How can Google improve Android, how to know when your device will get the latest update – Android Q&A

March 5, 2014
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Welcome back to another edition of the Android Q&A, where we strive to answer as many of your great questions as possible. In today’s show, we’ll be tackling a couple of questions that come up a lot. What can Google do to improve Android, and how to know when your smartphone will get the latest Android update. Let’s get started!


How can Google improve Android?

Make it worker better on older and entry level devices

Motorola DROID for Verizon

The smartphone industry has been growing at an exponential rate, especially in emerging markets around the world. The massive worldwide market share enjoyed by Android is a testament to the availability of the OS with smartphones covering the entire range of the price spectrum, starting from the ultra low-cost entry level devices, all the way up to the latest and greatest.

What is important to remember is that the majority of this market share can be attributed more to the mid-range and entry level devices, as opposed to high-end flagships. As smooth as Android is on the high-end Samsung, LG, or HTC device, the user experience is left wanting when it comes to a lot of entry level devices. No one is really expecting to play Asphalt 8 on a sub-$150 smartphone, but lag while just swiping between homescreens shouldn’t be an issue any longer.

This issue has somewhat been addressed with Android 4.4 Kitkat and Project Svelte, that will allow the latest OS iteration to work with devices featuring low-end specifications, and should in part, let manufacturers upgrade their older devices to the latest version as well. While expected to make a difference in the long run, OEMs won’t bother updating devices that are more than two years old, and disappointingly, most entry-level and some mid-range devices that are being released now still come with Jelly Bean.

Direct line to Google services

lg g pad google play edition

Say you need to set a reminder for an appointment for a meeting so you don’t forget, you first have to wake the device, unlock it, select the app you want to use, and input that data. More often that not, those are the steps, or barriers, that are required before you get to complete the task.

Of course, Google Now is a great attempt to fix that, using voice recognition to help easily complete important activities, and it works really well. But once again, this comes back to the point made above. The full functionality of Google Now is available only with flagship high-end smartphones, and while mid-range devices that run Android Jelly Bean are supposed to get Google Now, devices from local Indian and Chinese manufacturers, that are responsible in the big way for the entry-level smartphone surge, leave out Google Now altogether.

Privacy Management

One of the biggest stories to break last year with regards to privacy, or rather, the complete lack thereof. While this has resulted in a slew of “privacy” smartphones being released, this issue still needs to be looked at when it comes to the mainstream. Google does allow us to manage our privacy a little bit, giving you ways to manage your data, and how Google uses that data, but it is limited.

While it’s understandable that Google uses our data for relevant ads, which is a huge part of their revenue stream, it’ll be a whole lot better if we had more control over what data the company can and cannot use, and will also make people a lot more comfortable with using Android.

Fragmentation

Android Fragmentation July 2013

Fragmentation is a word that is thrown around freely if you’ve ever been a part of, or witnessed, an argument against Android. We’ll talk about fragmentation a little more in the answer to the next question, but it’s important to note that while Google has attempted to quell this issue, in some ways, the company’s own quick OS release cycle is a small contributing factor as well.

While the latest distribution numbers indicate that the majority of Android devices run Jelly bean, it isn’t the latest version of the OS, with only 2.5% of the devices featuring Android 4.4 Kitkat. And by the time that number goes up, we might quite possibly have the next iteration already available. But, at the very least, there is some indication that Google will play a more direct role in stopping OEMs from releasing devices with significantly older versions of Android.

Google Play Gift Cards

google_play_giftcards

While the Google Play gift cards are easily available from some major retailers, it’s still not as readily accessible as say, a prepaid phone card, that you can pick at up any corner store, gas station, or kiosk. Apart from that, the other problem is the these Play Store cards aren’t available in regions with emerging markets, areas where not a lot of people use or have access to credit cards, and will prove to be most useful.

There’s a lot of advantages to having Google Play gift cards easily accessible to the majority of the population. With more people being able to download apps, more developers will make money, and work that much harder to provide users with the best Android experience possible.


How to know when your phone will get the latest Android update?

“When will my phone get the latest version of Android?” is one of the most common questions we get. Before we dive into this question, let’s take a look at where Android distribution lies as of this month.

march-distro-num

As you can see from the chart, a vast majority of Android devices are currently running Jelly Bean. What is surprising is that a sizeable population is still using Gingerbread, and a small percentage is still on Froyo. Regardless of which category you fall in, if you aren’t a part of the 2.5% that has Android 4.4 Kitkat, the question you obviously have is when you’ll be getting the update to the latest version of Android.

Many manufacturers and carriers post an Android update calendar, where you can search for your device to find out an estimated schedule for the update cycle. That being said, estimated is the keyword in this instance, as carriers aren’t bound by that schedule. While its practically guaranteed that most flagships will be a part of the update, you might have to dig a little deeper for mid-range devices to find out whether it will even be upgraded.

It does look like things might be changing soon, with Google forcing OEMs to use the latest version of Android with their new devices, but as far as older ones go, we’re still entirely dependent on the whims of the manufacturer and network carriers.

It’s also important to note that while the latest version of Android is always going to be better, Google has taken some other steps to circumvent the fragmentation issue. More core Google apps are now updated directly from the Google Play Store, which means that regardless of which Android version you’re using, at the least, your Google apps will be up to date.


As always, keep sending us your questions in the comments section below, in the comments section of the Youtube video, or on Google+, and we’ll try our best to get you the answers you need!

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