Android 5.0 could come in fall, Google exec implies

Cadence of prior versions would lead fall release, though Lockheimer says Google is "flexible" on timing

BARCELONA -- Google is is not saying much about the next version of Android, which has been rumored to be coming to a smartphone near you by early summer.

It's now more likely that the new mobile OS will be rolled out in the fall, according to comments made by Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's vice president of engineering for mobile, at the at the Mobile World Congress here. But he still said little about the capabilities of Android 5.0.

"After Android 4 comes 5, and we haven't announced the timing yet, which we're still sorting out," Lockheimer said in an interview with Computerworld on Monday. "There's a lot of engineering work still behind it -- and there's also the question of how to time it.

"In general," he added. "the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still."

That statement would imply a fall 2012 release of Android 5.0, given that Android 4.0 was released last November, he acknowledged.

Nonetheless, he said, "Having said that, we're flexible. The [timing of releases] is not what drives us; it's innovation and offering users a great experience."

Lockheimer wouldn't divulge the dessert that Android 5.0 will be named after, following Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) for 4.0. Google is already getting many suggestions for desserts that begin with the letter "J" for the version after Android 5.0, he said.

Google is still basking in the glory of Android 4.0, which was well-received by developers and users.

The large Google booth here in the back corner of a major exhibition hall has been crowded with visitors looking at ICS-related applications from dozens of Google partners.

For example, Wyse Technologies uses Android Beam technology to use the NFC software in ICS to initiate file transfers between devices.

Wyse workers brought two Galaxy Nexus phones together to start the process. The first phone was brought near the second to give it permission to access a file kept in the cloud or on a PC. The download of the file to the second phone was done over Wi-Fi, though it could also use 3G or another wireless signal. NFC is too constrained to transfer the file, the Wyse workers explained.

Lockheimer said Android Beam has attracted dozens of applications, many now available in the Android Market.

One of the apps allows two users to share a video by bringing two NFC phones close together, even mid-stream of a video clip. StumbleUpon demonstrated a similar technology inside the Google booth.

Lockheimer ticked off a list of popular ICS improvements, including data usage and battery usage meters and widgets on the home screen.

Even though ICS was center stage at Google's booth, many users have expressed frustration that its upgrades do not yet run on devices running older Android versions.

Lockheimer acknowledged the frustration over receiving ICS upgrades in a timely manner, which was why the Android Upgrade Alliance was announced at last year's Google I/O conference. The premise of the group was that Android manufacturers and carriers would provide timely upgrades for devices during the OS's first at 18 months on the market.

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