We've talked in the past about how OEMs take the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and use it to build software tailored for devices in the context of x86 optimizations, and today two partners are sharing some more details about their specific timelines for Android 4.0 releases. Those two are Sony Ericsson and Motorola, who have outlined in their respective blog posts the path from code to getting a fully baked ROM pushed out over the air to handsets.

The two posts describe the process as we've understood it for a while now, and with Android 4.0 things don't seem any different. Google works with a specific OEM and SoC vendor around some chosen reference hardware (in this case Galaxy Nexus), and simultaneously (or close to it) releases the source code and device when things are finished. At that point, SoC vendors begin working on their own ports and build in necessary drivers or optimizations of their own.

That software package then is turned over to OEMs who add their own specific software (in the case of Motorola, for example - MotoCast, Smart Actions, and likely Blur) and make necessary tweaks to accommodate individual carrier requirements and device nuances. After the OEM finishes up its own testing, the update then passes over to carriers for their own testing, and here things have been a bit fuzzy. Motorola gives out an interesting tidbit today in their post, noting that while each carrier is different, the testing period is on the order of months:

Each carrier has different requirements for phases 2 and 3. There may be a two-month preparation cycle to enter a carrier lab cycle of one to three months.

Sony Ericsson also notes that this certification and testing phase is the longest in the process:

The Certification and approval phase that is the most time consuming process when it comes to getting a new software release out on our phones. This is one of the major tasks that are legally required from us as phone manufacturer, but is a task that the custom ROM community doesn’t have to take into consideration.  

Motorola has noted as well that the Droid RAZR, Bionic, and Xoom are all guaranteed to get an ICS port before the second half of 2012, and the list of Motorola devices being upgraded to 4.0 will likely grow. Meanwhile Sony Ericsson noted that the entire 2011 Xperia family will receive an update to 4.0 and that dates will come later.

Source: Motorola, Sony Ericsson

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  • Exodite - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    I'd wager it's mostly to do with how the device interacts with their network, at least as I understand it after having attended a few lectures and presentations on the subject.
  • r3loaded - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    Surely that's more of a hardware thing, ensuring the baseband works correctly on the network? Then they'd only need to perform additional testing for an update if it updates the baseband firmware? Besides, if a device complies with the GSM spec, and has already undergone the manufacturer's own testing to check this, it should work correctly on any GSM network without the network having to do its own tests. Is there something I'm missing, or are they actually spouting BS to cover their slowness?
  • Exodite - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    One would think so but from my understanding that's not how things are actually handled.

    I agree it makes little sense but there we are, hopefully things will change for the better with time.
  • zorxd - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    "Why do carriers have to do their own testing beyond what the manufacturer does? "

    Good question. They shouldn't. And Sony should know it.

    Crapware should be optional downloads from the Android market.
  • NTheZone - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    Who are we kidding? This is the US we are talking about. Competition and hunger for profits is rarely in the best interest of consumer, but in the interests of executives and high-stake stock holders.

    The answer to why no pentaband, and why each carrier must customize, is the same reason they get you on a 2-year contract. The hook. They know most people are not smart enough to made mods to the OS/firmware, and very few take advantages of choices out of irrational fear or simply ignorance, or lack of time and perhaps, laziness.

    I mean why do people go to big banks when the can go to credit union... off topic, I know, but yours a rhetorical question.
  • ItsaRaid - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    When the Atrix 2 was released there was "Great Talk" about ICS and everyone stating how it fell in the Upgrade Path of Android 4.0 or ICS. Thats a bunch of Bull-

    There are Many people who are having all sorts of problems with the Atrix 2, Dissapearing Apps, Battery Times going wild, Device Health Application going Rancid, The Device misbehaving, Unexplained Force Closing of Apps, Unexplained "All of a sudden Lagging", all of a sudden the Touch Display doesnt respond to Flick up/down commands on pages.

    Many of us had hoped to hear something by now, Motorola's Lips are sealed, their not talking...There is no definative time line for any fix, That Asshole Sanjay Jha, "Loose Lips Sink Ships" Motorola Mobilities CEO, would give a statement, and everyone is left hold a bag (Empty).

    I personally had hpped that from all of the the least thing we could expect is a clear concise statement that Atrix 2 will get ICS soon. All of the Other Manufacturers for the most part have made clear concise statements about their newest smartphones released and the ICS upgrade.

    Im tired of waiting for an answer, Im not a convienence, im a customer who has supported Motorola Products and spent alot of money. Do you know anyone who like to through money out the window for nothing? I dont-

    Shame on you Motorola Mobility and AT&T
  • Impulses - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    I've always said carriers represent a far bigger roadblock to timely OS updates than manufacturers do, despite everyone's bellyaching about manufacturer mods like Sense, Touchwiz, et al.

    I mean, how else do you explain certain flagship phones (like the EVO) getting relatively timely updates (2-5 months for Froyo and GB) while other phones from the same manufacturer but on a different carrier languish...

    Hell sometimes phones from the same manufacturer and on the same carrier have wildly different update schedules despite very similar software bases, it all depends on the device's profile and how the carrier prioritizes it.
  • Rocket321 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Based on my experience with firmware updates for the samsung epic, I cannot possible believe that *anyone* tested them.

    There were bugs in the initial release (which was 2.1 eclair) than persisted through multiple official froyo updates and finally into the most recent officail gigerbread (2.3.5) release.

    I do think its great that this phone has now had official releases on two major updates (froyo then Gingerbread) but the very well known and common bugs which affect all users persist.

    Things like the skipping keys problem on the physical keyboard have been well documented, and resolved by the custom rom community for well over a year, and yet those fixes do not make it into the official kernel for any of the several updates we've seen.

    This leads me to believe that either the testers for both the manufacturer and wireless carrier are all incapable and should be replaced, or that no testing actually happens.

    Here is how it works in my imagination: All testers are allowed to work remotely (duh, so they can test signals). They get the phones by mail and are given thorough testing instructions. Then they sit around, drink beer, and play xbox 360 for the next 2-3 months. A day or two before the testing deadline they fill out all the papers with "oh yeah....it has helluva good SNR" and other such bs. Note, this also perfectly explains the "death grip" issues on the original iPhone4.
  • tayb - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Yeah. I'm so tired of the software update process on Android. I wait half a year to get an update and it's outdated by the time I get it. Then when I do finally get the upgrade the process is horrendous and usually results in me having to wipe all my data.

    I bought a Droid X last November and I would be absolutely shocked if I EVER got ICS. A year old phone and my expectation for software upgrades has already been set at "not coming." I hated my iPhone 3G when I had it but at least I knew what to expect when it came to updates.

    WP7, here I come.
  • Quake - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    Which is why I like the Nexus. With this phone, you're guaranteed to get the updates and it's not filled by all the carriers' crap.

    My Nexus S might not be a superphone, but at least, I will get the latest android updates.

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