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Motorola, Sony Give Ice Cream Sandwich Taster

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Motorola and Sony Ericsson have said how they will deliver the Android Ice Cream Sandwich update

Peppered with questions about when their phones will get the upgrade to Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, Motorola Mobility and Sony Ericsson provided more clarity on the upgrade process for bringing their smartphones up to the next Android build.

In short, both Android OEMs conduct a lot of code stabilisation, testing, debugging and certification.

Merged version

Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS, marries the Android smartphone and Honeycomb tablet branches, including some of the holographic user interface perks and software navigation keys for which Honeycomb is known.

Android Beam lets users tap together two ICS-enabled phones to share files, YouTube videos, applications and other content. ICS also leverages the graphics processor and camera in phones to let users unlock their phones through facial recognition.

One thing many people don’t realise is that when Google open sources new Android code, it doesn’t just fly over the air to users’ homes. There is a political and technical process. As Motorola noted, each new version of Android launches with one OEM via a “Google Experience Device”.

For example, HTC built the first Nexus One, while Samsung crafted the Nexus S Android 2.3 Gingerbread handset and the new ICS-based Galaxy Nexus phone. Google and Samsung worked together closely to build those devices, which are also the first to get upgrades from Google’s Android team.

“Once that GED device ships, the rest of the Android community gains access to the Android source code as it’s made public shortly after – a critical milestone for device manufacturers and component suppliers, enabling us to start work on integrating the new release into our existing products,” Motorola wrote in a blog post on 7 December.

New code

Now that the Galaxy Nexus is out, in the UK at least, Motorola said it is assessing this source code and will spend the rest of the month deciding which of its devices will get the upgrade and when. Motorola handsets, such as the Motorola Droid Razr, Droid Bionic, Motorola Razr and the Motorola Xoom tablet, will get ICS.

Motorola outlined its go-ahead process for upgrading to ICS in this blog post.

Sony Ericsson, which has said all of its 2011 Xperia-branded Android handsets, has a “bring-up phase” to make ICS stable followed by a certification and approval phase.

Sony said its engineers started revving up their Xperias with ICS November 14, the same day the ICS source code became available. The engineers tested the code to make sure it compiles correctly and debugged it. Read the rest of Sony’s technical details here on the company’s developer blog.

With the Galaxy Nexus out to whet the appetites of users for ICS, HTC, LG and other Android OEMs are also working hard on preparing their hardware for ICS.