Why You Shouldn’t Care About Android 4.2.2

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Android 4.2.2 is gradually becoming available as an over-the-air update to Google Nexus 4 owners. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Android owners, the update is a non-starter, and you shouldn’t care about getting and installing this update, for several reasons:

Few new features. There are virtually no new features in Android 4.2.2. It’s things like longer notification vibrations, a new app download notification progress bar, revised quick settings for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth configuration, and new sound notifications for wireless charging initiation and low battery alerts, as Android Police found. Otherwise, it’s mostly minor stability enhancements and bug squashes; useful, but not something to stop your day and fret over installing immediately.

Few people have Android 4.2 to begin with. We love Android 4.2 Jelly Bean here at PCMag; in my review, I gave it four and a half stars and our Editors’ Choice award. I love the Nexus 4 on my desk, which I also reviewed. But very few people are running Android 4.2 on their phones. The only devices available that can run this OS, which is already over three months old, are the Nexus 4, the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 7 tablet, and the Nexus 10 tablet. Everyone else is stuck with an older version of Android; if you have Android 4.1 or earlier, you can’t install Android 4.2.2.

The update “kills” a non-existent feature. The LTE feature that Android 4.2.2 supposedly disables wasn’t even there to begin with; it was a separate radio hack that took advantage of undocumented Band 4 (AWS) support buried in the hardware, as Anandtech reports. Hopefully, no one bought a Nexus 4 this week on the false premise that it has LTE because of this hack. That sort of thing is something people should never do, but you’d be surprised at how often it happens.

Of course, the real problem here is not that Android 4.2.2 isn’t useful enough or taking the better part of a week for the rollout to get going. The problem instead is that manufacturers are still designing and selling brand-new products with the outdated Android 4.1 preloaded, or even Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a year-and-a-half-old OS. Don’t even get me started on the sluggish, brand-new phones we reviewed recently that come with Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

The Fragmentation Curse
Android is a phenomenal operating system, but it’s also the only operating system in recent memory where the current state-of-the-art tech isn’t available to most consumers. For the past 30 years, when you walked into a store to buy a PC, it would come preloaded with the latest DOS or Windows OS version. Sure, today there are still Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP PCs out in the wild, but that’s because the owners haven’t yet upgraded. And granted, there are some people looking for new PCs with Windows 7 because they don’t want Windows 8; that’s different.

With Android, no one is buying an older version of Android because they don’t want the new one—it’s because they can’t get the new one.

None of this is Android’s fault, by the way. This is because carriers and phone manufacturers want to distinguish their devices, so they spend a lot of development time adding apps, features, and UI skins that are largely unnecessary, which in turn forks the theoretically open-source Android OS and makes it impossible to just download and install updates straight from Google. Instead, you have to get them from the carrier, which in turn has to get them from the manufacturer, test them, and then eventually approve them. The phone manufacturer doesn’t even get the OS from Google right away, either; if it’s not a preferred Nexus partner, they have to wait months longer, until the first Nexus phone appears with the device, before they can start working with it themselves.

All of this is antithesis to everything about how the computer industry works. Software is something you should be able to easily upgrade. When upgrades are useful and also free, they’re doubly desirable. Who doesn’t want new features and improved performance when it’s free? Think about it: With computers, you have to pay for OS upgrades, and as owners of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Windows 8 can tell you, not everyone is always thrilled with what they paid for. With Android point releases, there’s almost never a downside—and yet we can’t have them when we want them, short of buying an unsubsidized Nexus 4 or other unlocked, non-carrier-branded device with Nexus in the name somewhere.

At some point soon, when Android 4.2.2 appears on your unlocked Nexus device, you can download it and install it. Otherwise, if you have any other Android phone, it’s just another OS update you can’t get.

For more, check out the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean slideshow above.

For more from Jamie, follow him on Twitter @jlendino.

By Jamie Lendino, PCMag


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