Samsung has yet to formally announce any of its Android 4.4 KitKat update plans for its Galaxy flagship devices, but recent reports indicate that popular handsets like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 may begin to update by late-January.
According to mobile network SFR France, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 are on track for Android 4.4 updates. SFR has notably tipped Android updates for a number of Galaxy devices; the network previously reported that it would begin updating such Samsung devices as the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean in November and December. Since then most Samsung Galaxy models have in fact updated to Android 4.3. The carrier’s most recent announcement may signal when Android 4.4 updates will begin for international Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 models. U.S. device models, which are often subject to carrier approval before updates roll out, may receive Android 4.4 a bit later than international models, by several days, weeks, or even months. Regardless, this could be an indication that Android 4.4 updates are on the way for Galaxy devices across all markets.
Previous Android 4.4 Update Clues and Rollout Progress
Other reports have also suggested that we may see Samsung’s latest flagships update to Android 4.4 in the early months of 2014. Tech website iTechAddict leaked an Android 4.4 update timeline for Samsung’s high-end devices, which said the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 would update in January, while the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 will reportedly update in March and April. With Samsung staying quiet about its Android 4.4 plans, it is hard to determine the validity of any Android 4.4 update reports for Galaxy devices. But many other manufacturers, including HTC and Sony, have confirmed that they will begin to update their flagship devices and many others to Android 4.4 in January. Perhaps Samsung will also begin --- as reports suggest – to update its devices early in 2014 in order to keep up with the competition.
Notably, close rival HTC began updating its HTC One U.S. models to Android 4.3 in early October, while Samsung began updating its flagships in late October. Many Samsung Galaxy models are still receiving Android 4.3 updates, while most HTC One models have long updated to Android 4.3 and various unlocked models are actually now updating to Android 4.4, such as the HTC One Google Play Edition and the HTC One Developers Edition. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition has also updated to Android 4.4, which tells us that Samsung has the system code on hand. The company may still be adapting the system for its specific devices, adding its own software to Android systems, such as the TouchWiz UI and Premium Suite features. This could account for why we haven’t heard any news directly from Samsung. The manufacturer tends to not make any announcements until it is close to releasing updates -- until there is something definitive for the company to announce.
Android 4.4 KitKat Update for Samsung Galaxy Devices Still Uncertain?
With Android 4.4 KitKat, Google aims to decrease system fragmentation by increasing compatibility with a wide range of devices. The “Project Svelte” optimization in Android 4.4 makes the operating system compatible with mid-range and low-end devices with as little as 512MB of RAM. Since more devices with lower-end specs are now expected to update to Android 4.4, most high-end devices are believed to be shoo-ins for an update. However, it is still ultimately up to OEMs to decide which of their devices will get the update. Many Samsung devices have gone up to one year on the market before receiving their first system updates, as we saw with the Galaxy Note 2, which skipped some Android versions. The Note 2 released with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in September 2012 and began updating to Android 4.3 in November 2013, completely missing out on Android 4.2.2, which was released in late 2012. The Galaxy S3 also skipped to Android 4.3; having been released with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, it updated to Android 4.1.2 in late 2012, and did not update again until late 2013. If Samsung followed a similar pattern for the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, it is likely neither device would see an update until well into 2014. By that time, Google could be on a system version very different from the versions we are seeing now.
Even devices currently updating to Android Kit Kat are not updating to the very first iteration of the operating system, as Android 4.4.1 and Android 4.4.2 have since released. A number of devices eligible for the earliest updates, including some Nexus devices, Google Play Editions and Motorola devices, skipped the short-lived Android 4.4.1 and updated directly to 4.4.2. Considering that the rapid release of Android 4.4.1 and Android 4.4.2 was such a surprise, consumers can never be certain of what turn companies will take with their products. SFR announcing its Samsung Galaxy update schedule does not mean that the devices will actually update at those times. Keep in mind that the network also announced that the LG G2 would update to Android 4.4 in November or December, but has since changed its plans, stating that the device will update in early 2014, now giving no definitive timeline for the rollout.
It is likely that once Samsung is finished updating its current batch of devices to Android 4.3, it will focus its attention on introducing new hardware with the latest Android software before providing system support for any devices already on the market. The same way we saw the Galaxy S4 release with Android 4.2.2 and the Galaxy Note 3 update with Android 4.3 before any older devices updated to either operating system, future Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S5 may get a taste of KitKat well before the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 3.
Do you think the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 will update to Android 4.4 KitKat in January? 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.