The Galaxy Nexus variant on Sprint might actually have a chance of being officially supported by Google in AOSP after all, which would be a big step in the right direction for carrier-branded Nexus devices.
If you remember, neither Verizon's nor Sprint's Galaxy Nexus was supported by the Android Open Source Project at launch, with the Verizon's version joining the program over half a year after its release. Even though the Nexus S 4G is fully supported, Sprint's GNex variant remained absent from the Nexus Binaries page and was therefore completely unsupported by the Android team.
When the Android 4.1.2 binaries (i.e. drivers) were posted earlier this month, one little section tucked away at the very bottom of the page managed to escape everyone's attention (it wasn't even referenced in the table of contents at the top) - well, everyone's except for one eagle-eyed Android Police reader Joseph John. Here it is:
Could it be? Let's compare it to the Verizon version, which is now considered supported by AOSP:
Well, well, well - all the same binaries, by the same manufacturers, including CDMA and LTE. Does that mean the Sprint Nexus is now fully supported? If so, why is it listed as "archived"? To answer this question, I reached out to the chief Android release engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru.
Here's what JBQ told me:
- The entry should be listed as "experimental" - it wasn't clear whether he'd change it at one point or not. Maybe next time the page is updated.
- Officially, there is no change in status just yet - the Sprint Nexus still doesn't fully work in pure AOSP due to technical bugs, so "for all practical purposes it went from "doesn't work" to "doesn't work." However, the fact that the binaries have been published indicates that there has been quite a bit of progress behind the scenes - we went from nothing to all binaries, albeit with bugs.
- The difference between the toro (Verizon Galaxy Nexus) and toroplus (Sprint Galaxy Nexus) releases to AOSP is "that toroplus is limited by technical issues, whereas toro was limited by non-technical issues." That's not as reassuring to hear, but Google is working on it.
JBQ didn't think this was newsworthy just yet, but I think there was enough progress to warrant posting an update. Go, toroplus, go!
Here's the full transcript for your enjoyment:
Artem: +Jean-Baptiste Queru Does the presence of Galaxy Nexus (Sprint) 4.1.2 blobs at https://developers.google.com/android/nexus/drivers indicate a change in its Nexus status? Or at least a good direction for getting it supported by AOSP? It does say "archive" but...
JBQ: Oops, it should read "experimental", my mistake. It's not really working yet in AOSP. No change about anything else related to that phone.
Artem: Hmm. But before the 4.1.2 release, they weren't published at all, were they (for Sprint)? Last time binaries said "experimental," it was the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, which everyone read as "it's back to being supported by AOSP" (and it kind of was). So, what did change that prompted posting the drivers this time around?
JBQ: It's somewhat similar to the way toro was back then, not really working quite yet. The difference is that toroplus is limited by technical issues, whereas toro was limited by non-technical issues. This is just the result of a lot of work. Not a fundamental change, just taking down many hurdles that were preventing me from trying to support that device in AOSP.
And, yes, I confirm that those files were published for the first time a few days ago. We only got all the bits in place sometime last week.
Artem: So what's left to do to get it to the Verizon GN level of support? This is pretty exciting. Would you call this newsworthy, considering the progress from 0 to all those binaries? I sure would, but I'm trying to understand the full picture.
JBQ: There are still bugs in the network stack, which crashes at boot and doesn't actually connect to Sprint's network. I don't think I'd call this newsworthy yet. In my mind, it'll be newsworthy if we can get those bugs fixed. While there's some progress behind the curtain, for all practical purposes we went from "doesn't work" to "doesn't work".