WAT: Why there ain’t more phones with Android 2.0. And there won’t be soon, if ever

This is another post in my “Wild arsed theories” (WAT) category. It’s a pure speculation, based on the stuff I see happening in mobile industry. And some of these posts will certainly be completely off base. So if you have some corrections, objections, or knowledge that I am wrong, do not hesitate to share them in the comments.

What the heck’s happening with this Android stuff? All was peachy with the Android 1.0, Android 1.1, Android 1.5 Cupcake, and even Android 1.6 Donut releases.

Google will make OS available, cellphone vendors will take the package and make cool smartphones with it. Everyone gets the same version and releases handsets with it, accordingly.

Then came the announcement of Android 2.0 running Verizon/Motorola Droid, release of Android 2.0 SDK to developers, and things started getting really confusing.

With much more advanced and visually appealing Android 2.0 available, and already running on one phone, one would expect other vendors to jump on the bandwagon, and announce Eclair running handsets as soon as they can.

But no, all others, announcing their Android smartphones, for some mysterious reason, are using the old 1.6 Donut version of the OS.  Even for the high end models, that will ship only next year, like Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, or other Verizon Droid series handsets, like HTC Eris.

And I think,  I know what this reason is.

There simply is no 2.0 version of Android operating system yet. At least in a way, we usually consider a software package to be ready for a version X.0 number.

What we do have as an OS, Google, Motorola and Verizon call Android 2.0 for marketing purposes, is a pre-release/beta version of the software, optimized to run on a single device by a single vendor.

If you think it’s unlikely that Google will give one vendor such a strong preference, to launch a competing device, with a more advanced version of OS, think again.

This is exactly the same thing Google did last year, when they really wanted to get their OS into the market, before the year/holiday season was over. Google worked directly with HTC, optimizing the unfinished operating system to run on a single handset. Then they called it Android 1.0, and launched HTC G1/Dream handset running on it. With tons of unfinished/absent features, bugs and all.

Even Andy Rubin himself admitted, that Android 1.0 wasn’t really a software package worthy of 1.0 tag. Android reached that level only with the release of the Cupcake 1.5/Donut 1.6 updates. That’s when all other vendors felt that the software was actually ready for their phones, and got busy releasing them.

The launch of Motorola Droid, is sort of a deja vu of the things that happened last year.

Close integration work exclusively for a single handset, from a single vendor. Advanced version of the OS, not available to other vendors. The feeling of a rushed job, manifesting in illogically unfinished/absent features (see the dismal multimedia/sync experience, camera issues, universal search limitations, laginess of basic UI elements, etc;  that Gizmodo found on Droid).

All are the mirror thing of the problems the original G1 faced in November 2008.

So, to anyone waiting for another Android 2.0 handset to be released anytime soon, sorry. You won’t be seeing any of them this year. If ever.

My guess is, that Android 2.0 will remain exclusive to Motorola Droid/Milestone. Just like Android 1.0 was exclusive to HTC Dream/G1.

The rest of us, who will not pick up Droid, will have to wait for the release of Android 2.1/Flan, to get our hands on the next generation Android goodness. The handsets with which should be announced in February 2010, and start shipping sometime in March/April.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Jon

    There's so much wrong with the logic here, I don't know where to start.

    Did it occur to you that Google worked directly and closely with HTC on Android 1.0 because they were the ONLY device maker that wanted to invest time and money in making the first Android device?

    There's no such rush to get Android 2.0 out. 95% of the features that are used on the Droid were implemented in Android 1.6.
    Social Networking integration? HTC had that in the Hero using Android 1.5. Motorola themselves already built their own System using Blur and Android 1.5.
    CDMA support? Android 1.6. HTC had support in Android 1.5
    Multitouch (which isnt even used on the Droid) was on HTC's Hero also – using Android 1.5.

