As the latest update to Android looms ever closer, we've got our eyes peeled for anything that may hint at what's to come. While most of that information comes to us through leaks or hidden surprises, sometimes it will try to hide in plain sight. Over the last few weeks, an increasing number of code commits have been made to the android-3.10 branch of the kernel/common project. As you might be able to guess from the names, kernel/common is the codebase from which every device kernel is eventually derived. The existence of a 3.10 branch in AOSP is pretty solid evidence to believe we will see a version of Android running on it soon. On top of all of this, there are architecture-specific commits for 3.10 in the kernel/tegra project, which points to development for the 2012 Nexus 7.


Since the initial launch of Android in 2009, the kernel has been kept mostly up to date with Linux, usually lagging behind by 4-8 months due to development and release schedules. Unlike previous versions, Android 4.3 did not get an update, instead remaining on the 3.4 codebase. KitKat is due to get caught up and the development team certainly wouldn't want it to become further outdated. The 3.10 Linux kernel, released just 4 months ago, would be the obvious choice.

Despite the evidence, we're far from having a smoking gun. So far, all of the leaked photos we've seen of Android 4.4 running on the Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 have shown it is still based on the 3.4 kernel. It's possible the leaks are based on older distributions or even versions that have been intentionally built on the older kernel, but these seem unlikely. While it's really rare to see branches like these appear in AOSP unless they become a part of Android, it actually happened with the 3.3 kernel which was posted as part of the Android Mainlining Project.

Should we see v3.10 (or later) turn up, we've got plenty of reasons to be happy about it. As we so often hear with any upgrade, it will bring improvements to performance, battery life, and stability. More specifically we should see reliability improvements to the ext4 filesystem, better support for big.LITTLE ARM and 64-bit architecture, and quite a bit more. To check out all of the changes between 3.4 and 3.10, take a look at this handy human-readable list of changes by version.

As always, we can't really be certain of anything until there is an announcement or an official code drop. I'm sure you're all just as eager as I am for Google to get the ball rolling.

Thanks, Shamus Murray.

Commits: 1, 2, 3, 4

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • Christofftofferson

    Dat KFC Colonel... I see what you did there

    • Ygor Vaz

      I need a captain here

      • Mike Reid

        Krunch or Kanagaroo ?

        • Perv Bear


        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          I was thinking Morgan ;)

      • Shi Qiu

        It's Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC, and Colonel sounds like Kernel.
        Flies away.

      • ltredbeard

        how bout a lieutenant

  • Daldain

    I approve of the post image, made me chuckle.

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

      Took me a while myself, but definitely a good laugh.

  • hazza

    Phew, I saw the image before reading the entire headline, and thought for a moment that Android 4.4 had been renamed KFC!

    • Mayoo

      I won't post an image because it would probably get rejected, but I'm only gonna say this:

      If 4.4 would have have been renamed KFC, Easter Egg could have been [insert image of Terry Crews here]

      • NinoBr0wn

        Care to explain?

      • busterqiw508

        мʏ ƈʟαѕѕмαтɛ'ѕ ѕιѕтɛʀ мαĸɛѕ $68/нօυʀ օɴ тнɛ ιɴтɛʀɴɛт. ѕнɛ нαѕ вɛɛɴ աιтнօυт α ʝօв ғօʀ ѕιх мօɴтнѕ вυт ʟαѕт мօɴтн нɛʀ քαʏ ƈнɛƈĸ աαѕ $188з0 ʝυѕт աօʀĸιɴɢ օɴ тнɛ ιɴтɛʀɴɛт ғօʀ α ғɛա нօυʀѕ. ɴɛхт քαɢɛ Zap22.com

        • http://www.williamint.com William Aleman

          Good for you!!

        • https://plus.google.com/106721695871122826476/posts?hl=en Aja Hemphill

          How is it not possible at this point to have a comment filter that can filter this crap out...

  • sivkai

    Kernel Fried Android.

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

    I'm really curious if it'll make it to the first release of the Nexus 5 or won't be coming until next year (or the Nexus 10). So far all the N5 leaks had the 3.4 kernel.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      I really hope it hits with the N5. After looking through the history of Android versions and what kernel they came with, I realize that it would be really uncharacteristic for two significant updates in a row to skip on a kernel refresh. I fully realize it's not a wildly critical issue, as 3.4 is obviously working pretty well, but I'd like to think the kernel is kept up to date after the big fuss that was made about re-integrating with Linux.

