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Google Offers Further Clarification on Why They Removed “Support” for CDMA Devices in AOSP Like the Galaxy Nexus

After Friday’s bombshell concerning the LTE Galaxy Nexus losing official AOSP “support” from Google was barely addressed, a somewhat deeper explanation as to what this means has finally been delivered. According to Android engineer Dan Morril, the device is still a supported “Nexus” device for “everyday use” and will receive updates and all that jazz. Google is just now making it public that they can’t lock down licenses for CDMA binaries like they do with GSM, therefore they cannot distribute them. So to have their developer pages represented appropriately, they have to say that “no CDMA devices are supported.”

Full message below.  

Hi, all! Thanks for all the questions. Here’s a quick omnibus to answer the questions folks have asked…

First, just to be clear this change is only related to AOSP support for these devices — that is, personal custom builds. These are obviously still officially-supported Nexus devices for everyday use, they will receive official software updates, and so on. Similarly, these are still fully-supported development devices for app developers.

Second, as I noted at the top of the thread, Nexus devices will still have unlocked bootloaders, and we’ll continue to make available as many of the closed-source binaries as we can. CDMA support in AOSP has always been more challenging than GSM, and this change is a reflection of that reality.

On that topic, here’s a quick clarification on the core issue. Every device has a number of closed-source software packages included on it. Though Google distributes some of these binaries for Nexus devices for use with AOSP, Google does not own the software. Rather, this software is variously owned by the device manufacturer, the carrier, and their suppliers. We try to get distribution rights for as many of these binaries as possible, but in some cases it is difficult or impossible to obtain these rights. (CDMA specifically has a tricky history of intellectual property.) Combined with the technical issues of needing to sign the apks correctly, this has prevented us from obtaining the distribution rights we need to support these devices in AOSP.

Finally, we will of course continue to work on improving support. If we can resolve these issues, we’ll certainly restore CDMA support to AOSP. In the meantime, we’ve updated our docs to be more accurate about the degree of support.

Again, CDMA is simply a pain in the ass.

But what about our custom ROM community? This shouldn’t ruin the experience for our ROM developers either in case you were wondering. From what I have been told, these CDMA binaries are usually pulled from the devices themselves, so if Google isn’t distributing them, things should still be fine (as long as they know what they are doing). When new source is dropped, it can still be used for the LTE Nexus (“toro”). The thing here, is that the title of being “supported” isn’t there for now. I think we can all live with that as long as we continue to receive support like we expected when we bought this phone.

If you want even more technical details on this CDMA licensing issue, Jean-Baptiste Queru has you covered.

Funny thing is, a blog post over at their Android Developers site before they made this change would have solved this all. We can talk about the action bar and the death of the menu bar, but not talk about a pretty massive re-classification of what it means to be an AOSP device? Interesting.

Via:  Google Groups

Cheers Angelo and Pete!

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