Of course, it's a very fair question. I mean, who wants to buy a phone that's not going to get the latest and greatest from Google? We know about the Galaxy Nexus, but as with most Android updates, the outlook is unclear for other devices.
During yesterday's announcement of the Verizon-bound Rezound, HTC promised that the dual-core Android phone is "ICS-ready." Don't feel bad if you're scratching your head. Basically, it means that the handset is ready to support Ice Cream Sandwich when the update comes in early 2012.
Yes, it's complicated, but Motorola took a similar approach last month with the debut of the Droid Razr. Though the handset will debut with Gingerbread, Moto said it would see Ice Cream Sandwich next year.
What's more, that will be the case for pretty much any phone that comes out over the next few months. In fact, I expect to hear plenty of "Here's Android 2.3 but we fully expect to roll out 4.0" at CES in January.
Though that's great news for anyone who buys a Droid Razr or Rezound, what about those of us who picked up an Evo 3D or Sensation 4G back in the summer? Which existing Android smartphones (or tablets) will see Ice Cream Sandwich?
Outside of the two newest phones, very few handsets are slated for Android 4.0 thus far. Motorola also indicated on its forums that the Xoom (and presumably the Xoom 2) would get the update, but it did not set any sort of timeline.
To its credit, Sony Ericsson was among the manufacturers to spell out which of its handsets could expect to see Android 4.0 by pledging support for its entire 2011 Xperia product line. That would include such smartphones as the Xperia Arc, Xperia Play, and Xperia Ray.
Samsung Italy has outlined plans for the Ice Cream Sandwich update as it pertains to a number of products, including the Galaxy S II, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 7.7, and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.
Each of these devices, and possibly others, should look for Android 4.0 in the coming months. And hopefully, it also should mean that we'll see the Epic 4G Touch and other U.S. models getting the same treatment.
Rumors were rampant early this week that LG would not bring Android 4.0 to its dual-core Optimus 2X, but that speculation was later debunked by the company. Speaking from its Facebook page, LG indicated that it was in the process of planning the update for the Optimus 2X and other "high-end smartphones." How the company will define "high-end" remains to be seen, though I suspect it won't go much beyond the 2011 lineup.
HTC, quick to speak on the subject of Ice Cream Sandwich, was very careful not to promise support for any particular model. By citing a desire to put "every phone's performance and usability first," the company gives itself an easy out for some models.
Considering that it's all but confirmed that the Nexus One is not getting an Android 4.0 update, I wouldn't expect anything released prior to that first "Pure Google" phone to get it, either. What's more, if your HTC handset was released in the first few months following (Droid Incredible or Evo 4G), it stands to reason that you'll be left behind.
Speaking generally, the 2011 phones from HTC should be OK, even if it's tough to forecast timeliness with the various versions of the Sense UI muddying the waters. HTC Source has a nice breakdown of which models are likely to see Android 4.0, including international versions.
A good rule of thumb for tablets is that any device launched with Honeycomb should anticipate Ice Cream Sandwich at some point in the coming months. Should your tablet be running Android 2.2 or 2.3 under the hood, I wouldn't hold my breath expecting version 4.0, at least in a timely manner.
We've seen a lot of players enter the Android tablet market this year, many of which have no track record of providing significant platform updates. This is not to suggest it's not possible, but it's safe to say that an HTC Flyer stands a better chance of getting ICS than a Vizio 8-inch tablet. To be fair, Vizio has rolled out a number of incremental updates of app inclusions, so perhaps its Android 3.x and 4.0 efforts are already under way.
Definitely maybe, or all that remains
If you haven't seen Gingerbread updates by now, then chances are good that you won't see Ice Cream Sandwich. Yet, if your carrier or manufacturer has expressed interest in Gingerbread previously, there may be some wiggle room. Although roughly 40 percent of the Android platform is still on version 2.2, I can't imagine wireless providers and OEMs losing sleep over phones from mid-2010 or before.
As much as I'd like to see carriers and handset makers supporting every possible device with the update, history tells us that there are likely to be some angry users. But when wondering whether your device will get the frosty treat, you should remember a few things.
- Start by considering the overall popularity of your model. Even though the Evo 4G might be 18 months old today, it has a large enough user base to merit extra attention.
- Ask yourself whether your phone was released for multiple providers. Samsung has launched several versions of its Galaxy S and Galaxy S II lineup, so it stands to reason that the company will pursue an "all or nothing" approach, not wanting to discriminate between carriers.
- No matter what a handset maker or wireless provider tells you, there are often ways to work around the system. Rooting your phone, although not officially endorsed, often extends the life of a phone or tablet with community-supported ROMs.
How long will you wait on your carrier or hardware manufacturer to deliver Ice Cream Sandwich to your device before you call it a day? Would the lack of Android 4.0 be enough to discourage you from returning to the same brand or provider? Let us know in the comments!