Aug 21 AT 1:56 PM Dustin Earley 68 Comments

Now that Google has released the Nexus 7, and rolled out updates for the Galaxy Nexus to Android 4.1, we’re already looking forward to what’s next. We’re fairly confident the next big update to hit Android will be known as Key Lime Pie, but when will we finally see it?

With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google may have finally solidified how Android updates will work. Back in 2010, Andy Rubin sat down for an interview and laid out how Google will try to move from two updates a year, to one. In the interview with Rubin, by saying, “our product cycle is now, basically twice a year,” he implies that one product cycle equals one dessert name change.

In 2010, there was two dessert name changes, or product cycles, with the introduction of Android 2.2 and 2.3. In 2011, the number scheme was thrown out of whack with Honeycomb, but nonetheless, there was only Android 3.x, Honeycomb, and Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. So far in 2012, there’s only been 4.1, Jelly Bean.

Will Google make the move to one major update, or dessert name change, starting this year? If Google does introduce their one product cycle a year method in 2012, then we won’t see another major Android revision, be it 4.2 or 5.0, until Google I/O 2013. Nearly a year from now.

Releasing a new Android version with a first number change every year would probably make more sense to consumers. In 2011, it was 4.0, in 2012, it’ll be 5.0, 2013, 6.0, and so on. But it doesn’t make things for manufacturers and developers any easier. According to Rubin, that’s the main inspiration behind switching to one product cycle a year.

Manufacturers are still struggling to get updates to Android 4.0 out to devices, let alone 4.1. If two months from now on November 5th, the original rumored launch date for not one, but five Nexus devices, Google introduces yet another Android version, updates will be worse than they’ve ever been before.

Three weeks ago, 0.8% of users were using Android 4.1. Only 15.9% were running Ice Cream Sandwich. That means that under 17% of Android users are running an operating system that isn’t at least two years old. Just this past month, Ice Cream Sandwich distribution finally passed Android 2.2, Froyo. A version of Android from 2010. And it was only by 0.4%(!).

Despite what enthusiasts may want, releasing Key Lime Pie, as either 4.2 or 5.0, this year doesn’t make sense. For the sake of consumers, developers and manufacturers, Google should just wait until I/O 2013 to release Key Lime Pie. Jelly Bean is more than capable, and still keeps Android far ahead of the competition in terms of features.

What waiting would mean for the Nexus program, we don’t know. Google could very well release a new Nexus phone with 4.1 in November. They could release a new Nexus phone with 4.1.x, and include some noteworthy changes. They could decide not to release a phone at all.

Over this weekend, JBQ, the head of the Android Open Source Project, announced an experiment he was undertaking to bring the Sony Xperia S AOSP support. If manufacturers were to essentially hand Google the keys to the kingdom, and fork over access to device drivers, Google could turn practically any device into a Nexus.

Maybe that will be the end result of the original rumor pointing towards multiple Nexus devices releasing this fall. Instead of five new Nexus devices being released, five devices will be introduced into the AOSP. Nexus phones would be more like Nexus Edition phones. And if Google could get them all unlocked, off-contract into the Google Play store for around $400? That would be far bigger news than any one new device. It would be the evolution of the Nexus program itself.

Whatever Google decides to do this fall, we’ll be watching their every move like a hawk. What do you think, should Google let developers and manufacturers get caught up, and wait to release another major version of Android until next year? How about any new Nexus devices? Let it all out in the comments below.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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