Jelly Bean, the latest iteration of Google’s Android operating system, has finally begun downloading onto Samsung Galaxy S3 handsets in South Africa. Some users on the Vodacom network have reported that the update is now available for download.
It could not immediately be determined whether users on other mobile networks are also receiving the update.
South African users of the Galaxy S3, Samsung’s flagship smartphone, are being upgraded to version 4.1.1 of Android. News of the updates comes weeks after operators in parts of Asia, Europe and North America began pushing out the update to their customers.
The update, which replaces Android 4.0 (also known as Ice Cream Sandwich), offers new features such as expandable notifications, offline voice dictation, improved voice search, an improved camera application and Google Now personal assistant software.
Unlike Apple, which pushes updates to its iOS operating system directly to end users, Android updates are made available by handset manufacturers to telecommunications operators for testing before they then release the updates to their clients. This, and the fact that manufacturers have to ensure their user interface overlays work correctly, often results in lengthy delays in getting the latest Android versions pushed down to customers.
Android 4.1, for example, was originally released on 9 July, so it’s taken more than five months for the software to arrive on South African Galaxy S3 handsets.
Vodacom chief network officer Johan Engelbrecht says that as each market has different apps and each network operator has its own specifications, new versions of Android must be tested.
He says similar processes are followed for hardware before new handsets are introduced. Vodacom goes as far as testing the performance of every antenna using a dummy head with a hand to its ear. It’s testing of software is equally demanding.
“In the case of a major software release, we get notified by the manufacturer and get a version of the software to test,” he says. “If it’s a minor correction on a software version, we might not do any tests. But when there are significant new features, we do a comprehensive test and only endorse the software once we are satisfied.”
It’s this testing that causes delays, according to Engelbrecht. However, he says it is necessary to ensure customers don’t run into problems. “With Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy S2, there was a huge issue and we had trouble getting assistance from Samsung. Some users had to reinstall the operating system to get their phones to behave properly again.”
A Google spokesman says the company built Android as an open platform for the industry to allow manufacturers to build devices with all sorts of hardware characteristics that differentiate their products, as well as customised software experiences. “Our carrier partners around the world are responsible for the timing of software updates for Android devices,” the spokesman says. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media