This won’t be much of a surprise if you’ve been following this space lately, but during a keynote at MWC, Eric Schmidt confirmed that the next version of Android will merge Gingerbread and Honeycomb together.
After we heard that Honeycomb was indeed just for tablet devices, many people (including myself) thought that Google was consciously putting a fork into their mobile operating system. Apparently the next version of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will merge the tablet-only version and Gingerbread together, and will take aim at fragmentation issues. We’re not sure how this will be done, as there are still a nice chunk of people running on Android 2.1 and below.
One of the features in Honeycomb that may make its way down to Ice Cream Sandwich is fragments. Fragments on Honeycomb give specific information in different panels of an application to help fill up some of the extra screen real estate. On smartphones, however, if fragments are to be implemented, you may not even notice. An Android smartphone’s screen would just be too small to add in these panels, and it likely wouldn’t look all that great, either.
I believe that fragments will allow Honeycomb applications to run on Ice Cream Sandwich, but only show one panel at a time. This makes sense in many ways as it would tackle some application compatibility issues, and make it easier for developers to make applications for multiple versions of the OS without a lot of re-tooling.
Since compatibility is likely the biggest hurdle of the bridge between the two versions of the OS, we can expect to see much of Honeycomb’s look and feel to make its way down to Ice Cream Sandwich.
Schmidt also mentioned that Android’s update cycle will be around 6 months from now on. While this isn’t the “one update a year” cycle that Andy Rubin had stated before, hopefully the cycle is slow enough for handset makers to get updates out before they are already outdated.