If you follow AOSP code drops long enough, you're eventually going to hear about JBQ (as well as a ton more acronyms). Jean-Baptiste Queru, Technical Lead of the Android Open-Source Project took to Google+ today to talk about Android update rollouts, as well as to praise one of the manufacturers that he sees as leading the pack in aiding the AOSP: Sony.

It took Sony only about 5 months to ship this [Android 4.0 for the Sony Tablet S] after I released the code in the Android Open Source Project at the very end of last year. This is actually a very reasonable time, since under the hood Ice Cream Sandwich is quite different from Honeycomb (and upgrades from Gingerbread are likely to take longer as those differences are huge).

Since Sony has been contributing a lot to the Android Open Source Project, they have fewer changes that they need to maintain on their own: those changes of theirs are already there when the source code is first released. That's probably one of the reasons why they could get done faster: the work they did preparing those contributions gave them a head start. I don't think that any other manufacturer has been contributing nearly as much as Sony did, so everyone else is now going to have to play catch-up.

This sheds some new light on how manufacturers carry out their updates and a little bit of why these updates take so long to begin with. It's obvious to anyone who doesn't own a Galaxy Nexus that the 4.0 rollout is taking longer than many updates in the past, but JBQ does let on that the changes are significant, so that may explain part of the hold up.

However, as he points out, Sony has been contributing to the AOSP in ways that help it provide faster updates to consumers. This has something Sony itself has pointed out in the past. As the company points out in a blog post on the subject back in December of last year:

In the Bring up phase, another task is to integrate a number of patches, to improve and adapt the Android legacy code according to our needs. These are customised patches important to the phone, such as improved error handling. To avoid fragmentation, many of these customised patches are actually contributed back to the Android Open Source Project, so that they are included in the default Android source code for the next software release. This work has made Sony Ericsson one of the main contributors to Android.

Sony has also, historically, been very involved with the open source community, specifically by partnering with the CM team to bring custom ROMs to Sony devices. From the official CyanogenMod blog back in September 2011:

We would like to stress that work on the 2011 lineup would not have been possible without the strong involvement of Sony Ericsson with the developer community. In addition to providing unlockable bootloaders to all new devices, they provided us both with devices and technical expertise that proved invaluable in making all this happen.

Sony may get the short end of the publicity stick, sometimes, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that Sony is approaching the Android community the right way: by engaging and helping the community, by unlocking the bootloaders on its devices and, most importantly, contributing code back to the project. The result is that Sony is getting updates to devices faster than any other manufacturer.

There are still other obstacles, of course. JBQ lamented that even on Google-engineered devices, updates can be affected by "delays introduced by operator approvals." As he sees it, though, the Galaxy Nexus being sold via the Play Store, is a step back in the right direction. We couldn't agree more.

And as for the other manufacturers: Samsung, HTC, Motorola? You guys should consider following in Sony's footsteps on this one. The community is your greatest asset, not your enemy.

Source: Google+

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Hotmail

    well said.

  • NemaCystX

    Wow, I had no idea.  Sony seems to be a "silent partner" as none of this was public knowledge until now.  I change my opinion of Sony (in mobile).  I had thought Samsung would have been a contributor since they have had the last 2 Nexus devices.

    I'm sure this is getting old but I'll say it anyway

    "I didn't see that coming"

  • TynanDeRosa

    I gotta say, if Sony had a device on Verizon that was up to par with some of these phones hitting? I'd be all over that so quick. I love their design, i just wish the specs matched up to it.

    • Navjot Batra

      Though the average consumer doesn't look at the specs as much as the design aspects of the phone, so they may be on to something here.

      • TynanDeRosa

        I'm talking about for me in general, general consumer doesn't give two shits if it's dual core, single core or 80 core. As long as it gets them to facebook, take pictures, and text.