    The complaints I saw about 2.0 were all hardware-based. Gizmodo, Engadget, etc… all stated precisely that. How you deduced that Android 2.0 is pre-release failure perplexes me. Either you know nothing about Android development, or you're a fanboi of one of the competing platforms. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that it's the former.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Well, maybe, and I admit I may be wrong. But…

    Motorola and Google has stated that they worked together a lot to make a
    Droid. Why would Google spend time working exclusively on a single handset
    from a single vendor, for general OS release? Did they do the same for
    Samsung Galaxy, Moment, LG GW620, HTC Eris, Hero, SE Xperia X10?

    And where are other phones with Android 2.0? I don't see many of them coming
    before Q1 2010. Kind of strange, if a final OS of 2.0 is available and
    running on a device in the market (should have been available for months to
    do that) .

  • readmoreandroidnews

    It was already announced HTC will be making 2.0 available for the Hero.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Yes, it was. The only question is when. Probably not this year, I guess.

    —– Original message —–

  • Micah

    simple.

    Google worked closely with a vendor so that they could be assured that the hardware would be lacking. They want android to be seen as the best mobile OS available, and when all it gets put on is cheap hardware, you don't see that. They chose to work with motorola, because motorola was basically dieing in the mobile phone sector and they needed a hit to survive. Verizon was losing alot of customers to the iphone and AT&T, so they needed a good competing product. thats how those 3 companies got together to work so tightly integrated on a single device.

    As far as where the other phones are, its simple. 2.0 is very new. 1.5 and 1.6 are better known. You don't just last minute throw a new version of an OS on your phone, you go with what you know works.

  • Micah

    sorry, typo. assured that hardware would NOT be lacking.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Agreed with all of it.

    And it only reaffirms my point, that the was and is not yet ready for general release. That's why I called pre-release/beta.

  • Vale

    You said “And there won't be soon, if ever.” But it was announced by HTC last week that Eclair, or Android 2.0, will be made available for the Hero along with an optimized version of Sense UI for the OS update. So, I'm guessing this post might be unfounded.

  • http://htcsource.com/ Nick

    We obviously know that you blog post is based on your own personal knowledge of the situation, but there are a lot of key points that you have left out. First off, HTC has had Android 2.0 in house for a while and is already working to release an upgrade for HTC Hero owners. I have spoke to HTC personally on this regard and they made their official announcement last Thursday: http://htcsource.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    If other manufacturers shipped their latest phones with Android 1.6 it is because they chose to do so. Several inside sources have confirmed to me that members of the OHA (Open Handset Alliance) do have access to Android 2.0 already.

    Unfortunately, many of the new handsets that have been released have a custom UI and social networking integration that do not allow you to simply install the new version of Android on top of it. They have to go back to the drawing board with Android 2.0 and then rebuilt their custom UI on top of it. This takes time. You'll notice that Motorola's new Blur UI that ships on the T-Mobile Cliq is absent from the Droid. Motorola didn't have enough time to rebuild it in time for the launch. Also the Droid Eris is simply an HTC Hero. If the Hero doesn't have 2.0, why would the Eris?

  • Deepak NR

    Brilliant Stuff Unwired, you seem to be absolutely right here! Thank you..

  • stynkfysh

    I have been thinking something similar. I think a lot of the Android 2.0 stuff is for marketing purposes. All I have seen that is significant are prettier icons. Other than that, not much else out of Android 2.0. The fact that they have not fixed that darn slow slow camera is a big disappointment… and the same old music player… LAME. I am still getting the Droid because I want to be on Verizon and have a Google phone to run all my Google services… and because it has the greatest potential to not have the lag that plagued me on the MyTouch…

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Agreed on most of it.

    I knew about the Eclair update announcement by HTC, and am not surprised that OHA members have access to Android Eclair/2.0 now, and had it for a few weeks. Just as, probably, they had the access to Android 1.0 last year. Still, not in time to make any 2.0 handset releases this year.

