An update on Android 4.2 upgrades

Android 4.2 Upgrade

One of the most common questions I hear these days is: "When will my phone/tablet get the Android 4.2 upgrade?"

Google's Android 4.2 release showed up last October, after all, bringing with it a handful of new features and refinements for the Android Jelly Bean platform. For phones, that includes features like lock screen widgets and Photo Sphere along with a new Quick Settings panel and Daydream screensaver function. For tablets, the upgrade is even more dramatic, with a new phone-like user interface and multiuser support added into the mix.

Yet five months after its release, most Android users are still waiting to hear if or when Android 4.2 will reach their devices. So what gives?

Here's the simple truth: For the most part, manufacturers are staying mum about their plans for Android 4.2 upgrades -- and that's why it's impossible for people like me to pass along any such details.

There are a few exceptions:

  • Google's Nexus devices. By definition, these phones and tablets receive upgrades early and often, directly from Google. Even carrier-connected models like the Verizon Galaxy Nexus -- which typically experience delays in their upgrades due to carrier interference -- are finally catching up.
  • Some of Asus's tablets. Asus delivered Android 4.2 to its Transformer Pad TF300 at the start of March and says it'll upgrade its Transformer Pad Infinity, MeMO Pad Smart, and regular MeMO Pad sometime in the second quarter.
  • Sony's new Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z devices. Back when those products launched, Sony confirmed it would upgrade them to Android 4.2 "shortly after" their release.
  • Motorola's international Razr D1 and D3. When announcing these Brazil-targeted phones, Moto promised it would upgrade them to "the next version of Android" (but provided no firm timeline for that process).

That's pretty much it; most other devices are in a wait-and-see pattern for 4.2, with no manufacturer commitments one way or the other. (To be fair, Samsung did put out a vague and meaningless statement: "We will announce rollout plans for Android 4.2 to our Galaxy portfolio of devices in due course." Enlightening, no?)

So why the silence? On the phone side, the logical conclusion is that the manufacturers want to focus their efforts on catching up with the Android 4.1 upgrade before diving into 4.2. Since 4.2 is a relatively minor step forward from 4.1 for phones, some companies may even consider skipping it altogether and taking devices directly to the next major release -- the one most folks expect to be called Key Lime Pie (which will likely be announced at Google's big I/O conference in May).

On the tablet side, ironically enough, the upgrade may be too major for some manufacturers to consider. While the new 4.2-level tablet UI makes things more intuitive for new users, it is a significant change from the Honeycomb-style UI present on older devices. Consequently, companies may prefer to introduce it with new products rather than force it upon users who are accustomed to the previous style.

This sort of poky progress is an inevitable reality of the Android ecosystem -- but that doesn't mean it's unavoidable. Android is all about choice, and it's up to you to decide what kind of experience you want. If timely and reliable upgrades are important to you, an unlocked Google Nexus device is the way to go. Other phones and tablets have their own benefits, but fast and frequent upgrades typically aren't among them.

(You can, of course, take control of most Android devices and install third-party software yourself -- a process known as rooting and ROM'ing -- but you may or may not want to mess with that type of advanced, off-the-grid tinkering. Most users don't.)

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I'll continue monitoring the status of Android 4.2 upgrades and will pass along any new details as they become available. If you're still waiting for Android 4.1, meanwhile, you can check my Android 4.1 upgrade list for the latest info on that front; it's always kept up-to-date with the most current details available for all phones and tablets.

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