe Enduser is not going to know or want to know about switching runtimes or compatibility mode or whatever.

Maybe if they had done this starting at 4.0 it would have made more sense. But right now I'm not so sure.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 16:51 1

28. domfonusr (Posts: 236; Member since: 17 Jan 2014)


Fragmentation happens when there is freedom. What is happening here is that Google is taking control and reducing freedom in order to curb fragmentation... all for the sake of making their product a little more like the iPhone so it will sell better among certain segments, as far as I can tell. I suppose there is something to be said for having a standard for this sort of thing, and most consumers will like that; however, I don't think it can be denied that this is a removal of a degree of freedom from OEM's.

So, yes, I too must ask "Why now?" What is different enough about KitKat that wasn't different enough about ICS? If you are Google, and you are going to sell your soul, piece by piece, here a little and there a little, in order to share a little more in Apple's pie of success, then you really ought to do it as rarely as possible, and as highly strategically as possible. Is KitKat really the best version, and in the best moment, for this particular memo? Could this have been done better when ICS came out, or perhaps they could have waited for the next big increment at Android 5.0?

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 17:27 1

29. DigitalJedi_X2 (banned) (Posts: 346; Member since: 30 Jan 2012)


Didn't PA run this article already? Or something very similiar to it?

As for Google doing this move? It's about time. New devices should come with the newest iteration of the OS thats available. Otherwise you're putting out an already outdated device. Bravo Google. And I do believe Kit Kat has both ART and the regular runtime. The older runtime hasn't been done away with yet to my knowledge.

posted on 18 Feb 2014, 08:39

37. terabyteRouser (Posts: 407; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


It was something similar. A few years ago, Google created a consortium of manufacturers who opted into this organization. The purpose of this organization was to create a safe stamp of organizations who vow to upgrade this phone.

As Google learned, this was an ineffective strategy because there was virtually no penalty for incompliance.

They are taken it a step further with prohibition of Google services which are business threatening consequences if you do not follow these new guidelines.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 19:37

32. snowgator (Posts: 3159; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)


So.... the situation with say the LG Flex coming out with 4.2 in an age where 4.4 is here would be a non-event?

I am great with this, although I do worry a little about the unintended results that sometimes follows these policy changes. I could possibly see even less Android choices on US carriers. If an OEM is trying to deal with updated software at the same time as carrier wants/needs/demands, there may be a few less choices in any selling season as opposed to dealing with all the headaches.

Overall, I think this is a great policy. The last three updates of Android have done more then bring features, it has really improved performance on those devices they have been released on. Updates tend to not do as well. In my above example, it is all well and good if LG Flex owners get an upgrade within a couple months, but that is a headache consumers should not have had to deal with.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 20:24

35. mike2959 (Posts: 157; Member since: 08 Oct 2011)


Google has now open the gates for up and coming operating systems. Phone manufacturers do NOT make my cash by updating device's from 2 year's ago. Google thinks because kit Kat can be run on on cheap low ram devices that manufacturers are going to put the research and testing and development in these devices. Ladies and gentlemen, it is the manufacturer that rules the world. The Samsung, the Ford, the GM... Not a software company.

posted on 18 Feb 2014, 14:45

39. DnB925Art (Posts: 107; Member since: 23 May 2013)


In a sense, yes they do make money by updating devices even 2 or 3 years old, look at the iPhone as an example. Sure it may run like crap and they don't get every feature as the newer versions of the iPhone, but it does give the consumer the feeling that the manufacturers do care. When they feel like the manufacturer will support even their old phone, they are more likely to stay manufacturer loyal and buy a from that manufacturer when it is time to upgrade.

I've stayed with Samsung because they have gotten a lot better updating their phone, and trust me, I've been had a Sammy phone since the Epic 4G and now with the Note 2 (Epic 4G > Nexus S 4G > Galaxy Note 1 > Galaxy Note 2). At least the Note 2 update, as promised by Sammy is now rolling out so I'm happy and will buy the Note 4 when that is released later this year since they have been getting better with updating their old devices.

posted on 17 Feb 2014, 23:54 1

36. faha1 (Posts: 12; Member since: 08 Apr 2013)


Welldone Google.

posted on 18 Feb 2014, 10:30

38. BREvenson (Posts: 190; Member since: 17 May 2012)


Definitely some good news. I feel there are too many low to mid-range phones that could run 4.4 with no problems, but are released with an earlier version (4.2 and below)...and never get an official update. It's a kick in the teeth for the consumer who hoped to get a little bit of the Jelly Bean goodness but doomed to an eternity of ICS. Imagine buying the Kyocera Rise in 2012/2013 (like I did) and being stuck on 4.0 (unless you root, and ROMs were very hard to come by for that phone).

At this point, I don't see any way for either the manufacturers or Google to lose from this policy. The consumers sure won't lose; they get the latest devices with the latest version without playing the waiting game, and some don't win that game...

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