Sunday, June 2, 2013

Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie release date, news and rumors

Google's showing no signs of slowing its pace of Android development, with Android 4.0 appearing on the Galaxy Nexus late in 2011, followed in July of 2012 by the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release that arrived powering the super Nexus 7.

But, forward-looking, update-obsessed people that we are, we can't help but imagine how Google's going to maintain the pace of innovation in its next major release of its mobile OS, Android 5.0.

All we know so far is that Google's working away on the K release of Android, which it's developing under the dessert-related codename of Key Lime Pie. Regarding the version number, it's likely that the Key Lime Pie moniker will be given to Android 5.0. We thought we might find out on 29 October 2012 but as yet there is no official word from Google.

So now as we wait on official news of the Android 5.0 release date and features, we can start to pull together the Key Lime Pie rumours from around the web, with the first sighting of Android 5.0 on a benchmarking website, apparently running on a Sony smartphone. There has previously been speculation that Sony is in line to produce the next Nexus phone, which may lend some credence to this rumour.

Android 5.0 release date

In December 2012 Google announced that its developer conference - Google IO - would take place from May 15 to May 17 2013, a month earlier than 2012's June dates. Given that Google announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at 2012's IO conference, it seemed reasonable to expect to see Android 5.0 at this year's event.

On 31 January, a Google IO showing of Android 5.0 looked more likely when screengrabs of a Qualcomm roadmap were leaked, showing Android 5.0 as breaking cover between April and June 2013.

But on 24 April 2013, we read that Key Lime Pie may not make its debut at Google IO after all. Apparently, "trusty internal sources" told a site called Gadgetronica that Google has decided to delay Android 5.0 for two to four months to give hardware makers the chance to properly roll out Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

At the time, we said to take this rumour with a pinch of salt, as even if Google decided not to ship the finished build of Android 5.0 until later in the year, that didn't preclude the company from talking up the new OS at what is, after all, a developer-focused conference.

However, the notion of Key Lime Pie being off the menu at Google IO raised itself again on 26 April when Android 4.3 surfaced in server logs over at Android Police. Those log entries supposedly came from Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 devices running an updated version of Jelly Bean - Android 4.3 - and apparently the IP addresses of those devices trace back to Google HQ. So might that point to a delayed Android 5.0 arrival?

And on 13 May, we got our (almost certain) confirmation that there would be no serving of Key Lime Pie at Google IO from Sundar Pichai, Google's new head of Android. Pichai told Wired that this year's IO is "not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system". Boo! "Both on Android and Chrome, we're going to focus this IO on all the kinds of things we're doing for developers so that they can write better things," he added.

So now we wait.

Google wasn't entirely quiet on Android 5 at its IO conference, though. As Android Authority spotted, during a session entitled 'Android Protips 3: Making Apps Work Like Magic' Android developer relations tech lead Reto Meier teased attendees with a slide showing an Android eating a piece of Key Lime Pie and later with a game where the options included Jelly Bean and Key Lime Pie.

Android 5.0 phones

Rumours of a new Nexus handset started trickling in during the third quarter of 2012, as we reported on 1 October 2012. There was speculation that this phone would be sporting Key Lime Pie, but sources who spoke to AndroidAndMe correctly claimed that the handset, which turned out to be the Google Nexus 4, would be running Android Jelly Bean.

While the Nexus 4 didn't appear with a helping of Key Lime Pie, speculation that we reported on 21 January 2013 suggested that the Motorola X Phone was the Android 5.0-toting handset that would be revealed at Google IO. According to a post on the DroidForums website, the phone will also feature a virtually bezel-free, edge-to-edge, 5-inch display. The Motorola X wasn't on show at IO but we're still expecting to see it break cover this year.

The same leaked Qualcomm documents cited above also made mention of a two new Snapdragon devices, one of which will be, unsurprisingly, a new Nexus phone.

That Nexus phone is most likely the Google Nexus 5. We weren't surprised that it was absent from Google IO, given that the Nexus 4 only went on sale at the end of 2012.

On Monday 18 March, supposed images of the Nexus 5 surfaced, with the handset apparently being manufactured by LG. If the accompanying specs, leaked along with the photo by the anonymous source, are true, then the Nexus 5 will feature a 5.2-inch, 1920 x 1080 OLED display, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 3GB of RAM.

