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A worthy manufacturer

2 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hi,

I just plan to buy some Android hardware. Originally I thought a phone would be best, but seeing tablets start from $99, I just can not imagine how throwing in a GSM raido triples the cost, as phones start form around $250...

Anyway... as 2.3 comes out and most manufacturers do not even bother to upgrade their products to 2.2 a question arises: Is there any manufacturer who has their firmware open-sourced, so the community would not need to get the compiled drivers form some similar phones?

And is there any such phone accepted by a decent developer community, who bother to recompile and push out upgrades regularly?

I'm new with Android, but I have some miles in my boots as a developer. I just don't understand why the 2.2 -> 2.3 upgrade is such a painful process. Android itself is open-sourced AFAIK, and I don't think the new version requires the individual drivers to change their API-s significantly (correct me if I'm wrong). The only obstacle I can think of comes from the closed-source nature of drivers provided by manufacturers (such as LG or Samsung).

Any suggestion is welcome.

Edited by vbence
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Posted (edited)

Two years passed without a single answer. I think I will share my understanding of the Android world and the root of the problems we all share. If you are interested in the topic you will find Steve Kondik's talk about CyanogenMod and its relation to manufacturers interesting. It is revealing and very enjoyable too.

Steve Kondik's presentation:

Q and A session:

Back to the original question: There is currently no such manufacturer. Causes:

  • SoC manufactureres (Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, TI etc.): today's phones are driven by a so called system-on-a-chip, a single chip acommodating CPU, GPU, memory and other controllers which are needed for an embedded computer. Their SDK's are not public, their "drivers" are neither opensource nor distributed in a usable binary way (due to "competitive reasons").
  • Poor design of Android: Manufacturers want their phones to have the best possible performance (and you want that too). But the insufficient design of Android's (Linux-based) core makes them hack the living hell out of the kernel, like add custom parameters to function calls to directly access some things and circumvent the kernel's original logic. - This way the "driver" can not be put in a generic kernel because it is only compatible with the vendor's custom kernel.

    Not-so-terrible manufacturers:
    • Google: their phones (Nexus) have the longest lifespan in terms of firmware support.
    • Sony: they recently open-sourced their sensor framework and released the drivers they could (in binary forms).

      The future:

      • There are some signs that Google may open a Nexus-like program for all the manufacturers, so everyone will get early access to the next version of Android. - Maybe they will accept patches too.
      • With better engineering, and along the way kernels might become compatible across manufacturers.

      The dark future:

      [*]In the meantime (with Jellybean) Google closed the possibility of extracting binaries from a running device (the way modders could get their hands on binaries).

      Disclaimer: I might be wrong in one or more things, please add your thoughts.

Edited by vbence
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