July 25, 2014

G1 and Cupcake - What's the Deal?

Current G1 owners are licking their chops at the prospect of getting some much desired updates to their Android phones.  Features like video recording, stereo Bluetooth, and an on-screen keyboard are the only things missing from an otherwise robust OS.  But will the G1 ever see the icing from cupcake’s features?  Ask around and you’re likely to get varying answers.

Here’s what we’ve pieced together so far.

Cupcake is a different version, or image of Android.  Carriers and handset makers are free to take whatever is available from Android and bend it to their liking.  If the hardware you have doesn’t support stereo Bluetooth, then obviously the device won’t either.  No software is going to override the hardware and get it to do something it can’t.

The image of Android that was used for the G1 was built by Google, HTC, and T-Mobile.  The updates for Android, including the cupcake stuff, don’t need to involve HTC or T-Mobile.  Developers from all over are chipping in to make Android a more full software platform.

According to Engadget Mobile, HTC told them today that at some point in the future, the fixes and updates from cupcake will be sent to G1 owners in an over the air (OTA) push.  Further, they claim that HTC is not too involved in the decision as to when it happens, leaving it up to Google and T-Mobile to figure out.

It might be a while before that happens though, based on some information we’ve had sent our way.

I have been following the Google group of the developers on the cupcake and its a piece of garbage as it is now. One person there put it on his G1 and when he recorded video it crashed and froze up constantly. They now say there needs to be a new radio firmware update before it ever works on the G1 and no such work is being done on this…The G1 contains a significant number of proprietary applications, drivers, etc… that aren’t part of the core Android Open-Source Project.

The three companies involved in bringing the G1 together all had a say in what the device looked and felt like.  The phone was built by taking a pre-released version of Android and tweaking and molding it.  The version of Android we see on the G1 will probably never make its way to another handset.  That’s one of the first things we learned about the platform.  Carriers and end users have the ability to change things to their liking. While the G1 is more Google and less T-Mobile, the Sprint phone might be branded to around the carrier’s identity and services.

It’s a very likely scenario that the cupcake Android is what will get used for the Samsung, Hauwei, and other handsets.  It’s possible that they are using the new “master branch” of Android as they build their first devices.  We’re already almost two weeks removed since the cupcake stuff became merged into the master branch.

Maybe Sprint is a little more involved in inner circle of things and knew what was coming.  They claim to be ready to drop an Android handset when the timing is right.  As an outsider looking in, the first reaction is to think that no time is like the present for the ailing carrier.  Perhaps they’ve got the hardware ready to go and have been waiting for the updates, patches, and fixes.  Rather than looking for the right date on a calendar, they are working to get a more recent version of Android to play nice with their hardware.

As we get further from the release of the G1, the words to describe the hardware get less mixed.  After months of reading reviews and different takes on the device, the general consensus is that while the phone is good, Android is great.  As we look towards the next few handsets that will run Android, we get increasingly excited at the prospects of prettier devices with an even better operating system.

EDITOR UPDATE: I’ve noticed some negative feedback regarding this article from other sources.  I’d like to point out that nowhere in this article did the writer state that the G1 would not get the update.  In fact, the best I see is that he said it might be a while.  Further, he didn’t claim that our email tip was gospel.  It was simply from someone who followed the Google group, wanting to share with us.

I’m glad to see any attention to the piece that we get, even if it is to correct things that are not true.  The team of guys who help contribute to AndroidGuys is comprised mainly of fans.  There are various amounts of industry background and writing experience here.  While sometimes I’d like to step in an edit posts before publishing, I tend to let my guys get beat up a little by our readers before I make changes.

Thanks to everyone who has read and/or commented on the piece! Have a Happy New Year!

Scott Webster