As Google's annual I/O Conference approaches, new rumors have suggested that Google won't release the highly anticipated Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie but rather another Jelly Bean update, known as Android 4.3.
While many are disappointed by the prospect of another Jelly Bean upgrade, as opposed to an entirely new operating system, it makes more sense for Google to release a new OS that's compatible with current Android devices than one that isn't. As a result, Android 5.0 will likely be limited to just a few handsets before it's rolled out to most other devices over time. Regardless, if Android 5.0 won't be widely available upon its release, many users will likely be disappointed.
Why Android 4.3? Old Android 5.0 Rumor Suggests Dual-Core Incompatibility
One of many Key Lime Pie rumors reported over the last several months was that devices running dual-core processors would be unable to update to Android 5.0. After SamMobile released a list in March of Samsung devices likely to receive Key Lime Pie updates -- which included the Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Note 8.0, and Galaxy Note 10.1 -- further speculation suggested that the U.S. variant of the Samsung Galaxy S3 may not be compatible with Android 5.0, due to its dual-core processor.
Another list indicated that a number of Samsung devices would likely see Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean as their last update. The list included many mid-range devices and high-end devices that are several generations old, such as the Samsung Galaxy S2. These devices notably all have either dual-core or single-core processors.
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These rumors led us to believe that Samsung could be phasing out dual-core chips in order to make room for beefier devices. Among these rumors, Gotta Be Mobile noted that there has been no indication as to whether the supposed limitation of Key Lime Pie to quad-core processors originated from Samsung or from Google. If the quad-core policy came from Google, we would likely see dual-core devices on other brands of smartphones unable to receive Android 5.0. While SamMobile reported that sources from Samsung confirmed the update list, no other mobile manufacturers leaked any information about Android 5.0 update compatibility.
Could Android 4.3 Save the Dual-Core Processor?
Many Android enthusiasts have criticized the idea that the U.S. Samsung Galaxy S3 variant, and other devices running dual-core processors, may not be able to power Android 5.0. However, we propose that this may not necessarily be a bad thing. Recent reports suggest that Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie has been delayed for the time being, but most still expect it to be released at some point -- anywhere between two months or more than a year from now. In the meantime, it is possible that Android 4.3 Jelly Bean could provide older phones with an update beyond Android 4.2.2.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 recently received an update to Android 4.1.2, and rumors suggest that it will begin receiving Android 4.2.2 updates in May or June. Reports suggest we will see the update roll out on the Galaxy S3 international variant first, with the U.S. variant likely to receive it much later. The international Galaxy S3 is also currently able to upgrade to Android 4.2.2 through the CyanogenMod 10.1 custom ROM and the SlimBean custom ROM.
One misstep often made by Android users is the belief that introducing a new Android operating system will result in speedier updates for older phones, especially in the U.S. Many expect Android 4.2.2 to be released on U.S. carriers at least three months after it's released in the U.K., as that was the release schedule for Android 4.1.2. That said, Android 4.2.2 will likely be released late in the year, perhaps around September, which could push any further updates, like Android 4.3, well into 2014.
Other Samsung devices usually have an update life and popularity span just short of two years. The Samsung Galaxy S2, for example, was released in May 2011 running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It then updated to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and finally to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in January 2013. The Samsung Galaxy S2 is more or less on its last leg in the market now. Most mobile networks that still carry the smartphone offer it for free with a two-year contract; many other retailers offer it for as low as $50. As the Galaxy S3 recently saw a price drop to $99 upon the unveiling of the Galaxy S4, it will likely follow the same suit as the Galaxy S2, waning in popularity as it becomes two generations old in 2014. By that time, most enthusiasts will likely not be very concerned with whether or not the Galaxy S3 will update to Android 5.0, though we propose it could see one final Jelly Bean update, to Android 4.3.
Dual-Core Processors Won’t Die Just Yet
New developments at Samsung have also made us consider that Android 4.3 will be an update option for yet-to-be released devices packing dual-core processors. The Korean manufacturer recently unveiled its Galaxy Tab 3 tablet, which will run on a dual-core processor and ship with Android 4.1.2 upon its release. Because tablets appear to receive far fewer updates than high-end smartphones and also tend to skip several Android versions between updates, we propose that the Galaxy Tab 3 may bypass Android 4.2 and update straight to Android 4.3.
Many Clues Point to Android 4.3
Following reports that Android 5.0 may be delayed for several months in order to allow current devices time to update to already-released software, several Android experts, including those at Android Police and Android Authority, spotted a number of Google Nexus devices running Android 4.3 in their server logs. Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii reports having traced the logs back to two different IP ranges related to Google employees, while Android Authority’s Chris Smith traced logs back to locations in California, including Mountain View, where Google’s headquarters is stationed, as well as to London, the U.K. and India. Many have taken this as confirmation that the next Google operating system will be Android 4.3; however, these speculations remain unconfirmed.
The experts also note that the OS build numbers within the server logs all start with the letter 'J.' As Android build numbers tend to start with the same letter as the first letter of the Android version name, we believe that the system name for Android 4.3 will remain Jelly Bean.
In addition, there have been a number of Android 4.3 discussions stumbled upon within developer circles, including one at Google’s Chromium Bug tracker, where Russakovskii first discovered the build number JWR23B. He found the same build number in server logs. Later, Reddit user "danrant" discovered a number of Android 4.3 developer discussions, not only referencing build numbers that begin with J, but also referencing codenames such as JellyBeanMR2.
To culminate the clues that Android 4.3 may be the next Google operating system, Sidhtech notes that Google’s recent Gmail is version 4.3. According to the tech website, Gmail version numbers tend to coincide with Android operating system numbers that are releasde around the same time.
Where Is Android 5.0?
Meanwhile, we have had only a few Android 5.0 sightings. The first occurred in November 2012, when a benchmark for a Sony device running Android 5.0 allegedly surfaced, but, according to Russakovskii, that was far too early for Google to have zeroed in on a name for its upcoming operating system.
More recently, there have been reports that an Antutu Benchmark for the infamous Motorola/Google X Phone had surfaced, running Android 5.0.1; however, the image has largely been dismissed as a fake.
While Android enthusiasts enjoy speculating about the features of upcoming operating systems, including their version numbers and names, their guesses are often incorrect. Android Police's Ron Amadeo notes that Jelly Bean was once thought to be Android 5.0 prior to its 2012 release, as have many other systems been designated with pre-release titles that turned out to be incorrect too. We expect to see the next Android OS unveiled at Google I/O, which takes place from May 15-17. We likely won’t be able to confirm any of Google’s plans until then.