    And agree that HTC will release Eclair update for Hero and other handsets. But probably not this year. And I'm still on the fence whether it will be Android 2.0 or some higher iteration like 2.1.

    But I still stand by my original point that Android 2.0 version that is running on Droid was not what you'd call final X.0 release of any software product. It was the version heavily optimized by Google and Motorola to run on a single device from from a single company.

  • readmoreandroidnews

    It was already announced HTC will be making 2.0 available for the Hero.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Yes, it was. The only question is when. Probably not this year, I guess.

    —– Original message —–

  • Micah

    simple.

    Google worked closely with a vendor so that they could be assured that the hardware would be lacking. They want android to be seen as the best mobile OS available, and when all it gets put on is cheap hardware, you don't see that. They chose to work with motorola, because motorola was basically dieing in the mobile phone sector and they needed a hit to survive. Verizon was losing alot of customers to the iphone and AT&T, so they needed a good competing product. thats how those 3 companies got together to work so tightly integrated on a single device.

    As far as where the other phones are, its simple. 2.0 is very new. 1.5 and 1.6 are better known. You don't just last minute throw a new version of an OS on your phone, you go with what you know works.

  • Micah

    sorry, typo. assured that hardware would NOT be lacking.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Agreed with all of it.

    And it only reaffirms my point, that the version of Android 2.0 that is on Droid/Milestone was and is not yet ready for general release. That's why I called pre-release/beta.

  • Vale

    You said “And there won't be soon, if ever.” But it was announced by HTC last week that Eclair, or Android 2.0, will be made available for the Hero along with an optimized version of Sense UI for the OS update. So, I'm guessing this post might be unfounded.

  • http://htcsource.com/ Nick

    We obviously know that you blog post is based on your own personal knowledge of the situation, but there are a lot of key points that you have left out. First off, HTC has had Android 2.0 in house for a while and is already working to release an upgrade for HTC Hero owners. I have spoke to HTC personally on this regard and they made their official announcement last Thursday: http://htcsource.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    If other manufacturers shipped their latest phones with Android 1.6 it is because they chose to do so. Several inside sources have confirmed to me that members of the OHA (Open Handset Alliance) do have access to Android 2.0 already.

    Unfortunately, many of the new handsets that have been released have a custom UI and social networking integration that do not allow you to simply install the new version of Android on top of it. They have to go back to the drawing board with Android 2.0 and then rebuilt their custom UI on top of it. This takes time. You'll notice that Motorola's new Blur UI that ships on the T-Mobile Cliq is absent from the Droid. Motorola didn't have enough time to rebuild it in time for the launch. Also the Droid Eris is simply an HTC Hero. If the Hero doesn't have 2.0, why would the Eris?

  • Deepak NR

    Brilliant Stuff Unwired, you seem to be absolutely right here! Thank you..

  • stynkfysh

    I have been thinking something similar. I think a lot of the Android 2.0 stuff is for marketing purposes. All I have seen that is significant are prettier icons. Other than that, not much else out of Android 2.0. The fact that they have not fixed that darn slow slow camera is a big disappointment… and the same old music player… LAME. I am still getting the Droid because I want to be on Verizon and have a Google phone to run all my Google services… and because it has the greatest potential to not have the lag that plagued me on the MyTouch…

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Agreed on most of it.

    I knew about the Eclair update announcement by HTC, and am not surprised that OHA members have access to Android Eclair/2.0 now, and had it for a few weeks. Just as, probably, they had the access to Android 1.0 last year. Still, not in time to make any 2.0 handset releases this year.

    And agree that HTC will release Eclair update for Hero and other handsets. But probably not this year. And I'm still on the fence whether it will be Android 2.0 or some higher iteration like 2.1.

    But I still stand by my original point that Android 2.0 version that is running on Droid was not what you'd call final X.0 release of any software product. It was the version heavily optimized by Google and Motorola to run on a single device from from a single company.