Monday, November 30, 2009

Gyan Droid

Android RobotCaught hold of my ever busy Android expert friend to clear some doubts

Me: Are you there?

Friend: Hellons

Me: I have a doubt

Friend: Shoot

Me: Say I bought an HTC Magic which runs on Android 1.5. How easy is it for me to upgrade the firmware to Android 2.0 and further?

Friend: You can’t do it on your own. The operator has to push…

Me: Huh can’t I do it like how iPhone does?

Friend: No :(

Me: Grr. So I can’t buy any Android phone and install the latest version on it?

Friend: No.... it’s very tightly coupled to specific hardware for each model.
iPhone is a standard hardware. Oh btw HTC Magic is super buggy.

Me: oh

Friend: However you can upgrade a G1 using a computer as its meant for dev purposes.... other than that the operators push the upgrades… many logistics involved with operators pushing firmware… many apps cant work in further versions.... many games included… so they give time to rebuild for further versions… right now only Motorola Droid has 2.0.

Me: oh

Friend: … and HTC Droid has 1.5, rest of them either 1.1 or 1.0

Me: HTC Droid? What phone is that?

Friend: Droid is Verizon’s Android phones. There are 2 droids. One is the Motorola “Milestone” Droid and the other is HTC “Eris” Droid

Me: Oh

Friend: Verizon is the main competitor of AT&T, so they were looking to somehow pitch against AT&T and iPhone and hence the droid lineup

Me: Makes sense

Me: And they are CDMA phones right

Friend: Yeah!! :) But not many got that point. CDMA came with 1.5

Me: Confusing man. Supposedly there is a GSM Hero and a Sprint Hero

Friend: Yeahh!! The Sense UI

Me: Sense UI is a skin on top of some version of Android. Right?

Friend: Yes

Me: So when the Android version changes, will there be changes to the sense skin?

Friend: Not exactly. May be some bug fixes and some sort of enhancements...

Me: So how does that get updated? ie say I'm using Sprint Hero which has sense UI and Android version 1.5. One day I get a push from Sprint to upgrade to 2.0. When I do that will Sense also gets updated?

Friend: Yups correct

Me: HTC and Sprint work together to make this happen…

Friend: Correct

Me: Basically I cant plug in my phone to a comp to upgrade it. Its always over the air.

Friend: Yeahhh. Except for G1 which is the dev phone

Me: OK got it. So I'm always at mercy of my carrier to get OS updates

Friend: Yeahhh

Me: Is this coz there are many manufacturers, skins, GSM / CDMA complications?

Friend: It is becoz there is no standard hardware for Android

Me: Even Symbian has many hardware right? I can update my phone using Nokia PC suite. Another story that I might lose data :P

Friend: Symbian updates might not be a major phone feature update, its mostly bug fixes. Whereas with each Android release there is something major added feature wise. And the apps on a Symbian device aren’t tightly coupled to the database but on Android even the contact app is tightly coupled. It’s each applications responsibility to back up data and restore it again in the backend every time there is an update, which is handled pretty much by all apps in the phone

Me: Database on the phone or on the cloud?

Friend: Phone

Me: But just for argument sake, what if a CD came with my Sprint Hero pack which has something called Android Manager Software, which has a button to check updates, which will update my phone if available. What can go wrong?

Friend: There are multiple dependencies.... Android is trying to keep everything in the phone itself as there are multiple hardware manufacturers, multiple carriers the only stop n shop solution would the device itself

Me: Oh

Friend: Which makes it convenient for every one, most importantly the user. It removes the need for any other mediator system which is a simple and elegant solution :) What do you think?

Me: Fair enough. Sounds complex but great if it works well. I personally don’t like dependencies; be it operator or PC software. It’s sad that I can’t update my E51 over the air. It’s even sadder if I have to wait for the operator to push the upgrades to me. What if he doesn’t? Or is it the manufacturer who is pushing it using the operator infrastructure? I may not be this worried if I'm in the US but what will be the scene in India?

Friend: Sir can we continue this talk later? I have to catch a bus to Coimbatore.

Me: OK man thanks a lot. Please carry on.

May be I will get the answers next time I get hold of him.
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