While some of us are still waiting to receive Android 2.3.4 on our still-new smartphones, Google is already talking about Android 5.0 at Mobile World Congress this week.
Previous talk slated the next version, rumored to be called Jelly Bean, to appear sometime this summer (which seems a little silly given that Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is still trying the gain some market share over Gingerbread). But now Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's vice president of engineering for mobile, is indicating that the new OS might make an appearance this fall.
"After Android 4 comes 5, and we haven't announced the timing yet, which we're still sorting out," Lockheimer said in an interview with Computerworld on Monday. "There's a lot of engineering work still behind it -- and there's also the question of how to time it. In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still."
Right. Android 4.0 ICS was technically released in November 2011 even though many qualified devices are still waiting for the update. If Google sticks with its year-to-year release schedule, then naturally we won't see Android 5.0 "J" until the latter part of Fall 2012. Yet that doesn't mean Google won't break away and launch the next version early.
"We're flexible," he hinted. "The [timing of releases] is not what drives us; it's innovation and offering users a great experience." He wouldn’t divulge the dessert-based codename associated with Android 5.0 although many have come to call it "Jelly Bean."
During the interview, Lockheimer acknowledged consumer frustration over the slow process of rolling out Android ICS. But he also admitted that the Android Upgrade Alliance has made a difference in getting timely upgrades out for devices during ICS's first 18 months on the market.
"We're making the upgrade process better and are passionate about it," he said. "There's a lot of progress being made towards making upgrades smoother. [But] getting upgrades to users is very complicated. By the time you add up all the players, it's a big pipeline, a big assembly line, with lots of parts. Everyone needs to be working in tight coordination."
Many users can't wait to get their hands on ICS, as it will let them finally nuke the annoying bloatware installed by manufacturers and carriers. In most cases, these apps are not only outdated and stripped of important features, but cannot be uninstalled, taking up valuable storage space on the phone's internal memory. But once ICS arrives, bloatware will (hopefully) be a thing in the past.
"If you prefer plain ICS, you can disable the [added] apps," he said. "One slice does not fit all. This way you can have your cake and eat it too."