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Android 2.4 see in April, may keep phones, tablets divided

updated 02:35 pm EST, Mon February 7, 2011

Android 2.4 may keep phones and tablets fragmented

Google may be planning to keep Android 2 and 3 segregated in a long-term split of the platform, according to a ViewSonic source on Monday. The 2.4 update, once thought to be called Ice Cream, is now said to be a continuation of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) that would simply add backwards compatibility for dual-core apps on single-core phones. Ice Cream, Pocket-lint heard, should be Android 3.1 and would keep the two apart in features and the interface.

A 2.4 launch would arrive sometime in April.

The ViewPad 4 would be one of the first devices to carry Android 2.4. Its first ever smartphone will have a processor fast enough to record and play 720p video along with a four-inch display and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Google hasn't confirmed the details and isn't expected to have a comment until either the April update or until the Google I/O developer conference in May, which often plays host to new Android developments. The event sold out to regular developers in an hour.

If true, the schism could create problems for Google's attempts to promote Android as a unified platform for both phones and tablets. Although the two platforms will have some support for interchangeable apps, the feature could lead to a visibly inconsistent experience. Android 3.0 depends exclusively on touchscreen controls, an elaborate new multitasking system and other new visual metaphors while Android 2.3 and likely 2.4 will still rely more heavily on physical buttons and different cues.

Some of Apple's success with the iPad has been credited to its platform consistency. Apart from the larger screen resolution and minor elements like pop-over menus, the interface is identical on both the iPad and iPhone. The decision creaties a relatively conservative OS but allows for universal apps and a familiar experience.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Total chaos

    These guys don't seem to have any sensible release strategy to speak of. Looks like they're making it up as they go along. Keeping two separated versions of the OS might work for the tech-savvy crowd who reads Engadget (and even, but for the average consumer it's just plain confusing, cutesy sweet-tasting code names or not.

    "Android 3? That's better than 2, right? Can I have it on my phone? Why not?"

  1. pairof9s

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not to mention...

    Which phone to get?! Do I get the HTC w/ 2.4 but no 8 megaixel camera, or the 2.2 DroidX but can't be upgraded?! Or one will allow me to sync w/ my tablet, but only if the tablet runs 2.3...but I want the features the Xoom has w/ 3.0 but it won't sync with my $300 phone 2.3 I got for Christmas.

    Total chaos is correct.


  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Now now

    iOS 3.2 was iPad only IIRC. And iOS only got "unified" at 4.2 right? So iOS went through something similar.

    And I think macnn are reading the situation wrong. macnn is the only place that I've read this split is for the long term. Android 2.4 is a revised version of 2.3 and supposedly starts the unification process.

  1. VValdo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This article isn't exactly right...

    Anyone who might be interested in trying 3.0 (honeycomb), go get a $250 nook color tablet from Barnes and Noble. You can burn a 4gb SD card, pop it in, and use it right now with wifi, accelerometer, sound, etc.

    You can also compare it to a fully-running Froyo:

    As you'll see, there isn't much difference in terms of how apps are launched or run. They are pretty much compatible from 2.3 to 3.0. It's just a slight difference in UI layout for the Launcher (Chooser) where things have moved around in a way that makes more sense for a tablet. Coming from an Android phone, it took about 30 seconds to figure out. "Oh, they just moved that to here." Honeycomb (3.0) doesn't assume multiple physical buttons or a phone keypad and doesn't emphasize phone-type functions. It also takes advantage of more screen real estate in some apps like Gmail.

    As far as the "visibly inconsistent experience", one thing that may be throwing people is that as we've seen it so far, Honeycomb has a kind of "Tron" look where as Android 2.3 doesn't. This is just the theme-- Android is themeable, so you can change the colors and appearance of just about everything, whether it's running on the phone or on a tablet. It will be up to tablet manufacturers and/or the user to decide what they want their tablets/phones to look like. It's kinda fun to switch themes from time to time, just like one switches ringtones or whatever.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Designing interfaces for geeks is a waste of time.

    and effort on Google's part. There aren't enough tech-geeks out there to make a difference. All those extra customization features will likely go unused for the majority of the consumer users. Back in the pre-OSX days, I always had my OS so customized with extensions I doubt if anyone else could figure out how to use it and it crashed quite a bit. With Snow Leopard, I keep the UI pretty much stock and for the past year and a half, I've never had a single crash (or anything close to one) on my 24/7-running iMac. I think that companies should keep it simple for consumers and not over-think the situation. A rock-solid foundation OS is probably the most important thing and then an easy to use interface on top. No need to go overboard.

