Yesterday, various tech blogs speculated that a clock showing "5:00" in a few Android screenshot tweets from Google means Android 5.0's time is soon. Whether "5" is really 4.5 or 5.0 isn't important, we are in the standard release window for a major update to Android, and Google I/O is two weeks away.
What will "5" bring? What will it break?
Only Google and its partners know the answer.
The Android "Open Source" Project has no open beta program. And because of that, it has no real path for user and developer feedback. We'll know what's in it when the final release shows up. Even Apple, whose practice is "we'll tell you what you want", has a beta program for iOS.
Since I don't know what Android "5" is, I'll first resort to wild speculation of what it could be. Recall that Android 4.4 KitKat brought us dramatically reduced user file storage with its prohibitions on writing to MicroSD cards. Perhaps "5" will extend this further, with an iPhone-like app-sandboxing of the internal storage filesystem as well. Such a move would make Android much more dependent on cloud storage (like Google Drive) and could be argued as a security enhancement. Yes, I've gone for a worst-case scenario for effect, but given how willing Google was to make changes that were detrimental to the user in KitKat, a worst-case scenario isn't impossible. I don't think this example is terribly likely, but a similar profoundly negative change could easily be on its way to another part of Android. This happens when you don't ask your customers for their opinions.
Only those with access to Android's "private codelines" know for sure: https://source.android.com/sou...
We do know there are numerous security enhancements to the underlying Linux operating system in a forthcoming Android update. See Chainfire's blog for the full report: https://plus.google.com/+Chain.... It appears that modifications to the
The hardened security aspect is perfectly fine with me, providing I can hold the keys to those locks on the device I pay for. But, at least in the USA, the "big two" carriers insist on having that privilege to themselves. It's a great shame that things have fallen so far that the freedom of Linux and the security of Linux are at odds.
Not testing software and not developing publicly has an additional obvious flaw: the product often has quality issues. Many Nexus device owners are well aware: they are the guinea pigs for new Android releases. While I can't substantiate it, it's easy to imagine that carriers and OEMs wait for issues to resolve as Nexus owners struggle through their involuntary beta testing. If a trivial semantic change were made to correctly call those initial Nexus releases "betas", then perhaps those competing against the platform wouldn't mock us all for having to wait six months for updates to the latest version.
The Android platform needs to do away with the strict secrecy and closed development. It's understandable that some aspects need to take place behind closed doors and then be released with a bang. It's not reasonable to do that to the vast majority of the Android OS, or to do it without any kind of open beta and feedback period.
Google, you need to consider your users and developers, not just your partners. Users and developers jumped on this bandwagon because it was an open platform that wasn't supposed to be controlled like this. If you want Android to continue to succeed because people love it, then Android's development process needs to listen to the people.
I make my living writing Android apps as an independent developer. I've spent the last five years pouring my heart into it, and I very much want Android to succeed, for both benevolent and selfish reasons.