        • crankyd00d

          True. You forgot one though: As long as it is an iPhone

          • TynanDeRosa

            Some consumers actually like Android, especially since there's an entry level android-device, and as you go bigger and better, you don't want to waste that money you dropped on apps.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        Worth noting, the average consumer doesn't know anything about updates or how Sony contributes to AOSP...hell, most of us had no idea and we're the fringe followers.

        The average consumer buys based on how the phone looks, if it seems to perform well in the store, how their friends like it, how well it's marketed to them (ads, in-store, reviews, etc) and brand loyalty.  I just wish that consumers were educated to buy devices with high-end specs from companies that release good updates and unlocked bootloaders; that would change the landscape for everybody.  I do my best to get my friends to buy the right phones, but that only goes so far...

    • http://twitter.com/FQdeB Felix

      But their devices are very optimised for the hardware. The Xperia S with a previous generation dual-core is not far below the krait dual core of the One S

      • TynanDeRosa

        Yeah, but the underlying problem is none of these phones are on/coming to Verizon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottyholm Scotty Holm

    If Verizon has any good Sony phones in their lineup when it's time for me to upgrade in 2013, I'd seriously consider them. I've always liked Sony hardware and I appreciate that they're participating in AOSP the right way. Very impressed with how quickly they've started to roll out ICS to their handsets. 

  • denbo68

    Sony? Go figure....

  • http://gamingblather.com/ Drak

    There are two major hurdles to getting timely updates: Phone makers and the carriers.
    As for the Nexus getting timely updates...Tell that to Verizon.

    • NemaCystX

      Blame it more on CDMA licensing, even Sprint is going to run into the same problem

      • SK

        This has nothing to do with CDMA licensing. It's all due to a small technicality in CDMA -- no SIM card. I believe Verizon has started support SIM cards and they even have a spec for open handsets (any one can make and sell Verizon compatible phones if they pass some testing done by a 3rd party test lab).

        Google/Samsung could have done that. That would mean it won't be sold on Verizon stores and no marketing by Verizon.

    • crankyd00d

      Yeah it's the carriers, my unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus just got its 4th OTA update

  • sgtguthrie

    Maybe they should be rewarded with the next Nexus? I think I may like that ;-)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      That would be fair, not a bad idea. Unfortunately, the rumor is the next Nexus will be made by Samsung due to their much more robust distribution, manufacturing, R&D, etc.

      • Vikramaditya Rai

        True! Sony itself said that it still has a long way to go for quad core. And assuming the market trend, the next Nexus will definitely be a quad core.

      • Martin Nilsson

        On top of that Sony (Ericsson) has it's own hardware for SoCs, display technology (Bravia and WhiteMagic) as well as the innovative "floating touch" in the new Sola. Could make for one wicked Nexus phone! =D

        • Xplodgui

          True, but so does Samsung (Super AMOLED screens, Exynos on SMDK boards, etc.)
          But I agree that Sony could make a different, yet interesting, deal

    • warcaster

      Not a bad idea at all. But maybe in 2013. I want Exynos 5250 in the next Nexus, and Sony is still a bit behind Samsung and HTC in new hardware. Motorola has been left behind a little, too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

      Sony Ericsson where once offered to make the Nexus One but HTC did it instead as Sony Ericsson didn't want to make smartphones outside of the Xperia line. I have to say I am surprised at the sheer amount of work that Sony does with the Android developers and it certainly encourages me to consider an Xperia phone in the future!

      (Preferably an Xperia Play 2 with a Tegra processor)

  • Amadeus

    Next nexus by Sony?

    • Craig Rathbone


      • Jeffrey Feely


        • Larizard

          Google Nexperius.

  • Verifunny

    Thank you, Sony n Dev Teams!

  • Florio Alagna

    I really hope they release a Krait device soon.

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    To be fair - after the complete disaster that was their first Android device - the Sony Xperia X10 - they really had to do something positive to get the egg off their faces - at least what they have chosen to do is benefiting everyone - not just Sony customers.

