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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  • redraider133

    I hope multiple nexus devices. They can stick with jb but give multiple manufacturers a chance. Plus this could really bring top of the line specs to the nexus line and gibe time for more users to get to experience jb.

    • Dessert fox

      Mohave desert is my favorite

      • Homncruse

        (Pst, it’s Mojave. You need more Fallout: New Vegas in your life!)

    • sword_zero001

      I like the idea of putting Google in charge of the updates (although some manufacturers should pitch in every no and then). The fragmentation of updates should really be a priority to all manufacturers. This practically gives users only two choices, stick with our old OS or use a custom third party update that may be unstable. It’s just not fair to consumers.

  • jaxidian

    I never thought of it that way before but that would be a great idea! Allow manufacturers to take their phones and opt them into the Nexus program! AOSP for all!

    • WlfHart

      Nexus Edition, I like it! Vanilla Android for any phone you want!

      • GreenH0rn

        Yes, a big factor that makes Android look worse compared to iOS (let’s face it more people want an iOS device) are the non vanilla phones with no updates. Non Holo Apps just look bad compared to iOS apps.

    • iamXiV92a

      I’m excited at the prospect of multiple Nexus devices – I love my Sammy Nexus though (just got it yesterday, EASIEST Root/SuperUser flash ever!!)

  • Nate B.

    As good as 5 Nexus devices sound, there is one thing they still need to figure out. Even though a device carries the “Nexus” name, doesn’t mean it gets the update in “TIMELY” manners. It will get the update, but maybe not in TIMELY manners. For example, carrier branded Nexus phones don’t get the update first. Only GSM models do. So hopefully they can figure out a way to push it out at the same time or in a timely manner, and not a month or two later. Jelly Bean was sent out a month ago. Verizon and Sprint’s Nexus S4G still don’t have it officially yet. Yes, you can root, but there is a satisfaction and good feeling of being taken care of native. So hopefully they have carrier and GSM models of everyone. GSM is the best way to go. & maybe they can work something out with OEM’s to get their Flagships updated sooner as well.

    • pjamies

      I’m in canada and all of our GN phones are still running 4.01!
      I am not sure why, but Telus is not even selling them any more either, which begs the question ..
      will the GN Telus phones ever get an update ??
      I was always under the impression that GN phones would get auto updated no matter what carrier you were on, but that does not seems to be the case.
      Does being in Canada have any limitations to us receiveing updates in a TIMELY MANNER ?
      or are Manufacturers and Carriers still a bottle-neck ??

      • vforvortex

        I think your situation might be similar to Verizon Galaxy Nexus customers. even though it is a galaxy nexus device, updates are delayed due to the carrier requirements. Might be time to check out xda-developers to see how you can get the latest update installed.

      • Steve

        Google : Galaxy Nexus Toolkit. You will be able to Root, flash JellyBean 4.1 from google developer site and much more. I recommend that you donate a bit too this guy put in some work. Very easy to use too. Good luck

      • walterwhite

        Being in Canada will always have its limitations :p

      • Dave

        I have a GN with Telus annd was prompted to install 4.1 jut the other day. I would recommend rooting though, its awesome not to have to wait, its hardly a risky situation with so many good one click options and great stable Roms out there.

      • kev

        I’m on wind Mobile. I just got my update a week ago. In canada

    • h0ruza

      The other thing I wonder is if there was five or however many Nexus phones out would all of them be available to the whole world at the same time if at all?

      Knowing Sony’s (to point out just one manufacturer) track history with releasing phones in the US. Would the Nexus brand change this?

  • skugern

    I think once a year is good. To a lot of people, the frequent amount of updates was dizzying to try to keep up with, especially when there’s a UI change.



      • vforvortex

        Fragmentation like how apple only allows Siri to work on the 4s device? Ya that sounds about right.

        • mark

          the reason only the 4s could run siri was because of the dual processor. atleast thats what apples explanation was. but even if that wasnt so, there is no way a reasonable person would equate apples fragmentation to androids. <—true story

          • Matt

            Like Apple said “You’re holding it wrong”

          • vforvortex
          • walterwhite

            ooooh FRAGMENTATION! Watch out!

