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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!

  • gallery69

    Basically, Verizon sucks. I knew this would happen.  Back to GSM I go.  Bastards.

  • why yes that makes perfect sense, stop the company that makes the operating system for your device from having what they need to do so.

  • Anonymous

    It’s weird that they keep mentioning the bootloader like they really are contemplating locking it.

  • So, is this essentially saying that there will never be another Nexus developer device released on a CDMA network?  If so, how long before Verizon enables VoLTE to satisfy “The Powers That Be”?

    • Tim242

      That is not at all what they said.

  • Balls

    id like a more specific response, rather than some ‘cdma is hard technology to work with guys , mah B’

  • Anonymous

    I am glad they ‘Clarified” what they(Google) had meant. But, as said in the end of the post, this all could have been avoided had they just said this in the beginning. Only the devs, seemed to know what it meant from the start.  As the average consumer was worked into a frantic hysteria over wether or not they were bamboozeled by Big Red and the Green Machine aka El’ Goog.

    • Tim242

      The average consumer wasn’t worked into anything
      It was the melodramatic drama queen geeks that got all bent out of shape for nothing.

  • Anonymous

    I love how Google picks and chooses what it will make statements about. How about an official statement on why the 4.0.3 update for the Nexus S was pulled. How about a statement on when the updates will roll out again. How about a statement on why  most Android devices loose their connection to Google services (
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Mobile/thread?tid=7c7a962fd3ae87e2&hl=en). How about a statement on why apps from other markets show as purchased in the Android Market (

  • ddevito

    I’m running a custom ROM anyway…

    But does this officially mean we’re never going to get updates (directly) from Google?

    Do we have to wait for VZW for them? That would be deflating.

    • Tim242

      Ummm all carrier Nexus devices have to have their updates go through carriers.This is the case for the Nexus S, and Galaxy Nexus. This was explained in detail by Google, and Droid-Life 🙂

  • babadush

    This reeks of Verizon

    • Philip A. Kaiser

      Was thinking the same. You could see a fight coming the second free tethering was successful. In VZW’s eye’s, unofficial tethering is stealing.

      • Tim242

        So, Verizon controls all CDMA devices, like the Sprint Nexus S? Did you not understand or comprehend what you read?

        • Philip A. Kaiser

          Wow….Yes, I did miss the part about the Nexus S on Sprint. Thanks for using such a dickish way of pointing that out. When did people become so rude?

          • Tim242

            Not sure how you missed it. It has been in every article about this matter. Sorry for seeming dickish about it…it just gets old watching people overreact, and especially blaming Verizon for everything. My apologies.

    • Tim242

      So, Verizon controls all CDMA devices, like the Sprint Nexus S? Did you not understand or comprehend what you read?

  • sparticus

    so this probably means no true cm support for us.

    • Anonymous

      What? Of course there will be official cm support! This really is No big deal…honestly 😉

    • angermeans

      Did you read any of the article? Nothing has changed we will still have cm . I can’t believe no one reads something like this and I have to keep writing this message.

      • Tim242

        I know! I think they get off on bitching about anything.

  • Maybe lack of sleep, but to me sounds like they are using a play of words for legal reason, drop the word “supported” next to it on the list and still continue as normal. Loopholes. gotta love them

  • word

  • Anonymous

    From Droid-Life article
    “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.”
    What  Jean-Baptiste Queru told me…I know it is bull but I wonder if Verizon is going to step in when devs continue to do what we do…

    1:44 PM (4 hours ago)to android-contribIf Google leaves the extract script in place then you can pull thefiles that are needed to build AOSP properly for the GNex.  You canalso pull the files from any OTA updates.  Like in the new 4.0.4leaked version 🙂
    Jean-Baptiste [email protected]:46 PM (4 hours ago)to android-contribNote that you can’t do that without having appropriate licenses fromthe owners of all those files.

  • Anonymous

    They watered down the Nexus name claiming it is still a dev phone because you can create apps.  For the people who wanted to work with AOSP may take it differently though.

    You can create an app using the most locked down Moto phone but that does not make it a dev phone…

    • Nick

      How do you figure that?

      The device still:
      -Has an unlocked bootloader
      -Recieves Updates from Google
      -Has the source posted by Google and the AOSP images can be built. Google cannot legally say that they support the building of it, because it requires certain signed binary files that Google cannot yet legally distribute. Those files just have to be pulled from the device like the rom developers are doing already.

      • Anonymous

        Every Nexus device was supported by AOSP until it’s end of life.  This is the first Nexus device that has custom software (besides the CDMA stuff), no Google logo on the back and not to be supported by AOSP. The Vodafone Nexus One had some custom stuff on the software but was still supported by AOSP.

        No one from Google has said that Google will be pushing the updates so we do not know that 100% yet. All they said is the the Galaxy Nexus will still get timely updates.  What is timely can be defined by whoever.  The Nexus S 4G is just bout to get ICS while the GSM Nexus S has had it for over a month.

        Since you bring up things from a legal stand point, legally you need a license to pull and redistribute the files.  Check my other post, right above the one your responded too. Jean-Baptiste Queru has sated that in a response to me. I know it is BS and will not stop anyone unless Verizon or whoever owns the CDMA crap starts sending cease and desist letters. They pulled crap with Google so who is to say they not do the same to devs. Only time will tell.

        Google stating that it is a dev phone because you can still create apps on it is a joke. Do you want Moto calling their  locked down phones a dev phone because you can create apps on it?

