Sunday, May 3, 2009

Android Cupcake backward compatibility challenge

Not everything about the Cupcake is sweet, both for users and software developers. Android Cupcake 1.5 is an update to the existing mobile OS made by Google, as part of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA).

The first aim of creating Android is to build a mobile OS that will give freedom to mobile manufacturers, developers, and wireless carriers to tailor it according to their needs. But unfortunately, to aim for such grandeur scheme also requires a bigger sacrifice: backward compatibility.

Android Cupcake also fell into the same fate as the iPhone OS 3.0 software update, where old apps written in old SDK will no longer compatible with the latest firmware. Google already tried to help devs to port the old apps with some tips and tricks, but not everything work smoothly.

And to make things worse, Google pushed Cupcake via OTA in only two days when the final version of Cupcake 1.5 SDK released to devs. Software devs must port all of their old apps into the new Cupcake within two days to ensure backward compatibility since Android Market does NOT let you target specific build to different versions of apps, even if they managed to do so, the new apps will probably contain bugs because hurried and untested.

Big In Japan, the maker of the famous ShopSavvy app for Android says this about the Cupcake hassle in their blog:

“This might not sound difficult, but porting to cupcake is a task that would take a week or two of development and at least a week of beta testing. Add in the requirement that it must be backwards compatible adds another week of development. But alas, we must do all of this work in two days. ... My biggest concern is that we are better prepared than most. How many applications will go unupdated or tested? Will new Android users assume Android sucks when all of the applications force close? Perception of the market is key to Androids success..."

In the end, users will feel the last chain of reaction from this new Cupcake 1.5 update. Where they must take extra precautions on updating or not, because it’s highly possible the purchased apps that are installed in their Android handset will not work with the new update. And it’ll depend on the software devs whether to charge an extra fee for the new apps which are compatible with the new update or not?

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