While we warned that a sighting of the Nexus 5 at Google IO was unlikely, rumours that we wrote up on 19 April reckoned that there would be an Android 5.0-powered Nexus 4 launched at the event. Apparently, the revised handset would feature 4G capability and improved storage of 32GB. That rumour turned out to be incorrect as the only handset launched at IO was Google's take on the Galaxy S4, which is running Android 4.2.

If rumours that we covered on 30 May are correct, then HTC will be bringing us an Android 5.0-powered 'phablet' in the form of the HTC T6.

Featuring a 5.9-inch full-HD screen, the HTC T6 would be squaring up against the also-rumoured Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is likely to break cover at IFA 2013. According to tipster evleaks, the T6 will feature a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.

Android 5.0 tablets

The original Nexus 7 tablet was unveiled at Google IO 2012, so we thought it possible that we'd see a refreshed Nexus 7 2 at Google IO 2013. The speculation earlier in the year was that Google would team up with Asus for this, as it did with the original Nexus 7. We expect an upgraded display on the new Nexus 7 tablet, while Digitimes is reporting that the 2nd generation Nexus 7 will have 3G service and and range in price from $149 to $199.

We're still waiting to see the Nexus 7 2 as, like the upgraded Nexus phone, this tablet was a now-show at IO.

Samsung's Android 5.0 upgrades

Although Samsung is yet to officially confirm its Android 5.0 schedule, a SamMobile source is claiming to know which phones and tablets will be getting the Key Lime Pie upgrade. According to the source, the devices set to receive the upgrade are the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Note 8.0 and Galaxy Note 10.1.

Android 5.0 features

For 24 hours, it seemed as though the first kinda, sorta confirmed feature for Android 5.0 was a Google Now widget, which briefly appeared in a screenshot on the company's support forum before being taken down. As it was so hurriedly pulled, many people assumed it was slated for the big five-o and accidentally revealed early.

As it happened, the following day, on 13 February 2013, the Google Now widget rolled out to Jelly Bean.
On 28 February 2013, we learned from Android Central that Google is working with the Linux 3.8 kernel, which gives rise to the notion that this kernel might make it into Android 5. One improvement that the 3.8 kernel brings is lowered RAM usage, which would mean a snappier phone with better multitasking.

Android Geeks reported that Google Babble would debut on Key Lime Pie. Babble was the code name for Google's cross-platform service and app with the aim of unifying its various chat services which include Talk, Hangout, Voice, Messenger, Chat for Google Drive and Chat on Google+.

Android Geeks' source also (correctly) said that Google Babble will be supported by devices running Android 2.3 and above, which makes sense given that Google will want as many people as possible on the platform.

A screenshot that we were sent from a Google employee on 8 April confirmed that not only was this unified chat service on the way, but that it was called Google Babel not Babble. The service was to come with a bunch of new emoticons and Google+ built-in so you can jump from Babel chat to hangout. A leaked Google memo on 10 April provided a few more juicy details including talk of a new UI and synced conversations between mobile and desktop.

On 10 May, we discovered that Babel would launch as Google Hangouts, and on 15 May we saw it come to life for devices running Android 2.3 and up. So much for it debuting on Key Lime Pie.

Following an 18 April tear-down of the Google Glass app MyGlass by Android Police, it looked as though there may be an iOS Games Center-like service coming to Android 5.0.

Android Police found references in the code to functionality that doesn't exist in Glass, which suggested that developers accidentally shipped the full suite of Google Play Services with the Android application package.
The files in the package contained references to real-time and turn-based multiplayer, in-game chat, achievements, leaderboards, invitations and game lobbies.

As expected, we found out more about Google Play Games at Google I/O, but it's not a Key Lime Pie feature after all as it has been made available already.

Android 5.0 interface

While this is pure speculation, we're wondering whether Android 5.0 might bring with it a brighter interface, moving away from the Holo Dark theme that came with Android 4.0.

Google Now brought with it a clearer look with cleaner fonts, and screenshots of Google Play 4.0 show Google's app market taking on similar design cues. Is this a hint at a brighter, airier look for Key Lime Pie?

Our Android 5.0 wishlist

While we wait on more Key Lime Pie features to be revealed and scour the web for more Android 5.0 news, TechRadar writer Gary Cutlack has been thinking about what we want to see in Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie. Hopefully the new mobile OS will feature some of these things...