            When will people realize that fragmentation does not mean anything. Computers (smartphones are computers) will always inevitably run different versions of the same operating system. Technology evolves fast. It doesn’t mean your old phone suddenly stops working. It’s still going to run most apps just fine. For android enthusiasts its about the freedom to choose your hardware and software, which by it’s very nature is “fragmentation”. I look at fragmentation as a good thing. I think iOS needs a little more fragmentation. If they developed their OS a little faster maybe their feature set wouldn’t be 2 years behind where android is.

  • Jeff

    Dessert* Unless we’re talking about Android 4.2 being called Kalahari ;) (South African desert).

    • Dustin Earley

      Can’t believe I missed this not once, but three times! Thanks for the heads up.

      • Jeff

        No problem! Just didn’t wanna come out as being dick-ish lol

  • alexanderharri3

    With new phones still launching with an Android version that was replaced months earlier (ie releasing with ICS two months from now), Google needs to adopt a once-a-year update cycle. Minor point updates take long enough, but new versions take almost a YEAR to get out to the newest year of devices….let alone those in the 2nd year of their contract.

    More Nexus phones…while good in theory and for readers of this blog……it would only be confusing to customers and carriers would fight it. If this means more timely updates for the rest of us on account of AOSP drivers for most other phones because their hardware is like that of that brand’s Nexus – double win.

  • Y314K

    “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.”

    Hell no!!!… That will mean taking Google’s boot of Apple… Giving Apple more time to patent crap it shouldn’t while Android waits to release it out once a year… U want Android to get on the same cycle as Apple on major updates… That would help Apple more then it would help the slow updating manufacturers… The only way to force manufactures to do something about updates is the keep the current update cycle as is… Innovation should go forward… Not backwards… Slowing down the software side of things just because the hardware side chooses not to keep up is pointless… U want the manufacturers to dictate when Nexus devices will get new features… Adding a decimal point for all types of updates won’t help either… U want manufacturers to sell devices that are said to be Key Lime Pie but with missing options of Key Lime Pie… Buy our Key Lime Pie 4.1.1 device although it doesn’t come Key Lime Pie 4.1.3 features… Yeah.. That’s not gonna piss off customers having to differentiate what a 4.1.1 device features are vs. a 4.1.3 device… But they both are call Key Lime Pie…

    Getting of the gas will only help Apple & MS get back in the race… It won’t do crap for slow manufacture updates… If they want to drag their feet on updating their phones they should be force to share their drivers with open source rom makers… Imagine being able to have the option of sticking AOKP or CM10 for u’r device before an official update gets release by Samsung or HTC… That would eliminate the problem…

    The once a year product cycle works on the hardware end for Nexus devices… But It completely stalls the platform if they do the same in the software end…

    • pjamies

      Dude, just because Google does not release a new OS version multiple times a year, does not mean that Apple will win the patent war!
      You can patent new technology at any time, you do not have to release it to create a patent.
      And Google will always be creating newer and better technologies even tho they might not release a new OS for a year. We will just see a lot more new technology each year they realease a new OS, instead of little bits here and there using their current refresh time line.
      Look at it this way … Car companies release new cars once a year and we don’t see anything wrong with that .. so … ? Artists, Desktop OS, etc ..etc are all released yearly (most of the time)
      It’s just that you are not used to it yet .. In time it will be a normal event..

      • Y314K

        Well the easiest way to fight a patent is to show u release that option first… Not just that u had it coded first… That way even the tartds at the patent office can see that the option is out there already…

        Like I said… Releasing once a year Nexus hardware works… But waiting to release major updates once a year and not when they are ready to go sounds like giving up what has make Android a lot more dynamic then Apple IOS releases…

        Probably in time that will have to wait to once a year… Once Android runs out of major stuff to overhaul… But I don’t want to wait for year before I can have multiple user options or full support for newer chips…

        What has made Android fun to follow is how quickly they can add a feature and release it… Without having to wait for just a single calendar date…

        Unless Google is planning of releasing nightlies… I don’t think it will work well for them… It will make them a slow as Apple and MS on the software end…

    • nexJay

      Agree a 101%

  • jordan

    Google releasing multiple/quick updates is essentially them giving the finger to manufacturers and their skins.

    Im all for Google trying to break the manufacturers backs in order to facilitate a more vanilla ecosystem.

  • cthonctic

    So many great desert names left for new Android versions: Gobi, Sahara, Owami, Takhlamakan, Piscinas, Death Valley… ;D

    • cthonctic

      Aww, updated already. It was a nice gag though IMO.

