We've talked in the past about how OEMs take the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and use it to build software tailored for devices in the context of x86 optimizations, and today two partners are sharing some more details about their specific timelines for Android 4.0 releases. Those two are Sony Ericsson and Motorola, who have outlined in their respective blog posts the path from code to getting a fully baked ROM pushed out over the air to handsets.

The two posts describe the process as we've understood it for a while now, and with Android 4.0 things don't seem any different. Google works with a specific OEM and SoC vendor around some chosen reference hardware (in this case Galaxy Nexus), and simultaneously (or close to it) releases the source code and device when things are finished. At that point, SoC vendors begin working on their own ports and build in necessary drivers or optimizations of their own.

That software package then is turned over to OEMs who add their own specific software (in the case of Motorola, for example - MotoCast, Smart Actions, and likely Blur) and make necessary tweaks to accommodate individual carrier requirements and device nuances. After the OEM finishes up its own testing, the update then passes over to carriers for their own testing, and here things have been a bit fuzzy. Motorola gives out an interesting tidbit today in their post, noting that while each carrier is different, the testing period is on the order of months:

Each carrier has different requirements for phases 2 and 3. There may be a two-month preparation cycle to enter a carrier lab cycle of one to three months.

Sony Ericsson also notes that this certification and testing phase is the longest in the process:

The Certification and approval phase that is the most time consuming process when it comes to getting a new software release out on our phones. This is one of the major tasks that are legally required from us as phone manufacturer, but is a task that the custom ROM community doesn’t have to take into consideration.  

Motorola has noted as well that the Droid RAZR, Bionic, and Xoom are all guaranteed to get an ICS port before the second half of 2012, and the list of Motorola devices being upgraded to 4.0 will likely grow. Meanwhile Sony Ericsson noted that the entire 2011 Xperia family will receive an update to 4.0 and that dates will come later.

Source: Motorola, Sony Ericsson

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  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    That custom ROMs often give better functionality than the ones that ship with devices, desptie all that testing. Huh.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    *despite.. son of a bitch..
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    Thats because OEM's and carriers both like to put custom crap on there that makes them money. They have no concern fro performance, just "get my crappy app on there and hope we can get some revenue from it".

    Cant wait for Cyanogen 9 ICS.
  • Exodite - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    Reading the forums at XDA and various other sites related to both original as well as custom firmware I'd say no, not really.

    There are /vastly/ more issues with even basic functionality using custom firmware.

    Personally, using an Xperia arc since April this year, I'd say there's no way I'd trade what SE has created for a custom firmware. Though it's nice to know it's an option.
  • piroroadkill - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    No, that's just not true. You might be reading about cutting-edge hacks. But there are plenty of stable ROMs that are based on official bases.

    I use Android Revolution HD on my Desire HD, for example, which by default, changes nothing visual over stock.
  • pSupaNova - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    I Like Custom ROM's too, however most do not preserve customer data which would be a big NO NO for normal users.
  • Camikazi - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    That is why backup apps exist and most anyone who roots and uses custom ROMs would know how to backup their data so they can get it all back.
  • wolfhero - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    I just read an article talking about why it takes a long time to get firmware updates oh phones (or even no updates at all)

    A lot of brands and OEMs (most brands are contracted to OEMs anyways) sure wants to release new android firmwares asap, this do improve user good wills. However, it's "Q"uality Assurance that's slowing it down. According to insiders, around 70% of time is used to fix 30% of the bug on functions that is rarely used.

    Why? For certificate and QA. Most manufacturer's QA has to be responsible for returned products, if they are not strict, and a product gets returned due to poor QA it's their head on the chopping block. Also requirement/certificate from each wireless carriers have their own requirement and certification process, you have to satisfy their requirement if you wnat to sell your phone.

    Also, those various gimmics (those tiny HDMI/WiFi/Bluetooth etc icons printed on the box) all require test and re-certification.

    Custom rom (like Cyanogen) can release their firmwares fast because they don't need to go through all these. Power users like us that flash their phone are their QA. They are not responsible for lost user data when a firmware gone bad (and wont get sued off their pants).
  • r3loaded - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    Why do carriers have to do their own testing beyond what the manufacturer does? It's perfectly possible to buy an unlocked phone with the standard OEM software and use it directly on a network without it having undergone any extra testing. And what about Apple - I don't recall them ever having to delay an iPhone update because some carrier needed to perform testing.

    In fact, why do the US carriers have their own variants of a standard phone? Take the Galaxy S for example - I have an i9000 which was sold in every other part of the world. But in the US, each carrier had their own modified design with names like Captivate, Vibrant and Fascinate. Why not slap a pentaband radio in the standard model (to account for T-Mo USA) and call it a day?
  • jalexoid - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    But you don't know how Apple deals with carriers. Their major upgrades most definitely go though MNO testing.

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