The Android rumor mill is alive with reports from anonymous sources that Google is pushing device makers to load the latest version of Android KitKat 4.4 on their new devices to boost the operating system and bring the latest new features to users.
The reports are based on what is being called a leaked memo that Google has allegedly sent to "at least one major Android OEM partner from the Android Team," according to a Feb. 16 story by MobileBloom.
"Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS [Google Mobile Services] distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases," according to the claimed memo. "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."
Such a policy could certainly be aimed at helping push device makers to a quicker use of the newest, most feature-filled version of Android that has been released so far. Much of the Android world remains fragmented because device makers continue to load older versions of Android onto their devices that they sell in the marketplace.
The latest market share figures from the Android Developers Website show that KitKat 4.4 is running on 1.8 percent of the Android devices in use today, while the previous Jelly Bean 4.1 is running on about 35.5 percent of devices. Jelly Bean 4.2 is being used on 16.3 percent of devices, while Jelly Bean 4.3 is being used on 8.9 percent of Android devices. Some 16.1 percent of devices are still running versions of Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, according to the figures. Even ancient Froyo, Version 2.2, is being run on 1.3 percent of the Android devices in use.
These high usage figures for the older Android versions out in the wild are certainly behind Google's reported efforts to get device makers to move forward more quickly with the latest version of the mobile operating system.
"According to one online source, Google would like smartphone makers like Samsung, HTC, LG, ZTE, Motorola and others to abide by a simple rule; if you develop a smartphone that has access to the Google Services Framework and Google Play Store, it must be running the most recent version of Android," reported MobileBloom.
Ending, or at least greatly reducing, the fragmentation of the Android market has been a goal of Google for some time. The idea is that by releasing and promoting the newest versions of Android, users will get the latest features faster, and its evolution will continue more strongly, compared with having multiple systems out there that are getting old rather than advancing the platform.
Google did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK seeking comment about the Android rumors.
Google released KitKat 4.4 in October 2013 and gave it a host of features that allow it to perform well on older devices, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The first new device running KitKat 4.4, the new Nexus 5 smartphone, was simultaneously released at that time for $349 for a 16GB version or $399 for a 32GB version.