    • warcaster

      Right. Xperia X10 was a disaster in both hardware and software. They've improved a lot in both since then, though.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Indeed. For example, last year's Xperia Arc was gorgeous when it was announced - thin, fast, with a good camera. This year, Xperia S is pretty decent, but they're still an underdog, with the One series completely outshining them. Marketing, physical design (I much prefer the One series myself) - Sony needs to figure it out. One thing is for sure - I appreciate the hell out of their AOSP support, relatively fast updates (partially related to the former), beta ROMs, unlocked devices, etc.

      • http://twitter.com/RahulRVerma Rahul R Verma

        It was not a disaster in hardware. Software .. yes. I am still using the x10 for more than 2 years now. The hardware has never given me problems. I am using custom roms to overcome the software problem.
        But yes, sony could have done better with the x10. There is rarely any dev support for the x10.

  • Rcrow490

    This confirms a "revelation" I've had recently. As a former user of Sony Palm devices, they were always WAY ahead of even Palm in their hardware and software. It's made me take a closer look at their Android devices.

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    >> As he sees it, though, the Galaxy Nexus being sold via the Play Store, is a step back in the right direction.

    Unfortunately, at least in the US, you will have to give up LTE to own this phone. On top of that, only 2 of the top 4 national carriers are supported. May be when fallback to CDMA is no longer needed, a multi-band Google maintained Nexus will help, but we are years away.

    A better solution? Google, why don't you form a joint venture with T-mobile and help them build a big LTE network?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      That's true and is indeed a big downside. On the flip side, you're getting a world phone, which Sprint and VZW Nexuses aren't. 2 network compatibility is still more than 1 too, though yeah - no LTE = huge downside.

      • Freak4Dell

         I could live without LTE so long as HSPA+ speeds are good.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          But the problem is they're not comparable. HSPA+ realistically may get you 3-5mbps on average, while LTE will get you 7-20mbps or more.

          • Freak4Dell

            Which I'd be fine with. 3-5mbps is more than plenty to stream music without issue, which is all I need a high speed connection on my phone for anyway. For web browsing, even 1-2mbps is sufficient.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            After using both (on AT&T - LTE and HSPA+ and Verizon LTE), I will maintain that LTE is miles above HSPA+, if only due to better latency. LTE is a pleasure to use, faster and more responsive than home 50mbps Comcast connection, while HSPA+ is much less friendly to latency, though does cover more area right now. LTE is the future, and I maintain that LTE is still the way to go (for me).

          • Zaatour36

            and now rumors  says, the new Galaxy S III chipset doesn't support LTE!! and maybe other S III models with dual-core to cretin geographical region will have LTE!!

            I think all new Android smart phones should have those basics:

            1. NFC
            2. LTE
            3. ~2500mAh battery to support power hungry 4G and Multi-Tasking.

          • duplissi

            i get about 7-12mbps on average in southern maine with att hspa+

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          But the problem is they're not comparable. HSPA+ realistically may get you 3-5mbps on average, while LTE will get you 7-20mbps or more.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

        Being British I hardly know what LTE or 4G are (though apparently they are "lighting fast"); all we have is 3G, HSPA (and its HSPA+ counterpart) and EDGE to connect to the internet. It's pretty slow, but it's all we have.

  • http://twitter.com/bongdw Dustin Watson

    Although the darn SE Xperia experience really upset me, I can't help but remember how awesome it was when Sony gave out devices to the Cyanogenmod team. That was the coolest thing ever. And NOW they're really on the right path. Wicked :)

  • Jethro Tickner

    A Sony Nexus phone would be an insta-purchase by me.

  • MyNameIsLOS

    If Sony puts out a product to match that branding that everyone trusts I will hop on board. Wouldn't mind a Sony nexus :D

  • Skillit

    this post answered two questions for me

    1- Why are the updates from Gingerbread to ICS taking so much longer than usual and longer than the Honeycomb tabs ? 

    There is quite a lot of changes under the hood in ICS

    2- Why of late Sony devices seem to be updated ate a ever increasing speed ? 

