(Photo : Google)
Google released its latest Android operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, earlier this summer. With a smoother interface and new features, Jelly Bean is meant to compete with Apple's upcoming iOS 6 and had tech blogs and reports excited. Problem is, if you look around, there are hardly any smartphones running official Jelly Bean versions. Why is that?
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First off, it has nothing to do with Google. Google makes an Android operating system, such as Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean, and then allows developers to do what they want with it. This usually means that smartphone and tablet manufacturers tailor the Android system to include some apps and interface features specific to their devices. This also means that each device gets its own specific Android version.
Suppose Samsung wants to update existing smartphones up to Jelly Bean. As of right now, Jelly Bean upgrades are in the works for the Galaxy S3, Galaxy S2, the Galaxy Note, and, depending on whether or not it launches with Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note 2, according to website SamMobile. That's four devices that will all require their own development teams. You can imagine why you don't hear about Android updates for more devices, in some cases, manufacturers might as well just release a new device.
But that's not all. Once Samsung is done developing a Jelly Bean upgrade, it must then send it to wireless carriers for approval and distribution. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint may choose to include some of their own, and frankly annoying, apps and services in the upgrade before sending the upgrade out over their networks. If you're a Verizon user, you know that this can sometimes take abnormally long.
So not only do you have to wait for a specific Android version to be developed, you also need to wait for the politics and resources of the wireless carriers to bring the update to your device. Apple's iPhones on the other hand don't go through this process, since Apple directly develops the iOS and just sends the updates to all iPhones which are identical in specs.
The latest Google report released in early August showed that Ice Cream Sandwich, released in 2011, is still only on 16 percent of Android devices. Jelly Bean, is far lower, standing at just under 1 percent. Android Gingerbread, released in 2010, is still the most popular, with 60 percent of the Android market share.
There are some ways to keep your device running the latest Android, however. The official way is to buy unlocked Google devices, such as the Galaxy Nexus smartphone or the Nexus 7 tablet. Both of these receive an over-the-air (OTA) updates directly from Google, and both currently have official Android Jelly Bean versions. Then there's the unofficial way: you can download Android ROMS posted on the internet. Keep in mind these usually have some stability issues.
Google does want the Android update process more streamlined, but as it currently stands, there are too many hand-offs in the way.