12 October, 2013

Android 4.4: The War on Fragmentation Continues

UPDATE: Android Police also revealed some data about the Dialer, Camera, and Gallery apps that show the same package ID pattern, indicating that they could also be migrated over to the Play Store as well, further nullifying the efforts of carriers and OEMs to block Android updates. Original post (and link to Android Police article in question) below.

Remember when Google's Play Services were launched? Anything with Android 2.2 and up, thanks to Play Services, can now enjoy functionality that in previous cases required new versions of Android to use. Well, some Android 4.4 leaks that we've noticed seem to hint at Google taking it's Play Services to a new level: right down to the home screen.

What do I mean? Well, we've seen that Google happens to have a new launcher coming out on Android 4.4 (codenamed "KitKat" as part of a co-branding with Nestle) that happens to have a completely different naming scheme than any launcher in the past. "com.android.launcher" and "com.android.launcher2" were of course strictly internal package IDs, with "system/app/Launcher.apk" and "system/app/Launcher2.apk" as their paths, right?

Well, there's no com.android.Launcher3 anywhere to be found. Instead, we see a file path of "/system/app/GoogleHome.apk" (reminds me of BlurHome.apk (!) on my old Flipside), a package ID of "com.google.android.gel," and a user-readable name of "Google Experience". Well, let's see what kind of Java package hierarchy many, if not most, of Google's Play Store apps have in them, shall we?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox (Google Search)

Given Google's claim of "making an awesome Android experience available to everyone" in Android 4.4's promo page, it only seems natural, then, that what Google may be throwing at carriers and manufacturers is the unthinkable: the official home screen, of stock Android 4.4, being tied to Google Play Services and slapped right onto the Google Play Store. This, of course, would basically render any attempt to block Android updates on old devices practically useless, since people could get the KitKat home screen in all it's glory on a Froyo system and have the functionality of the very Android versions that carriers and manufacturers are trying to prevent without even having to update their devices in the first place.

To me, this seems like a good move by Google, showing carriers and manufacturers who's boss...