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Dec 102011

In its official blog, Motorola confirmed this week that a handful of its high-end Android smartphones and Android tablets are on the priority list for upgrading to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

But–there’s a but–the update will definitely take some time and Motorola has not determined a specific time frame for delivering its sweet promise of Ice Cream Sandwich.

Motorola has revealed its plans to provide Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to the following Android devices:

  • Motorola DROID RAZR
  • Motorola RAZR
  • Motorola XOOM
  • Motorola XOOM Family Edition
  • Motorola DROID BIONIC

Not very many, huh?  However, Motorola emphasized that more of its Android smartphones and Android tablets could be added to the list.  For instance, it is likely that the original Motorola ATRIX (including the Motorola ATRIX 2)  and the Motorola XOOM 2 (DROID XYBOARD) would also be getting Ice Cream Sandwich.

The company’s software team is still assessing the latest Android version (4.0, also called Ice Cream Sandwich), whose source code Google just recently released together with the Samsung GALAXY Nexus.  The Samsung GALAXY Nexus is the latest Google Experience Device (GED), through which Android users will have the first opportunity for a “pure Google” experience on an Android device.

Now that the source code for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has been made publicly accessible, other Android device manufacturers have started tweaking the code and optimizing it for use on their own devices.  Motorola is doing the same for its products.


But, in Motorola’s own words, there are two heavy bottlenecks that can cause the upgrade to take some time.  The first one is the manufacturer itself.  The second one is the mobile carrier.

As explained in Motorola’s blog post, manufacturers need to modify the public source code for Android 4.0 so that it will run smoothly on their devices.  While doing so, each manufacturer needs to coordinate with makers of hardware components that are used on each device.  Suppliers of hardware components are also contributing to the source code so that it will work with the hardware they produce.  For instance, well-known makers of mobile processors such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and NVIDIA are providing software code so that handset manufacturers can integrate it into the various Android devices they make.

Once integration is accomplished, the modified software will undergo testing so that any kinks can be ironed out and bugs can be squashed.  When the software reaches a more stable form, the manufacturers submit it to their carrier partners (e.g., Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile) for certification and further testing.  Carriers also add their own software into the mix, so the process actually takes longer.  According to Motorola, the preparation usually takes two months, and thereafter, the carrier-specific version of Android for a particular device undergoes lab testing for about one to three more months.

Afterwards, developers send out a prerelease version to select users as part of the final leg of testing.  Some bugs and issues can still be discovered and ironed out during this phase.  Finally, the update is rolled out to all users.

After all that explanation from Motorola’s blog, one thing remains clear: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich won’t be gracing your DROID RAZR, DROID BIONIC, or XOOM any time soon–unless you take the law into your own hands, root your Android device, and install a custom ROM based on Ice Cream Sandwich (and possibly void your warranty in the process).

Can you blame Motorola for the delay?  Can you blame the mobile carriers?  Or will you blame yourself for not buying the Samsung GALAXY Nexus once it rears its glorious head on Verizon?

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