With the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, many OEM devices are expected to update, but most may not see the new operating system until well into 2014.
Samsung in particular may not get around to updating its current flagship devices until next year for a multitude of reasons, but now sources claim to have found proof of Samsung’s 2014 Android 4.4 timeline for devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 2. According to a supposed leaked document from Samsung shared by tech website iTechAddict, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 will update to Android 4.4 in January while the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 will update to Android 4.4 between March and April.
Upon the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google announced that the operating system employed Project Svelte, an optimization that allows for Android compatibility with a host of devices, including those with as little as 512MB RAM. While this is a benefit for many low-end devices that now have an opportunity to update to Android 4.4, it is still ultimately up to OEMs to decide which of their devices will get the update.
In addition, device/system compatibility and device life cycles are two very different things. Samsung in particular is known for adhering to a pretty strict 18-month update cycle, in which devices are not updated past a certain point regardless of their compatibility with operating systems. For example, the introduction of Project Svelte has had some wondering if the Samsung Galaxy S2 would be eligible for an update to Android 4.4, but this is most unlikely. As of 2014, the Galaxy S2 will be approaching three years old, and has long been out the update cycle. After its final update to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean in mid-2013, the Galaxy S2 has been largely absent from update discussions following the releases of Android 4.2 and Android 4.3. With the introduction of Android 4.4, developers have simply been able to prove the system’s compatibility with the Galaxy S2 by developing Android KitKat-based custom ROMs for the device.
Samsung Galaxy S3 Update Unlikely
Other Galaxy devices will also soon be reaching the end of their market lifespan. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is closest to completing its update cycle as it is just one month shy of 18 months old. Currently, the Galaxy S3 is updating to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which given the cycle is likely to be its final update. The device has already updated once before, from its native Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Samsung Galaxy S devices typically receive two Android system updates before they are retired.
Galaxy Note 2 Update Somewhat Possible
Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is just over one year old and is also now updating to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Though the device is still within its 18-month update cycle, Android 4.3 is likely its first and only update from its native Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Samsung Galaxy Note devices, as the less popular of the Samsung flagships, have mostly received one Android system update in their lifespan, amid other patch updates and Premium Suite upgrades pushed out by the Korean manufacturer.
Similar to the Galaxy Note 2, the most original Galaxy Note models also updated just once from Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, at its one-year point on the market, and most models have not updated again. Some original Galaxy Note models, featuring the Exynos 4 Dual 45 prococessor actually updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream sandwich, but these models were in a minority.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Update Possible
With no confirmation from Samsung, there is no way of knowing whether this leaked document is accurate or doctored. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is more likely than others to update to Android 4.4; however, whether the devices will actually update according to the leaked timeline is questionable considering Samsung’s update schedule. The Galaxy S4 is under one year old, making it a prime candidate for further updates, but Samsung updates are rarely speedy.
The Galaxy S4 in particular is currently in the middle of its first update from its native Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Some Galaxy S4 models have also had their updates postponed, with no indication of when the Android 4.3 rollout for the S4 will be completed. The delay could either stretch into 2014 or conclude just before the end of the year, giving the S4 a very short time to run Android 4.3 before it will supposedly update to Android 4.4 in January. As said, Samsung devices usually go several months in between updates, making the idea of a January update for the S4 a bit farfetched.
If the Samsung Galaxy S4 were to update to Android 4.4 KitKat it would likely not be the original KRT16 build version, which was recently released, but rather a future version of Android 4.4, perhaps an Android 4.4.1 or Android Android 4.4.2. Notably, reports indicate that Google may already have Android 4.4.1 in the works. In addition, Samsung tends to not move its devices from one Android version to its immediate successor. Again, the Samsung Galaxy S3 originally went from Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, skipping Android 4.1 and Android 4.1.1 in the process. Time lapses usually allow for some new developments to have occurred in between device updates. From this it is likely that if the Galaxy S4 was to update to Android 4.4, it would update to a later iteration, a bit later in 2014.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Update Unlikely
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3; conversely, runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean as its native operating system. Considering the device’s one-year update schedule thus far, it is more likely the Note 3 may not be scheduled for update for several months, and until several Android developments have passed. The Galaxy Note 3 may not see an update until a whole new Android version comes around, such as a 4.5 or 5.0. This is of course just speculation at this point, but falls in line with Samsung’s update patterns.
Samsung Stays Quiet
Google’s broad compatibility umbrella for Android 4.4 does not mean that all OEMs will necessarily change their update schedules and bring each latest Android version to its current devices. Project Svelte aims at decreasing system fragmentation, but likely won’t get rid of it all together, especially considering the continued frequency of Android updates.
Other OEMs such as Sony and HTC now appear more dedicated to bringing their devices speedier and more frequent updates; however, Samsung has largely remained quiet. Leaving us to assume it has no intention of making overhauls to its update process.
Do you think the leaked 2014 Android 4.4 update timeline for Samsung is accurate? Let us know in the comments below.
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Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.