1. Performance Profiles

It's bit of a fuss managing your mobile before bed time. Switching off the sound, turning off data, activating airplane mode and so on, so what Android 5.0 really needs is a simple way of managing performance, and therefore power use, automatically.

We've been given a taste of this with Blocking Mode in Samsung's Jelly Bean update on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Note 2 but we'd like to see the functionality expanded.

Something like a Gaming mode for max power delivery, an Overnight low-power state for slumbering on minimal power and maybe a Reading mode for no bothersome data connections and a super-low backlight.

Some hardware makers put their own little automated tools in, such as the excellent Smart Actions found within Motorola's RAZR interface, but it'd be great to see Google give us a simple way to manage states.
Another little power strip style widget for phone performance profiles would be an easy way to do it.

2. Better multiple device support

Google already does quite a good job of supporting serious Android nerds who own several phones and tablets, but there are some holes in its coverage that are rather frustrating.

Take the Videos app which manages your film downloads through the Play Store. Start watching a film on one Android device and you're limited to resuming your film session on that same unit, making it impossible to switch from phone to tablet mid-film.

You can switch between phone and web site players to resume watching, but surely Google ought to understand its fans often have a couple of phones and tabs on the go and fix this for Android Key Lime Pie?

3. Enhanced social network support

Android doesn't really do much for social network users out of the box, with most of the fancy social widgets and features coming from the hardware makers through their own custom skins.

Sony integrates Facebook brilliantly in its phones, and even LG makes a great social network aggregator widget that incorporates Facebook and Twitter - so why are there no cool aggregator apps as part of the standard Android setup?

Yes, Google does a great job of pushing Google+, but, no offence, there are many other more widely used networks that ought to be a little better "baked in" to Android.

4. Line-drawing keyboard options

Another area where the manufacturers have taken a big leap ahead of Google is in integrating clever alternate text entry options in their keyboards. HTC and Sony both offer their own takes on the Swype style of line-drawing text input, which is a nice option to have for getting your words onto a telephone. Get it into Android 5.0 and give us the choice.

UPDATE: This feature appeared in Android 4.2.

5. A video chat app

How odd is it that Google's put a front-facing camera on the Nexus 7 and most hardware manufacturers do the same on their phones and tablets, yet most ship without any form of common video chat app?
You have to download Skype and hope it works, or find some other downloadable app solution. Why isn't there a Google Live See My Face Chat app of some sort as part of Android? Is it because we're too ugly? Is that what you're saying, Google?

6. Multi-select in the contacts

The Android contacts section is pretty useful, but it could be managed a little better. What if you have the idea of emailing or texting a handful of your friends? The way that's currently done is by emailing one, then adding the rest individually. Some sort of checkbox system that let users scroll through names and create a mailing list on the fly through the contacts listing in Android Key Lime Pie would make this much easier.

7. Cross-device SMS sync

If you're a constant SIM swapper with more than one phone on the go, chances are you've lost track of your text messages at some point. Google stores these on the phone rather than the SIM card, so it'd be nice if our texts could be either backed up to the SIM, the SD card, or beamed up to the magical invisible cloud of data, for easy and consistent access across multiple devices.

8. A "Never Update" option

This would annoy developers so is unlikely to happen, but it'd be nice if we could refuse app updates permanently in Android 5.0, just in case we'd rather stick with a current version of a tool than be forced to upgrade.

Sure, you can set apps to manual update and then just ignore the update prompt forever, but it'd be nice to know we can keep a favoured version of an app without accidentally updating it. Some of us are still using the beta Times app, for example, which has given free access for a year.

9. App preview/freebie codes

Something Apple's been doing for ages and ages is using a promo code system to distribute free or review versions of apps. It even makes doing little competitions to drum up publicity for apps much easier, so why's there no similar scheme for Android?

It might encourage developers to stop going down the ad-covered/freemium route if they could charge for an app but still give it away to friends and fans through a promo code system.

10. Final whinges and requests...

It's be nice to be able to sort the Settings screen by alphabetical order, too, or by most commonly used or personal preference, as Android's so packed with a huge list of options these days it's a big old list to scroll through and pick out what you need.

Plus could we have a percentage count for the battery in the Notifications bar for Android 5.0? Just so we know a bit more info than the vague emptying battery icon.

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//PART 2