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Summary:

Google is rolling out Android 4.0.4 software upgrades to several devices: the GSM Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S handsets as well as Motorola’s Wi-Fi Xoom tablet will all see the software delivered over the air. Other devices will see it soon but that’s not comforting.

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UpdatedGoogle is in the process of rolling out Android 4.0.4, the latest version of its mobile platform, to several devices. The GSM models of the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S handsets as well as Motorola’s Wi-Fi Xoom tablet will all see the software delivered over the air as a result. Google says it will “be rolling it out to more devices in the coming weeks.”

For Galaxy Nexus owners, the update is marginal because these devices have been running Android 4.0 since they launched. Faster screen rotation and and improved camera interface are likely the only noticeable changes. But for those that own a Nexus S phone or Xoom tablet, this will be the first taste of the software known as Ice Cream Sandwich. (Update: As noted by some astute commenters below, the CDMA/LTE versions of these devices don’t have ICS; the GSM Nexus S and WiFi Xoom in some regions received Android 4.0.3 prior) My own use of Android 4.0 on both phones and tablets shows a more intuitive and refined interface that is a vast improvement over the prior version of Android.

One other quick note: I purchased an unlocked Galaxy Nexus overseas and use it in the U.S. on both T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s HSPA+ networks. This model is getting the update, but Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus with LTE is not part of this update wave. It’s more likely that Verizon itself will provide an Android update for two reasons: Carriers typically offer updates for the devices they sell and because there’s CDMA-specific bits in the software.

This is where the vast array of hardware running Google’s software rears its ugly head. The same devices on different networks can have different software, user interfaces, apps and features. Because I tend to buy Nexus devices or install my own custom ROMs — I’ve been running Android 4.0.4 for weeks already — I’m generally not impacted.

But for the few hundred million other Android device owners out there, this frustrating situation isn’t getting any better. At last check, only 1.6 percent of all Android devices run Android 4.0 software. Compare that to the estimated 61 percent of iOS devices updating to version 5.1 within 15 days, according to one iOS developer. Simplicity can sometimes be boring, but at least you know what to expect.

  1. Just for the record, the WiFi Xoom (in the US) got Android 4.0.3 via an official OTA upgrade a few months ago, so this is just an incremental update for those devices. The Verizon LTE Xoom is still on Honeycomb with no word of when or if an ICS upgrade is coming.

    1. The EMEA WiFi Xoom also did not receive an update yet….

  2. “But for the few hundred million other Android device owners out there, this frustrating situation isn’t getting any better.”

    Probably 95% of these users never heard of Ice Cream Sandwich on smartphones….

  3. Hey Kevin, where did you get your 4.0.4?

    1. I installed a custom ROM built on Android 4.0.4 over on Modaco.com.

  4. FYI, I have both a Xoom WiFi and Nexus S and they both received OTA updates of ICS months ago. Your information is incorrect.

  5. “But for those that own a Nexus S phone or Xoom tablet, this will be the first taste of the software known as Ice Cream Sandwich.”

    [:eyebrow raise:] My Nexus S (GT-i9020 on T-Mo) was OTA-updated the week the Galaxy Nexus was released in mid-December. Currently running 4.0.3.

  6. Kevin C. Tofel Thursday, March 29, 2012

    Ack! Thanks to all of the folks that pointed out my inadvertant mistake. The GSM Nexus S, as well as the WiFi Xoom in some countries have both seen ICS upgrades. The CDMA/LTE devices haven’t, which is what I had in my head when writing. I’ll update the post to clarify; thanks!

  7. Re: rears its ugly head. I wonder how frustrated they are. I think that if this had mattered to them they would have bought a nexus. Maybe a lot of them are happy with the phones they chose.

  8. Hello, I’m having a heck of a time trying to find a way to update my Galaxy Nexus. I bought it unlocked via Amazon and using with T-Mobile, but when I “update phone” it always says it’s already up to date, but I only have version 4.02. I lose my cell signal every now and then, and from what I’ve read it has been corrected, but I have no idea how to update the phone. T-Mobile doesn’t officially support it, so I have no clue.

    1. Elis, try this: Using the Phone app, dial *#*#checkin#*#* That should force any updates.

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