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Updated: December 18, 2011 10:13 IST

Waiting for the ice cream sandwich: when will Android 4.0 arrive?

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A file photo of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, which runs the newest version of Google's Android mobile software, Ice Cream Sandwich, during a product review in San Francisco.
A file photo of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, which runs the newest version of Google's Android mobile software, Ice Cream Sandwich, during a product review in San Francisco.

A lot of people want an ice cream sandwich these days. But they’re going to have to have a little patience.

But it’s not food they’re after. Ice Cream Sandwich is the name of the newest version of the Android operating system. And many of the people waiting for it might end up disappointed.

Android Version 4.0 has been tempting smartphone users with its polished user interface and a few new functions. But a dpa survey of manufacturers says it might be a while yet. And not every new model is necessarily going to get an update.

The delay is a function of variety. A whole series of manufacturers are making Android mobiles, and each of them builds upon the Google software to create its own interface or add special features.

“This breadth of functions separates our products from the competition,” explains Ralf Gerbershagen, head of Motorola in Germany. Motorola, for example, has an Android business-ready package.

But that means before a new version of Android can be installed, a company’s own programmers have to have a crack at it.

“When there’s an update, then the appropriate project team has to take the time to make the new version of Android match, to make sure that everything functions seamlessly,” says Gerbershagen.

New functions possible with Ice Cream Sandwich include one that allows the camera to be activated out of standby mode, meaning it can recognize upon startup whether the person holding the phone is the owner. The function is called Face Unlock.

In the new version phones with integrated near field communication systems will be able to swap data easily. There’s also something new in apps. Since Google has merged the software for smartphones and tablets, developers no longer have to make two versions of everything, which should increase variety and allow hardware makers to focus on only one set of compatibility issues.

Google has a history of naming its new mobile operating systems after deserts. Version 1.5 was dubbed Cupcake, while 2.3 was named Gingerbread. Version 3.0, which hit the market at the start of 2011, for tablets, is Honeycomb. Ice Cream Sandwich is the logical extension.

Samsung will have the first Ice Cream Sandwich mobile. A Galaxy Nexus presentation in October showed what Android 4.0 can do. But the South Korean company still isn’t saying which device will get the new system, although its British subsidiary has said via Twitter that the lucky machine will be the Galaxy S II.

Motorola expects an update to its flagship Droid Razr “probably in the first half of 2012.” But earlier versions of the trimmed-down mobile will only have Gingerbread. Other details won’t be available until six weeks after publication of the source codes.

Since Google only recently starting uploading those, users will have to at least wait until the new year. From Motorola, there will only be Gingerbread through the end of 2011.

Google is set to take over Motorola’s Mobility mobile division, meaning that Motorola phones might soon get updates faster. But until the deal is done, Motorola users will have to be patient.

HTC is also being coy, saying various of its devices will start using Ice Cream Sandwich “starting in the spring of 2012.” Models slated for the new system include the XL and XE, as well as the HTC Evo 3D. But the Wildfire and Desire are not listed for a system update.

At the same time, the Taiwanese company promises to “continually improve its product portfolio and to announce as early as possible updates with Ice Cream Sandwich for additional devices.” Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson wants to update all Android smartphones introduced in 2011 from Version 2.3.4 to 4.0. The company will announce in its blog when it plans to upgrade the Xperia series, which will help out users of the Xperia X10, Xperia Neo and Xperia Play.

LG is also holding out hope for its clients, while saying that it can’t report anything about the planned updates.





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