    They are doing a lot of contribution to the AOSP

    It appear that Sony Android offering are getting quite better over time, I've always liked their design but as with all the other skins theirs is no so great.

    If only they would make a Nexus device ...

  • http://twitter.com/coldcc Coldcc

    Why not just buy out qualcomm and get the license needed to get the proprietary files into aosp 

  • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

    It particularly makes sense to me that Moto, Sammy, and HTC would remain absent from the AOSP. you know, because their overlays are so fantastic and add so much functionality to Android that they really are better off handling the OS in house.

    Hell, they should just take the next step and fork the operating system and no longer offer support for Google apps and services.

  • fixxmyhead

    Too bad these idiots (Sony) don't like making phones for the U.S. how many Sony phones are here in the u.s like 2

    • warcaster

      They released the Xperia Play for Verizon last year. I think the problem is the carriers don't really want them here or give them good deals.

      • fixxmyhead

        Yea I know but its not even high end either.

    • MacVities

      You can get free developer phones from Sony, including the Xperia S.  How much more do you want Sony to do, gift wrap it and bring it your door with coffee and donuts?

  • LinuxFrenzy

     I would be more then happy to support Sony if they had any phones on T-Mobile.

  • Freak4Dell

    If Sony comes out with a device I like, I will strongly consider it. I've always liked Sony products, and the fact that they know how to treat the Android community is a great bonus.

  • Horace Willis

    I don't care how much they have done or how good a device they make I won't be buying anything from Sony.   Their track record in doing 180s on what they say they are going to offer keeps me from doing so.   Just look at the PS3 as an example.   It was billed as a console that would be backwards compatible with PS2 games and that you could load an alternate OS on.   Didn't take them long to drop the PS2 support and then later in a firmware update they removed the ability to run an alternate OS.   How long before they do the same with their Android devices.   No thank you Sony.   Don't plan on giving you a chance.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You sound so naive - you can't expect legacy to be maintained forever. Not defending their specific actions but come on, the PS2 is 12 years old now, and the Android team has nothing to do with the PS2/PS3 team. If you boycott every company that ever disappointed you by a little bit, you will quickly run out of things to buy.

      • Zaatour36


        but i'm surprised to see Sony supporting CM to make ROMs for their device, as I recall, they didn't want users to mess with their devices!

        maybe, a good direction into adapting customers needs and preferences !

        I hope all Android phone manufactures move forward supporting custom ROMs and other development, as this is the key of their product success!

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Sony is the only company that has been openly release beta ROMs and providing instructions on building custom ROMs for their devices. I can't think of another company that comes even close to that level of involvement with the community.

          • Mgamerz

             You mean like Notion Ink, and all the other beta ICS roms you have already said? How about HTC?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I meant a major OEM - Notion Ink doesn't count, they can't even develop it themselves and are using forum members to do it for them.

          • Stephen

            Could their level of Android support be due to their phones not selling in the numbers they would hope, hence they are going the extra mile to try and increase their sales by pleasing the Android community? Whatever the reason I am all for it and thank Sony for the effort. I am surprised however Asus hasn't been mentioned as they were, I believe to be the first out the door with the ICS update, albeit their Android scope is purely on tablets. We need this level of support from Manufactures, otherwise how will we slow down and hopefully stop Apple's growing empire from monopolising this industry.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            ASUS was first because they approached it seriously, but also had very few products, running relatively stock Android and having no 3G/4G radios to worry about. I'm not sure how much they've contributed back to AOSP though, and that's what the main point here is.

          • Asphyx

            Sony is one of the hardware manufacturers who gets it. They understand the money is in the selling of the hardware not the software. (How many times have you had to give a serial number to get the latest software that is useless without the device your getting the software for? And Why?)
            Android is also right in thier software comfort zone since it's Nix based. Most of thier hardware runs off it.

            Sony is less concerned about the Carriers than HTC and Moto are. Who are the main culprits in holding up updates and locked bootloaders.

