While Dell held the honor of introducing the first HSPA+-enabled tablet in the USA, it now holds the dishonor of failing to upgrade it to the promised version 3.2 of Android.
T-Mobile leveraged the announcement of the Streak 7 at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, touting it as enabling the carrier to roll out the nation’s largest 4G network, arguing HSPA+ as a 4G network overlay. The Dell Streak 7 was integral in T-Mobile being able to effectively market their new network enhancements as being a true 4G rival to Sprint Nextel & Clearwire’s WiMAX network at the time.
Citing carrier requirements and other ambiguities, Dell said it would make good on its promise to upgrade the unlocked 3G version of the Streak 7, and the Wi-Fi only version, but that T-Mobile USA customers would be left (likely forever) at Android 2.2 “Froyo”.
Dell did not specify what requirements prevented the T-Mobile Streak 7 4G from being upgraded to Android 3.2 “Honeycomb”. T-Mobile has not commented on the matter.
The problem likely circles around demand; despite having one of the most powerful 7-inch tablets on the market, Dell has struggled to pull in single-digit percentage sales versus Apple’s iPad. Dell has already discontinued its 5-inch tablet, the Dell Streak 5, and is currently only selling the 10-inch Dell Streak 10 in China.
The T-Mobile version of the Dell Streak 7 is likely the lowest-volume variant in terms of sales. Faced with potentially tens of thousands of dollars in testing and engineering costs, to service potentially only several thousand customers, it is possible Dell is simply aiming to cut its losses, and prepare for its next generation of tablets. Neither Dell nor T-Mobile have offered any sales breakdowns or numbers in regards to the Streak family.
The Dell Streak 7, despite lacking “with Google” branding, is the first tablet to receive an officially-supported upgrade from Android 2.x to Android 3.x. The Streak 7 was originally supposed to be upgraded to Android 3.0, but the update was delayed to Android 3.2, due to Android 3.0 and 3.1 lacking support for seven-inch tablets.
Google has been pushing manufacturers to support their devices with at least two-years of compatible Android updates. The HTC Flyer, and its carrier-branded variants, is expected to also be upgraded to Android 3.2 in the near future. The Galaxy Tab 7-inch, the first mainstream seven inch tablet, will likely not be upgraded to Honeycomb, as it and other seven-inch tablets like Nook Color lack the graphical hardware acceleration necessary to properly handle the holographic UI, and other Honeycomb advancements.
Google was expected to announce Android 4 “Ice Cream Sandwich” today, at CTIA Wireless Enterprise & Applications, but delayed the announcements amid the passing of Steve Jobs, and patent concerns with Samsung flagship devices.