Samsung confirmed May 16 that this month it will begin rolling out Google’s Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” operating system for its Galaxy S smartphones and 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet computer.
Gingerbread is Google’s freshest build for Android smartphones, featuring a better virtual keyboard, 3D graphics, a gyroscope and near field communications (NFC). NFC can enable mobile payments with the proper applications.
However, to enable this capability, smartphones must have special NFC chips to work, and the current crop of Galaxy S devices do not have one.
To this point, Gingerbread with NFC capability has only rolled out on the Samsung Nexus S and Nexus S 4G handsets in the United States, with pledges by Motorola, HTC and others to launch smartphones with the new OS this year.
Ironically, it is Samsung getting ahead of the curve with its latest pledge, which is that Gingerbread will begin rolling out via the phone maker’s Kies device management software for Galaxy S handsets and the Tab in the U.K. and Nordic countries beginning in mid-May.
Eventually, it will be “gradually rolled out to other European markets, North America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East Asia, Africa and rest of the world according to the regional plan,” according to Samsung’s statement.
Forgive people for not holding their breath. Not long after Samsung rolled out the Android 2.1-based Galaxy S lineup last summer, the company said it would bump all of the phones to Android 2.2 “Froyo” in the coming months. However, Samsung didn’t say it would take until 2011.
It followed, then, that Verizon Wireless’ Samsung Fascinate should get that bump in April, but that hasn’t happened yet. Verizon’s problem is the same as it was for the other carriers: compatibility issues porting the new OS to the phones.
Indeed, Samsung told eWEEK: “We are working to make the Android 2.2/Froyo upgrade available to all U.S. Galaxy S owners as soon as possible. Due to the complexity and unique functionality of each Galaxy S device, we are performing additional testing.”
Given Samsung’s upgrade path plight, Gingerbread may not reach those U.S. Galaxy S phones until Google rolls out its next OS build, the Ice Cream Sandwich release designed to mitigate the forking fragmentation Google caused by launching Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” optimized for tablets.
To solve this upgrade challenge, Google said Samsung, HTC, Motorola and the U.S. carriers have formed a group to facilitate software upgrades 18 months into the future. The group has no name at present, and it is unclear whether the parties will be able to meet their goals.
In other Samsung news, the company launched the Samsung Android Developer Forum to provide technical support for developers of Android applications.
The Website will provide news, updates, and technical advice and support, as well as SDK plug-ins to assist with augmented reality (AR) or personalized location-based services.