Announced back in March at Mobile World Congress, the Alcatel Hero 2+ was to be the next powerful Cyanogen OS phone, following up on the OnePlus One after that partnership basically died. While Cyanogen OS has been announced for some budget phones, the Google-killers had yet to show off new mid-range or high-end hardware powered by their mostly-Google-anyway software at the time, and the Hero 2+ looked like it might add some legitimacy to the Cyanogen Inc. portfolio. Well, now it won't, because it's not being made. Here's the official statement from Alcatel:

OFFICIAL STATEMENT RE: HERO 2+ FROM ALCATEL ONETOUCH AND CYANOGEN INC.

ALCATEL ONETOUCH and Cyanogen, Inc. have made a mutual decision to forgo the release of the HERO 2+.  At its announcement, the goal of bringing this device to market was to offer the most advanced hardware and software at an affordable price.  The bar was set high and unfortunately the device does not have a clear Android 5.1 upgrade path. We therefore are committing to refocus our joint efforts on a next-generation product that can exceed the expectations of end users. Our teams remain dedicated to releasing an ALCATEL ONETOUCH device powered by Cyanogen OS, and are looking to share an update when we have more details to share.

The reason provided is that the Hero 2+ had no clear Android 5.1 upgrade path. What does that mean, exactly? You'd have to ask Cyanogen or Alcatel, and predictably, they aren't discussing specifics (not that companies ever really do when it comes to canceled products).

If you want some speculation, read on - I might have something for you.

The Hero 2+ was going to be powered by a very odd chip, the MediaTek MT6592. While it's used in a variety of Chinese and other Asian smartphones in the budget segment, this "true octacore" product from MediaTek never saw much mainstream adoption, and most of the devices it has shipped on are still stuck on KitKat. As far as I could tell, a single phone with this chip has received Lollipop, and that seems to have been through back channels and community assistance. Most such phones lack custom development communities almost entirely because of MediaTek's terrible track record complying with GPL publication requirements, a complaint that is often echoed when discussing the OEMs using those chips. In fact, MediaTek is widely rumored to require manufacturers to pay for source code for their chipsets - meaning providing software upgrades may cost manufacturers yet more licensing money.

No MediaTek MT6592 device, by the way, has received Android 5.1, and the vast majority never made it to Lollipop. Given this particular chip's middling popularity, it seems entirely possible MediaTek has simply abandoned it at Android 4.4 or with partial Android 5.0 support, so the Hero 2+ may have never had a chance in hell of getting Android 5.1 at all.

So, while it's easy to blame Cyanogen or Alcatel for this fumble, in this particular scenario, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if a third party was at play. MediaTek has a reputation in the software development community for a reason - and that reputation has never been particularly good.

Whether Alcatel and Cyanogen make a second go of it remains to be seen, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that, either.

If you read Cyanogen Inc. Senior Engineer Manager Abhishek Devkota's comment on this Google+ post, it's pretty obvious the chipset is the culprit here: "As for why, take a look at the chipset."

  • Thanks:
  • Jeff M.