Feature Article

February 21, 2014

Android Device Makers Pushed by Google to use KitKat 4.4 OS on New Products

The operating systems for Google’s Android smartphones have always had rather silly names based off of desserts and candies, such as Froyo 2.2, Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and Jelly Bean 4.1. With this many different operating systems running on the current population of Android phones, the system is rather fragmented when it comes to compatibility between operating systems. The newest version is known as Android KitKat 4.4, and rumors abound that Google is pressuring those who make mobile devices to use either KitKat 4.4, or nothing at all.

Apparently, a leaked memo from Google to an anonymous Android OEM manufacturer states Google’s new terms. “Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS [Google Mobile Services] distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases.” The memo goes on to state that “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." Essentially, what this means is that manufacturers who want to build smartphones that can access Google’s Play Store and Google Services Framework, the devices must run the most recent version of Android as a prerequisite.

As of right now, KitKat 4.4 is only running on 1.8 percent of Android devices that consumers hold in their hands. The most popular operating system on Android phones is Jelly Bean, with versions of it on more than 60 percent of all devices, with version 4.1 raking installed on 35.5 percent alone. By ending this fragmentation, Google could potentially offer users the latest and greatest features faster than ever. Having a unified operating system also means that making large-scale updates can be distributed more evenly, instead of only to a small portion of Android users. However, Diversity could be one of the keys to the success of Android over Apple products, meaning that this totalitarian change in policy could hurt Google in the long run.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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