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Google exec hints at Android 5.0’s release this year

by Phil Hornshaw

It’s enough to confuse Android fans.

The rumors continue to swirl regarding Android 5.0, the as-yet-unreleased but apparently in-the-works version of Google’s mobile operating platform. This week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Vice President of Engineering for Mobile Hiroshi Lockheimer mentioned the next version of the operating system while speaking with Computer World. Here’s a quote from that story:

“‘After Android 4 comes 5, and we haven't announced the timing yet, which we're still sorting out,’ Lockheimer said. ‘There's a lot of engineering work behind it still, and there's also just the question of how to time it.’

“Lockheimer added: ‘In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still.’ That statement would suggest a fall 2012 time frame for the release of Android 5.0, given that Android 4.0 was released last November, he acknowledged.”

It’s interesting that Lockheimer mentioned Android 4.0, the latest and greatest version of Android that most users still don’t have. Google announced 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, last year alongside the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, and it included some pretty great-sounding features that, at the time, seemed like they could really help Google in its never-ending battle against Apple and its ever-iterating iOS platform for the iPhone.

But almost five months on, Ice Cream Sandwich remains elusive for most users as carriers and device makers struggle to update and adapt, with only the Galaxy Nexus carrying the software when it’s sold at retail. Motorola recently announced that only a few of its devices would be getting ICS, and even then not until summer. Newer generation devices carry the software, but even slightly older ones, such as Samsung’s redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1 released last year, seem like they’re falling well behind the Android curve.

So it’s likely that many users are frustrated that they’re still stuck with an old version of Android even as it seems Google is thinking about Android 5.0 releasing toward the back half of 2012. Of course, there’s a level on which yearly Android updates make sense. Google isn’t responsible for the phones, and new Android devices are released all the time, so the company doesn’t want Android to languish on the newest devices available. But what about the older ones, and the Android customers who have already signed-up?

Lockheimer said that even though the timing of Android releases suggests Fall 2012 for the launch of Android 5.0, Google isn’t going to push out an iteration of Android before it’s ready. But the implication seems to be that Google is already looking to the future, even if most users are wondering when their devices are going to catch up to the present with ICS.