  • jm9843

    This article is off-base in a couple regards.

    1: No, Google should absolutely NOT slow the pace of updates. There should be two each year spaced approximately 6 months apart. To slow the pace of innovation & development would only be doing them a disservice and making for a less competitive landscape for Apple, Microsoft, and RIM. The lagging updates on devices have to do with OEM’s and carriers. So the idea that Google should penalize Android’s advancements as a result is asinine. It is the consumer’s duty (if they care) to make informed purchase decisions and to hold OEM’s/carriers responsible.

    Here’s a thought: maybe Key Lime Pie focuses primarily on large-screen tablet optimizations to better compete with Windows 8 and Surface (e.g. multi-user support, split-mode views for multitasking, etc). In that case, it’d be mostly immaterial that few phones would be on the release.

    2: The Nexus program has been clearly defined. Google literally works out of the same building as the hardware engineers to develop showcase devices for new versions of the operating system. The Xperia S being brought into AOSP in no way make it a “Nexus anything”, nor should it. You’re reading way too much into it.

    Here’s to looking forward to Key Lime Pie in November with new Nexus phone(s) and a Nexus 10.

    • ash

      Yes nexus10 FTMFW
      REALLY HOPING to see that!!

    • Dustin Earley

      Why couldn’t you just add everything that would go into two updates a year into one? Or would that be asinine?

  • Perry

    Rather than telling Google to slow down, tell the manufacturers and carriers to either speed up or get out of the way. Nobody is forcing them to skin and customize the OS in their phones to the point that they end up this far behind the current version. It’s their own choice.

    Manufacturers and carriers also have little incentive to try to fully catch up. They want to sell new phones, and the best way to do that is for the old phones that people already own to become “outdated” so they can sell them on the latest and greatest OS and hardware.

  • Yaniv C

    Why not Kola?

  • Joey

    For me its simple phone makers and providers should keep there hands off the google UI and just give us what Google gives us. This way we’re be happier and they won’t get behind on updates. My next phone and there after will be a nexus. I’m done with buying non Google phones.

  • Conny, FL

    Android 4.2 or 5.0 wont matter. Apple is already ahead, too far ahead with 5.1 and soon 6.0

    Android will never catch up. Im happy with my iPhone 4S.
    You better buy an iPhone.

    Yours, Conny

    • muii

      You’re right, but the only thing Apple have ahead in his operating system is the version number

  • Nathan D.

    That last idea would be awesome if it came true but also having 5 different nexus phone come out would also be awesome as well. The question is what easier?

  • vforvortex

    My laptop is in need of an upgrade so i would definetely welcome a Nexus 10 too. Also Google needs to release their own nexus air play device. Not to compare with apple, but nexus needs to have a similar ecosystem. I am fairly sure there will be a new nexus phone with better specs and camera. wish i can fast forward to november. :D

  • aranea

    Well the problem is manufacturers are trying to sell us a new device instead of updating the version of Android. they are stuck in windows mobile mindset. They think the connection between the customer and manufacturer ends at the point of sale. You buy their phone and you’re slave to their wishes.

    Unless google finds a way to force manufacturers to update their phones more regularly it won’t matter much how many updates are released a year manufacturers still won’t go over one update per device. Instead they’ll make a slightly different phone will name it like X+, MAXX, Milky Way, or whatever and will say if you want latest version you have to buy this new phone.

    Or customers can vote with their wallets and buy only nexus phones which get updates regularly.

  • nivekkev

    Thinking if Google is able to upgrade the OS every six months that is great, and to have along with that multiple devices to choose from, then to get some strong advertising out there stating that your NEXUS phone will get all updates for about as long as you have the phone would persuade a lot of the non power users and those that just can’t afford to purchase a new phone every time there is an update to buy NEXUS. This should also force the carriers to have to keep up if they still want to sell phones too.

  • Jorge Vieira

    I really hope it’s Klondike!!!!!! I won’t mind keylime pie.

  • mike p.

    To release one or two updates a year is completely beside the point… Google releases updates as it sees fit for mass consumption… Not by a predesignated expected cycle… The end game is to beat the other guys to it… So they can not claim that they came up with it…

  • Samar

    Very good article indeed. I believe it would be more beneficial for Google itself to :

    1. Release 1 cycle update a year
    – allows consumers to harness the joy of android version 1 at a time.

    2. Push carriers / handset makers to update existing & new handsets
    – To JB or atleast ICS
    – Trade in handsets that cannot be upgraded to, say ICS and provide consumers with ones that
    do. –> Good for carriers, manufacturers & most of all consumers.

