Android 4.0 is a major rollup release that unifies the tablet (Android 3, aka Honeycomb) and smartphone (Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread) branches of the Android platform. While Google claims it can run on a broad range of devices, including low-end devices, the platform requires a dedicated GPU and more memory than what most older devices included.
The Korean manufacturer has committed to updating all Galaxy S II variants, the 5-inch Galaxy Note, and the current-generation of Galaxy Tab units. No timetable was offered beyond a commitment to release Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) in early 2012 as a free update.
This release appears to be internationalized, it does not list any country-specific devices, and leaves many questions for even just-launched Samsung Android devices. Many devices like the Samsung Exhibit II on T-Mobile, and Stratosphere 4G on Verizon are considered to be original Galaxy S phones, and not Galaxy S II, despite launching near or alongside the Galaxy S II.
HTC, Motorola and other rival manufacturers have yet to offer complete lists of software updates, though most current Android devices launching are gaining assurances to also be upgraded to Android 4. Google has indicated that most Android 2.3 devices could be upgraded to Android 4, however, the heightened GPU requirements can give manufacturers an easy out. Manufacturers can simply claim that Android 4 would not provide the “best experience” possible without more graphical power.
Google has embraced low-end Android 4 devices with MIPS processors and dedicated GPUs, as well as encouraged all Android manufacturers to update devices to all future Android versions for at least two years after release. Unfortunately, manufacturers, including Samsung, have been hesitant and significantly delayed in doing so, many times even abandoning devices long before their end-user’s contracts are ready for renewal.