    Apple only needs to keep refining iOS to keep it stable and the UI consistent, and leave the techie-tinkering to Android fanbois.

  1. jfgilbert

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Those who don't learn history....

    This is looking more and more like Windows all over again, except with a faster release cycle. Still, we have not reached 3.1 yet, so 98 - the first really usable version - is still a year or two away. Let's hope they will go straight to Android 7 and skip Android V (Vistoid?).
    But I am not hopeful, Google does not seem very good at learning from others' mistakes.

  1. DerekMorr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What's a dual-core app?

    The article referenced "dual-core apps" that will run on Honeycomb. What is a dual-core app? I'm not aware of any way in Android to tag an application as requiring multiple cores. Certainly an app can create threads, but those will still run on a single-core CPU.

    And what is this "elaborate new multitasking system" that's in Honeycomb? Is the author referring to the new UI button that displays the task-switcher? If so, that's not a new system. On phones, just hold down the Home button, and the task switcher will appear.

    It wouldn't surprise me if Google releases a version of Android designed for phones which has some the new features of Honeycomb, such as the hardware-accelerated 2D compositor and new API support (such as the fragment UI and RenderScript). If anything, wouldn't this /reduce/ the alleged fragmentation that so concerns people who don't actually use Android devices? This article seems like more fear-mongering that substance.

  1. mjtomlin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    @ cmoney

    "iOS only got "unified" at 4.2 right? So iOS went through something similar."

    Yes and no. While the OS release itself wasn't unified until 4.2, developers were still able to build apps that could run on either from the start. They were the same OS just on a different release schedule until everything could be pulled together. I would guess that Apple wanted to keep the releases separated like this until the iPad specific kinks could be worked out. After that point they could fold the iPad-only stuff into the development tree and begin releasing/introducing new features across all devices simultaneously.

    From what I've read around the blogosphere, Google made a lot of under the hood changes to Android to get a more tablet-centric user experience (not just user interface). Apple didn't need to do much more than just add more interface elements, as iOS is derived from a desktop OS and has a lot of that functionality built in or "waiting in the wings." It's trivial for Apple to intermingle Mac OS X and iOS features. Always find it funny when Android users accuse Apple of copying features from Google, when in fact a lot of the features Apple adds to iOS are passed down from Mac OS X.

  1. DerekMorr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Double standard

    So let me get this straight -- when Apple has two different versions of the mobile OS, and their own developer docs tell dev's to adapt code appropriately, that's not a problem. But when Google does it, it is a problem?

    You can make apps that run on multiple versions of Android. Google's developer docs have several articles on how to do this. This is a non-issue.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Those who don't learn history....

    This is looking more and more like Windows all over again, except with a faster release cycle. Still, we have not reached 3.1 yet, so 98 - the first really usable version - is still a year or two away.

    Sorry, Windows 95 was the usable version of windows. No one stayed with Windows 3.1 because of issues with 95. Only naysayers and complainers would argue otherwise. Win 98 was where that OS crested, and fell fast with Windows Me.

    And it isn't any different than OS X. It wasn't 'usable' until 10.2, at the earliest. And it didn't even start to stabilize until 10.3 was released (and some will probably argue 10.4 was the first 'full featured' release).

    And even then, it took until Snow Leopard for Apple to fix so many of the problems with the damned Finder.

    Let's hope they will go straight to Android 7 and skip Android V (Vistoid?).
    But I am not hopeful, Google does not seem very good at learning from others' mistakes.

    Yes, because releasing 2.4 is just a stupid move. You don't put out a new dot version of an OS to cover some requested/required changes before the next big release. You wait until you're finished the next version, however long that takes.

    Unless you're Apple. Then you release iOS 3.2 on the iPad because you want to get the iPad out in the populace, who cares if all the other iOS devices are getting iOS 4.0. You'll update the 4.0 branch sooner or later to get all the devices into the same branch of the software.

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