Google IO – 18 Months of Android Upgrades Coming

We’ve all been there. That point where we don’t know whether to hang on to our current phone or lay down some exorbitant amount of money for the latest and greatest model. They might be upgrading the OS, you might have said. More often than not, especially for AT&T customers, the upgrades never come, and you end up missing out on the latest phone until it too is outdated. Google is trying to solve this problem, and has brought together an impressive set of partners to do so.

At yesterday’s IO keynote, Google announced that it was partnering with AT&T, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Vodafone, and LG to make sure that phones are upgraded in a timely manner for a definite period of time. The details are still forthcoming, but the general idea is that each carrier/manufacturer would guarantee 18 months of upgrades and support for each phone. With most American cell phone contracts lasting 2 years at a time, 18 months of upgrades is not so bad. In fact it is great! One thinks of the Xperia X10 which AT&T doomed to fail by letting it linger in Android 1.6, all the while Sony Ericsson was working on kicking out a Gingerbread release (expected this quarter). HTC has supported certain phones, yet other nearly identical models aren’t supported based on the type of screen. This type of thing could soon be a memory.

As new Android versions are released, the carriers would upgrade the operating systems much faster than their current rate of deployment. You wouldn’t find yourself being two to three operating systems behind the current version. This is pretty exciting news. This will go far in addressing the fragmentation issue. Developers won’t have to worry so much about backward compatibility once this system is set up. They can just develop apps for the latest OS. I think this will do a lot to bring some of the iOS-only developers on board with Android. If an app can be used across carriers, and there is a consistent OS running the devices, there will be a larger, non-fragmented audience standing in line to buy their apps.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes of this partnership. It would be nice to know that the phone won’t be obsolete within weeks of purchase. What about you? Do you think this can work? Will the carriers cooperate with Google? Let me know in the comments.

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