      Besides, if the next refresh doesn't happen until 4.5/5.0, then using 3.10 won't even make sense, as it'll be almost a year old by the time Google releases it.

      • Michael Pahl

        I am by no means an expert but looking at some of the changes in 3.10 looks like some nice storage and memory optimizations. Those *could* be really nice to have...

        One of the major storage changes is to allow caching to flash storage from mechanical storage. I think Archos was still using mechanical storage in some devices?

    • Santeri

      Yeah, I'm sure it's coming, but the real question is when. At least Intel has been pointing out for Android 64-bit support. You can check it out here.

    • Ricardo

      Unless Google devs are so desperate to ship android with F2FS, I don't think the nexus 5 will ship with kernel 3.10. Ever since Greg Kroah-Hartman announced the availability of the long-term kernel releases, Google has tracked every single one of them (3.0 was the first ever long-term kernel, 3.4 was the second, 3.10 is the third and the latest). But Greg didn't announce that the 3.10 would be a LT kernel until august, and if Google is still shipping those PDKs to OEMs, it would have been too late to include that kernel in the PDK (correct me if I'm wrong but Google said they ship them 3-4 months in advanced, right?)

  • Shamu

    I contributed to something! I putting this article on my resume!

  • Dominic Powell

    This is a big deal. I would gladly wait for until December 8th for 4.4 on a nexus 5 if Linux 3.10 readiness is the reason.

  • Michael Pahl

    More information on 3.10 for noobies like myself can be found here


  • Ryan Price

    Please continue to use the Colonel image used in this post. This is amazing. Pure Genius.

  • dhruva

    it seems we will see the kernel updated to atleast 3.7...samsung is tomtoming galaxy s5 will support 64 bit architecture.

  • maherdad Khalid

    Android is really cool :-)

  • Matthew Fry

    Oh! 3 point ten. I get it now. Took me the whole post to figure out why the kernel was going from 3.4 to 3.1.

  • Thomas’

    x64 support introduced was brought by 3.7, nice. Not like it would make a huge difference on devices, but well.

  • Middling

    Android uses the longterm kernels (3.0, 3.2, 3.4 & 3.10), so it is a pretty safe bet it'll jump from 3.4 to 3.10 when they eventually do make the move.

    • Guest

      Don't forget 3.1. It's on longterm support too. ;)

      Also the 2012 Nexus 7 uses 3.1. Yay. :)

      • anon

        3.2 is long term support, see kernel.org website

  • squiddy20

    So I just looked at the list of changes by kernel version, and for shits and giggles looked at the current kernel version on my phone (toroplus with a somewhat recent CM 10.1 nightly) and realized the kernel is based off of 3.0, which was released... in July 2011. What gives? Or am I misinterpreting/misreading the kernel version section of About Phone? (and yes, I realize I could flash a kernel myself to something more recent, but I sort of figure that what the CM team has preloaded is optimized/"the best".)

    • Simon Belmont

      From what I've been seen over the years with Nexus devices, they usually stick with the kernel version they started out with through the different Android updates. For example, my G'Nex (and your Toroplus) started with 3.0 on Android 4.0, and it's still on 3.0 with Android 4.3 and my 2012 N7 started with 3.1 with Android 4.1 and it's still on 3.1 with Android 4.3.

      Each kernel is device specific. If there are things required in the next version of Android to make it work, they're patched into that specific device's kernel. This is why Android 4.3 works just as well as Android 4.0 on your G'Nex with the same major kernel version (it's had modifications made over its lifespan to accommodate newer versions of Android, but not an increment in version). I think even the Motorola Xoom that had the original Honeycomb kernel of 2.6, stuck with that version through ICS and the first Jelly Bean.

      • squiddy20

        Interesting. I had no idea that, for the most part, a given device keeps the same kernel it was released with. You learn something new every day. Thanks.

        • Simon Belmont

          You're welcome. I'm a software developer, so I love learning about the the nuts and bolts of what goes on with Android on that front (love the hardware aspect, too, of course). :)

          Delving into this stuff is fun and entertaining. Now, if they'd just release Android 4.4, we'd have something new to delve into. ;)

  • Dimitri Kandalepas

    Anyone else think that KitKat will be released Oct. 31? It is Halloween after all...trick or treat?

    • mjku

      That'd be perfect! Open your candy bags!

  • Joshua

    I love how one of the links after the article is about Gingerbread being pushed to AOSP.

  • Nevzat Akkaya

    So, what's the Linux kernel version on Kit Kat? I haven't find any reference anywhere