December 20, 2014

Google I/O 2013: No new Android release this year, but that's not a bad thing

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So as you’ve learned by now, there is no new version of Android being announced at this year’s conference. But, before you get all upset and scream about how that sucks, I’ll tell you that it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I posit that what Google did for Android this time around is a benefit to the platform and ecosystem. Hear me  out.

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What’s the first question that everyone starts asking when a new version of Android is announced? “When is my phone or tablet getting the latest release?”  Just the simple act of not announcing a new build helps cut that down – for now. But, going deeper, Google did the Android space a favor with the new Google Play Services stuff. By that, I am referring to stuff like the new Google Play Music (All Access), Google Play Games, and separate apps. In a nutshell, Google is updating features and apps for phones that run very old versions of Android, dating back to 2.2 Froyo.

Think about it: a year ago, it would have been easy to convince you that in order to get the new Google+ gaming and Google Play Games you would have to get the latest verison of Android. Not this time, just about every phone sold in the last few years gets to take advantage of the new stuff.

Rather than worrying about how carriers and handset makers fold in updates and services, Google is taking things under control and updating stuff from within. And it’s not just for 4.0 and 4.1 products either. If you have a phone from 2010 on the chances are very good that you’ll see the new stuff. The tide rises for everyone at once and provides little tweaks and adjustments that might otherwise come with an incremental, say v4.3, release.

Assuming we are still a few months off from the next release of Android, handset makers and carriers can bring newer devices up to date with the 4.1 and 4.2 builds. Indeed, there will be products left in the shadows and kept behind with older releases, but Google is not forgetting them.

The same thing goes for Google Now improvements – it’s easier to roll out features on a per app basis that really move things forward in the same manner that a brand new version of Android would have. Speaking of which, I’m really excited about location, date, and time aware reminders and notifications.

Sure, I would have loved to been given at least a glimpse into some of the upcoming features of Android; we saw plenty about the future of Maps and other services. With that in mind, I’m hopeful that Google is going to slow the release cycles down for Android yet continue to build things up from within.

No new hardware

Yeah, so that was a pretty big letdown, actually. I was hoping to see at least minor refreshes in hardware for the Nexus 4 (additional storage, LTE) and/or the Nexus 7. Alas neither device was mentioned and everything stays the same for now.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 with stock Android

It’s not exactly new hardware, but we do have a Samsung Galaxy S4 with a stock Android 4.2 experience coming in June. Priced at $649, the device features an unlocked bootloader, 16GB storage,and  4G LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Sadly, it’s twice the price of a Nexus device; the target audience will likely skip this in favor of a Galaxy Nexus.

On the positive side of things, it’s great to see Samsung embracing the stock Android experience. I would love nothing more than to see companies release alternative versions of their phones. HTC, Sony, and LG could all do well to follow the model.



  • Roger Lefort

    Imagine an HTC One with stock android! I’d buy one in a heartbeat, even for that price.

    • Dane Walton, Jr.

      i second that emotion!

    • TomsDisqusted

      Yeah, but the hacker community really wanted a Nexus with an SD slot – this comes up with each Nexus release, and it isn’t going to happen. So, by choosing the S4 rather than the HTC to be their pseudo-Nexus they address that concern.

  • rekem

    Google going the extra mile and extending Google Play Services support back to 2.2 isn’t altruism, they just want to try and herd more users into Google+. Google didn’t do jack to try and get Now onto older devices, at least if it runs Android. Meanwhile, their iPhone version only needs iOS 5.0. However, if it’s about Plus, Google will poke, prod, push, and whatever else they can to get you to sign up. How many times was Plus mentioned today? I didn’t watch the whole thing, but it was pretty obvious what the orders from the top were.

  • Matthew Merrick

    skip this for a galaxy nexus? don’t you mean a nexus 4?

  • Pingback: Ni Nexus 7, ni Android 4.3 en el I/O ¿para cuándo ambos?

  • TomsDisqusted

    Agreed, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to roll out a 4.3 that wasn’t fully truly ready (4.2 was certainly not ready when it was released).

    BUT we need the new Bluetooth 4 (BLE) API, so I hope they don’t take too long about it!