The next major version of the Android operating system was officially announced at the Google I/O tradeshow today. It's still months away, but smartphone users should be happy to learn that they will finally be getting the same OS version that tablet users have.
The previous version, Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb), was introduced earlier this year, but only for tablets. The latest version smartphones can run is Android OS 2.3. This is because Honeycomb was developed specifically for the larger screens available on tablets.
This situation is going to change with the next version is released, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich. This will run on both smartphones and tablets, regardless of screen size, and will have many of the graphical embellishments that debuted in Honeycomb, such as the 3D homescreen transitions.
Despite today's announcement, Google gave few details on the upcoming version of the Android OS, probably because it's still so far in the future -- the company said today that Ice Cream Sandwich is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of this year.
Upgrades for Everyone
Also announced at the Google I/O tradeshow was a new initiative aimed at getting operating system upgrades to more Android devices. This is a promise by a group of companies to get upgrades to smartphones and tablets for 18 months after they were first released.
The device markers who are participating in this agreement are HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. The U.S. carriers that are taking part are AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.
This initiative should give consumers a feeling of confidence that the Android device they are buying is going to be kept up to date for more than a year. However, there is a caveat: Google warned that some devices, especially low end ones, aren't always up to the job of running later versions of the Android OS.