    Excited if new Nexus devices could be launched this year itself. However, I believe most consumers would prefer them to be in line with choices like One X or S3 in terms of improved hardware and software (NOT updated android version though). Obviously, the selling point would be Unlocked, off-contract affordable priced devices that are more likely to receive latest future updates from GOOGLE first-hand OTA without any darn waiting.

  • Adrian Carrillo

    How about they upgrade all the phones to Ice Cream Sandwich/Jelly Bean Before thinking of another update -_-

    • PacoBell

      The ICS/JB gapps would be unlikely to fit in the memory of phones from that era. Most custom ROMs make it a point to strip those out to conserve space, a move OEMs probably won’t be willing to compromise on.

  • dax

    I say wait. If we were on a schedule, we could whittle away at the carriers excuses for not updating. I got burned by sprint on the nexus, which motivated me to pay the early termination bullshit. So I moved to verizon with the galaxy nexus. That’s working out.

    And google is to blame as well. We get the true android experience, but the updating thing is complete hog wash. Shame google, shame on you.

    • PacoBell

      Well, shame on CDMA driver licensing, more like it.

  • Michael

    To be honest, I’d rather Google didn’t release 5 more Nexus devices. I’d rather they kept the Nexus brand a little more exclusive by releasing only one device per year. I know releasing more Nexus devices would make sense for developers, but I like my exclusivity with the Galaxy Nexus. I like that Google are constantly pushing more updates for devices because it will make the manufacturers tired of updating their skins like touchwiz or sense and will make them release stock versions of Android!

  • Mark

    The problem with phone rom versions being behind is the manufacturers and (in the US at least) carriers. They are the ones screwing their customers out of being on the latest version so they can skin their phones….or just sit in their hands. My wife’s Skyrocket finally got ICS about a month ago, what had taken them so long to get it out? Well for one thing they had obviously spent a lot of time skinning it to make it look and act a lot like the original Gingerbread version. It was hard to even tell what was added in going to ICS since they had worked so hard to make it look like the old version. I suppose one could argue they are trying to not confuse their customers with new OS designs but its sad that they actually spent time trying to make the new version look like the old. At least offer people the chance to opt out of such crap.

  • MitchRapp81

    I think they should stick to 1 new nexus phone and 1 new nexus tablet/other per year (so once every six months)
    Minor version in July, full version update @ xmas

    although the jump from ICS to JB was pretty huge in terms of performance and ease of use (google now has changed the way I use my phone!)

    Don’t really care for non Nexus phones – that’s your problem ppl! You could always buy a Nexus device.

    • Joshua

      Unless you dont’ live in the US, lmao…

  • meandroid scumbag

    Cant wait for the next fragmentation…

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  • masterpfa

    This paragraph above all would be ideal

    “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.”

    I would envisage for example 5 devices that would receive updates directly from Google and with AOSP and the community at hand to help in development,, manufacturers could have a quicker turn around in updates.

  • thinkingboy

    Divice manufacturers make it hard to update android system, they need time to update their UI and some other changes to fit new system version, so this happened. The best way is buy a nexus device, you can get newest version of android so quickly.

  • jonathan

    Jellybean this year still waiting for update should be soon says samsung. I think the next update will be 5.0 I heard but make since to go 4.2 and yes key lime pie won’t release till next summer.might as well join apples yearly update apple

  • Aluzeros

    Need to fix small things

    1. Voice contact dialing, it’s horrible on jelly bean, simply can’t get American names correct on the first try, forget foreign names

    2. Stop voice searching common search results and search for what I said. You notice this of you do enough of them.

    3. Google Music offline music saved to sd card, currently can’t and not enough internal space, and a lot of people don’t have great Internet signal ubiquitous.

    4. Headphone/mic buttons and standards to work while phone is inactive and a new more than one button standard, 4 buttons, one of them being mute.

    5. Notification reorder ability.

    6. Lockscreen notifications or widgets and swipe left and right screens to add more

    7. Better battery power management

    8. UI cleanup and more multi gestures

    9. More new voice actions

    10. Google controlling updates for nexus line not carriers

  • thechad

    google is great

    • lala

      great great

  • lala

    google is the best