In addition to making sure that its latest Android OS version can run on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM and forcing Samsung to dial down its Android customizations, Google is apparently taking additional steps that may help it reduce OS fragmentation in the future. Android Police has learned that Google plans to force Android device makers to use newer software versions in order to have access to Google Mobile Services (GMS) or Google Apps.
Apparently, Google has issued a schedule that contains GMS approval windows for various Android versions, with OEMs having to adhere to it in order to have Google Apps running on upcoming devices. With such a measure in place – yet to be confirmed officially by Google – OEMs will have tighter deadlines that may help Google ensure that new devices will launch with a newer Android version on board.
According to the table above, OEMs that want to have Google Apps running on Android 4.1 devices, had to certify them by February 1, 2014. Assuming the data is correct, that means no OEM will be able to pass a new device by Google running Android 4.1 or later and expect it to receive GMS certification.
Google documentation reveals that “each platform release will have a ‘GMS approval window’ that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available.” Android Police further explains that later this year, “no OEM can certify a device more than two versions behind the current Android release.”
However, the “GMS approval window” will not have anything to do with a device’s launch, or with its future Android OS update schedule. An OEM could get a device GMS certified according to Google’s new guidelines but launch it only later down the road. Furthermore, once launched, the device won’t have to be updated to the latest OS available to keep its Google Apps.
The move may put some pressure on chip makers and Android device makers, which will have to ensure their chips are compatible with new Android releases and cut down the amount of time spent on software customization and bloatware they use on top of Android (and therefore the quantity of bloatware apps that ship on devices,) respectively, to meet deadlines.
Furthermore, the move may specifically target certain OEMs that still put out devices that run an older version of Android with Google Apps on board. Naturally, this doesn’t mean such OEMs will stop releasing devices running older Android versions, but in case they will do so, they may have to find alternatives to Google Apps.
In its most recent update, Google revealed that KitKat’s adoption is still under 2%, even though it was launched more than three months ago.