            What Sony is concerned with is putting out a device that can leverage their vast content library (Movies, Games and Music)

            And it stands to reason the quicker they can help Android get to the higher standards required for Gaming and better performance the more of thier content will be able to be sold.

            Sony has a lot of faults but User Support has never been one of them! They have always embraced smart folks who can make thier products better which is why they reached out to the CM crew because lets face it they have one of the most widely accepted Android OS' out there! Hell I would even bet more people run CM than run Stock!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

        I do agree with Horace, I was expecting better PS2 compatibility on the PS3 and I would have wanted to tryUbuntu/Fedora Linux (or in theory Android) on my PS3 too. Also that some games like THUG will probably never be remade into a HD collection which is disappointing too.

        Still doesn't completely put me off Sony!

      • Horace Willis

        That was just one example.   Although I can't recall it off the top of my head I know there was another case where Sony did something with another one of their products that ended up screwing over their customers.   For me it comes down to the following saying "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."    Well with Sony I've learned the lessons of their history and I WON'T repeat it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You sound so naive - you can't expect legacy to be maintained forever. Not defending their specific actions but come on, the PS2 is 12 years old now, and the Android team has nothing to do with the PS2/PS3 team. If you boycott every company that ever disappointed you by a little bit, you will quickly run out of things to buy.

    • MacVities

      Grow up, OtherOS was never marketed, it was a free feature that was being abused by your precious GeoHot.  If you have beef, talk to him.
      PS2 compatibility was removed because children like yourself were crying about the the retail price of the PS3.

      When you grow up, you mind understand that whilst it's easy to blame Sony for both of these things, the real culprits are MUCH closer to home....

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        Wow, while I don't exactly side with Horace's more extreme stance, I gotta say you're on the wrong side of that argument and you should seriously spend time reading and researching before posting...

        To begin with, while it's true OtherOS was never part of any printed marketing, it was marketed on Sony's website rather heavily for a while.  Also, it wasn't a feature 'abused by GeoHot', it was the removal of that feature that became his excuse for cracking their then-current security key.  Given that you're the first to bring the name up and considering the language you used to describe your perceptions, "your precious", you seem to have an unexplained and misplaced grudge on the subject already.

        The PS2 compatibility is another subject entirely...Heavily marketed on the packaging and Sony did screw over a lot of people with that one.  I never owned a PS2 but I bought a fair number because of that backwards compatibility, and thanks to software updates I lost the ability to play quite a few of them and lost some saved games.  So yeah, people are more than justified in being angry about that one.

  • Mark

    Wow. I never cared much for Sony, but wow... If they made a really nice high end Android device soon that can compete against HTC's One X and Samsung's Galaxy S III I may just go the Sony route, to show them my appreciation for actually helping the community. Working with Google's AOSP and being a big contributor AND helping Cyanogenmod and his team, wow...

  • warcaster

    Keep it up Sony. Now just try to be a bit ahead on adoption for new hardware/chips.

    By the way the Xperia S 12 MP camera is the best mobile camera on the market right now, and nobody knows it. It's better than iPhone 4S and Galaxy S2, and it's much better than Nokia N8's 12 MP camera (granted it's a little older). 

  • Himanshu Mendhe

    "Sony may get the short end of the publicity stick, sometimes, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that Sony is approaching the Android community the right way: by engaging and helping the community, by unlocking the bootloaders on its devices and, most importantly, contributing code back to the project. "

    Couldn't agree more. BTW, Xperia S are selling like hot-cakes in India. My room-mate got one and it is a great device. One would never miss a quad-core on Xperia S. And its camera is excellent. 

  • Timo

    Ahem...Sony ERICSSON made the contributions. I wouldn't regard Sony (no-Ericsson) as very open-source-open-standards-friendly. I hope I'm wrong, though.

    • aiden9

      ^This. So far all the positive things said has been done by Sony Ericsson, not Sony. We don't know what Sony will end up doing now they've bought out Ericsson.

