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Motorola details Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade process

The hardware maker goes transparent to help explain why it takes so long to issue updates for Android devices.


Every time the Android team unveils a new version of the platform, users immediately start asking when they will see the update on their respective hardware.

Of course, the question is quite understandable. It doesn't matter whether your smartphone or tablet is one week old or one year old, we want the hot new Android and we want it now. So we wait. And we wait. And we wait.

Unfortunately, a firm release date, not to mention an answer as to why it takes so long, usually isn't available. That's why I'm glad that Motorola has taken to its blog to explain the process and outline the steps that must be taken before Android 4.0 comes to their devices.

According to Moto, there are four major components that go into an Android update, and Ice Cream Sandwich is no exception.

The process starts when chipmakers such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm work to incorporate Android at a processor level. These chips are designed with various hardware architectures and wireless providers in mind and are not a simple cookie cutter processor.

That's also the point when Motorola begins to incorporate its own specific enhancements such as Smart Actions and MotoCast into the experience. Thanks to the sheer volume of Android hardware configurations (touch-only, QWERTY, GSM vs. CDMA) this, too, takes a bit of extra attention.

Once all of these details come together and Moto has a compatible build, the company will begin ironing out bugs and stabilizing the release. Keeping in line with each wireless provider's certification process, Motorola readies and submits the update for approval.

This prepping and certification can take upwards of three to five months in total, depending on various factors. And it's at this stage where Moto may reach out to a select group of beta testers to get a real-world scenario as to how the update holds up.

Finally, and once all of the other steps are completed, Motorola and the carrier will deploy the update across the user base. As the company points out on its blog, an Ice Cream Sandwich update for each device hinges upon a number of factors. Can the hardware handle the upgrade? Also, is Motorola able to effectively employ its value-added software?

Though the company plans to issue 4.0 to the Droid Razr, Motorola Xoom, and Droid Bionic, all other devices are still under evaluation at this point.

When all is said and done, the time from announcement to update may take up to six months. Even though today's new releases are announced as ready for 4.0, we may not see updates arrive until it's warm enough outside to watch an ice cream sandwich melt.