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Summary:

Samsung is reportedly in discussions to offer Android 4.0 software upgrades to its Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tab slates. Perhaps Samsung’s TouchWiz software is slimmed down or eliminated, which may not be a problem. Getting carriers to support such an upgrade, however, may be.

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Samsung is reportedly in discussions to offer Android 4.0 software upgrades to its Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tab slates. This news, spotted by The Verge, was reported Tuesday through ajnews in Korea, where Samsung is based. The reports follow last week’s news that Samsung would not be offering the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of Android on the Tab or the Galaxy S; Samsung’s second-best selling smartphone ever.

The reason Samsung offered for last week’s pronouncement had little do with Android 4.0 or the devices in question. Rather, the company’s own TouchWiz software, a customized user interface for Android, wouldn’t be able to fit alongside ICS on the smartphone or tablet. When the news hit, I offered a potential solution:

My suggestion would be a compromise of sorts: Offer a stock version of Android 4.0 for these devices with the customer understanding and accepting the fact that the TouchWiz interface will no longer be available after the upgrade. Unless there’s a real technical reason for the lack of an Android 4.0 upgrade — something Samsung should make clear — this might be the best answer. It wouldn’t cost nearly as much for Samsung to develop and test, while consumers thinking Samsung has let them down might be more accepting of the situation.

I don’t expect Samsung to take this route if it does deliver the software upgrade. Instead, it’s more likely the company removes a few apps or features from the software update and instead offers them as installable downloads to free up the needed space for Android 4.0 and TouchWiz.

After using Android 4.0 on an unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus for the past four weeks, however, I’m not sure there’s much of a need for Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. Google has vastly improved the Android experience; enough so that average consumers can get by without a custom interface. I like TouchWiz; I’ve used it for a year on my own Galaxy Tab, and it helps Samsung differentiate its mobile devices from competitors. But it’s not so good that it should hold up Android 4.0 on devices that are capable of running Google’s stock software.

Regardless of what Samsung decides, there’s still another aspect of the situation that’s unknown: network operators. It’s very possible — indeed, likely, given mobile phone history — that Samsung solves this problem only to have some carriers not support it. Of course, at that point, Samsung can simply point the finger at those carriers, who are really the organizations that own the end-user customer relationship for mobile device users on contract.

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  1. These samsung guys dumps existing customers. I had bad experience with galaxy i7500 and last upgrade was 1·6.
    Now I have galaxy tab 7inches. They may do the same for galaxy tab7 inches also.

  2. “I’m not sure there’s much of a need for Samsung’s TouchWiz interface”
    Huh? It’s the only way android manufacturers have to differentiate themselves. It may not be needed by you but custom interfaces are absolutely needed or they’re truly just commodity handsets.

    Between manufacturers and carriers, Google lost control a long time ago and it’s doubtful they’ll ever put the genie back in the bottle. Fragmentation and disarray will continue unabated in my opinion.

    1. Understood and if Samsung wants to continue using TouchWiz on future handsets, I see why they would. I really don’t see why it would be needed for an older handset that’s already been purchased though; that’s where I was coming from. I do a agree that getting the genie back in the bottle will be a challenge, if not impossible at this point.

    2. I would beg to disagree – this is a cheap (for OEMs) way for them to distinguish their products, but it is not the only way. In a sea of unremarkable slate-form factor devices like Android and WP7, I can still always pick out the Nokia 800 because of the remarkable industrial design. Samsung could start by building better looking and easily recognizable handsets around a single core design philosophy.

      Or they could accept the reality – they are commodity handset OEMs and until they get power over the carrier ala Apple, they accept it.

  3. The situation is much worse: even if Galaxy S gets the ICS upgrade, not all 10 million customers will be able to use it. T-Mobile Vibrant (not the 4G version) hasn’t even received the Gingerbread update that it undoubtedly deserves. So it’s the carriers that also add to the negative customer satisfaction.

    1. this upgrade issue is focused on the international version I guess. Whenever anyone talk about Android OS upgrade, I just think that my phone (Samsung Captivate) will never get it. But if they release ICS version for Samsung Galaxy S, the open source developers will be able to port it to your and my phone more efficiently. I am already running CyanogenMod’s experimental build of ICS and it amazing…

  4. That is why there is iOS 5?

  5. I have Galaxy Cooper i think android for Samsung is good
    Now i will buy Tab again

  6. Please give my Galaxy S 4G Android 4.0, if it weren’t for all the Galaxy users Samsung wouldn’t be what it is today.

  7. If the touch wiz doesnt work jst remove it, but atleast do not cancel the whole update. Do not forget thats is only the galaxy tab original that has given u a good push to start competing in the tablet race. Plz do not leave it behind. Give it also a taste of icecream sandwitch.

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