    • Troed Sangberg

      Sony Pictures Open Source: http://opensource.imageworks.com/

      "These tools have already helped Sony Pictures Imageworks put films on the screen with greater ease, and we hope they can do the same for you."

      Disclaimer: I work at Sony Mobile. We truly do believe in Openness.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Hey, if you ever want to send us a blurrycam or two, we take anonymous tips ;-]

  • Martin Nilsson

    Apart of that mentioned in the article, Sony (Ericsson) has also open sourced drivers as well as internal software/apps. For the great good of the community =)

  • Zandm7

    Yeah go Sony! ICS on my Sony Tablet S, ftw. Haha.

  • Asphyx

    I am in the broadcast TV business on the engineering side and deal with Sony products on a daily basis since they have dominated this market pretty much since it's inception.

    We forget that Sony has years of hardware manufactering under their belt and much of their designs have been very smart towards not locking themselves into a non-upgradeable path.
    They are very good on the firmware front which is key to writing for something like an Open Source OS like Android. Make the Kernel and Firmware correctly and very little change is needed to support the next flavor of the OS. Any changes that are made to the OS are easy to add to the other devices because it's not trying to customize the OS to make up for lack of firmware.

    Companies like HTC and Moto have never really dealt with Open Source before, their lines were all about customized proprietary code. in HTCs case that ran on top of WinMo6.5 which did just about everything for them and all they had to do was code addons into it. Moto has always been all abot the proprietary and it wasn't untill they embraced Android did they come back to life. Yet they still did not totally purge their proprietary ways and if they had we might see an unlocked bootloader and better firmware for thier units.

    When you try to add things like Sense and Blur to a perfectly working OS in the name of trying to distinguish yourself from the others your only making it that much harder to keep up with the updates the way your competition.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

      That's a really solid explanation, thanks Asphyx! :-)

    • http://twitter.com/FQdeB Felix

      Sony Ericsson also had the X1 and X2, with a 'panels' interface added to WinMo

      • Asphyx

        Yes because MS would not allow 3rd parties to actually rewrite WinMo code and only throw their stuff on top.
        I'm not saying that HTC had a choice in the matter but in the end that limitation is what drove them to create the entire Sense interface which back them was an attempt to pretty much replace WinMo interface. I remember the days of the touch pro and how piggish it ran because for all intents and purposes it was trying to run two interfaces on the same lowly proc.

  • MacVities

    A good Sony story, I wonder how many American sites will just ignore this...  We all know the game, support American companies like Microsoft and Apple, and spin only good news, NPD console number stories and such.   Sony, post anything bad you can dig up, if you can't find anything today, make something up.

  • Deepu Kappiyoor

     Sony(S-E) has their own SoC named NovaThor, is expected to hit market with Xparia sola onwards, With that they can produce more optimized phones with Android integrated to the hardware with help of community

  • Slotlover

    " Samsung, HTC, Motorola? You guys should consider following in Sony's
    footsteps on this one. The community is your greatest asset, not your

    Well if the predictions match the outcomes of super hot quad core devices getting castrated to dual core, but only for the American market. Then those carriers will pay dearly! I for one am not alone in being sick and tired of crappy devices handicapped by either greed [so they can release those features later] or complete and utter contempt for the users that pay to keep these companies in bussiness. As for the lack of updates and support. What will be the excuse as these devices become as powerful as desktops, when it comes to future updates?

    Please lets hear the line of bull crap about how "a quad core qhd display with 1g+ of ram and 16g+ storage" will not be suitable for any updates!? [its gonna come trust me]

    Case in point the CM team and others have stepped up to the plate and released a super fine product [ICS] for the samsung galaxy s vibrant, but yet samsung cant be bothered? This isnt a matter of hardware not up to snuff. Its all about pure greed and treating the consumers like morons.

    So yeah this quote is very appropriate  " Samsung, HTC, Motorola? You guys should consider following in Sony's
    footsteps on this one. The community is your greatest asset, not your

    We the consumers pay your freaking bills, time you start understanding that!