  • QtDL

    So in summary…..VZW has Google by the balls??

    • Nick

      whoever owns the licenses to those CDMA patents does, it applies to the CDMA sprint nexus s 4G too.

    • Tim242

      Because Verizon owns CDMA, right? Verizon also controls Sprint’s phones. Uggggh.

      • QtDL

         Geez sorry. I have no experience w/ Sprint so I didn’t know what network they use. I went w/ VZW simply b/c they have a history of making things difficult for us.


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  • Anonymous

    It sounds like Google has tried to get the proper licensing but someone isn’t playing nice…so…they have to drop support officially until they can work something out.  Hopefully they’re able to.

  • Dude


    Possibly you!!!

    • Anonymous

      It’s the fah king Catalina Wine Mixer…

    • Anonymous

      Just let the dirt shooooower over you………..Prestige Worldwide 4-Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • Steve

      Keith Sumner A.K.A douche bag ! isn’t it ha ha ha ha I mean its not all one word, is it douche?

    • What was the point of your post? If you hate the Nexus trolls, imagine how much more annoying you’re being.

      Drop the childish crap, everyone. This is a place to discuss the article, but instead it’s been turned into a s**t throwing match. Just stop.

      • angermeans

        Amen. I sometimes have to look up to make sure I’m on Droid life and not engadget or gizmodo.

    • wait and on your device you can do what? oh that’s right you can’t even dream of having vanilla unless it’s hacked  on. get a life and go out in the sun for a while you clown. or do the world a favor and off yourself.

    • duh

    • Anonymous

      Your wife is fat and you’re dumb.

      Yeah, I went there.

    • Tim242

      You make no sense. Can you comprehend? Nothing has changed!

  • Steve

    Why did it ever have it in the first place then?

  • So basically it’s this: New ROMs will be using old radios. Radios will only be update when we get a leak like what happened with 4.0.4.

    It doesn’t change much.

    • EC8CH

      That’s kind of the bottom line as I see it to us end users.  Anyone else able to confirm that’s what the implications of this will be?

      • Nick

        Not even this. When ASOP source is released it will include the new radios. However, certain signed files will have to be pulled from the device to build the source.

        • PC_Tool

          …so we’ll be stuck with “4.0.2” binaries, while running the 4.0.n AOSP builds.

          …which still sucks to varying degrees and could introduce…issues….but I suppose it is better than nothing.

          (Actually, it doesn’t seem all that different from the Fascinate.  We’d be stuck with old drivers that we’d have to hack the hell out of AOSP to support until we got some newer binaries from an actual *release*.)

          • why do people keep thinking this. Verizon/Samsung will update the binaries including radios when they do the rest of the line. LIKE THEY ALWAYS HAVE.

          • PC_Tool

            Chris, read my post again.

            I never stated we’d not see updated binaries. My point in example: We have 4.0.3 AOSP code right now. But *no* OTA from which to pull 4.0.3 binaries from. (Amazingly, we have no 4.0.4 code…but binaries for 4.0.4…)

            It’s messed up…and always has been, but now there is more reason to fear that the AOSP code will hit and we will still be working with older binaries until VZW/Sammy release them. If VZW/Sammy delays the binaries multiple AOSP releases, we could see some pretty major incompatibilities. (I am not saying this *will* happen)

            Example again: 4.0.3 came and went…no Sammy/VZW update. 4.0.4 gave us an update (leaked…)..but what if they’d waited until 4.0.8? AOSP would have dropped source for all builds in between…but we’d be using 4.0.2 binaries to run ’em all. (Again, I am not saying this *will* happen, just stating how being at the mercy of manufacturer/carrier isn’t the land of roses and honey everyone seems to be trying to insinuate here…)


          • ahhhh makes sense then. AOSP is being handled poorly. Hopefully they correct that. And HOPEFULLY VZW/Samsung will release the binaries in a TIMELY fashion. We all know their track record. lol.

  • Jim McClain

    and what support would that be?

  • Lmrojas

    Eh, buy an iPhone /s

    • duh

    • Wow, this makes so much sense:

      “Google won’t give us the means to easily build new ROMs from source, so the best thing to do is go get a completely closed phone that will never be open source.”

  • Boblevel

    Yea, a little ‘heads-up’ from Google beforehand would have saved a WHOLE lot of hand-wringing..

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, in hindsight that would have been a good idea, but I bet they never expected any sort of backlash or media buzz.

      • Anonymous

        It would also help if those reporting on this topic were more informed and accurate. Unfortunately, posting sensationalist headlines and making a big deal out of nothing gets lots of traffic for the bloggers.

        This really changes nothing. I compiled an AOSP ROM over a month ago and still needed to pull the proprietary radio drivers/baseband to make it work.

      • angermeans

        When it comes to android/nexus they should know they would get backlash esp when pulling aosp support. There really is no meaning for thwm to not bring this up unless they are in talks with cdma partners and pulled support to show them how upset people would be.

  • Derek Stiles

    So where do I go to get the hardware files for toro now?  I just started trying to build from source and noticed they were gone.

    • You pull them from the device. You can always ask the good folks of CM or any other dev on Google+ how to do it (I only say that because you should get used to talking to them, because they will be helping you a lot).

      • Derek Stiles

        Thanks.  I created a flashable zip yesterday but couldn’t get past the activation screen.  I’m assuming it has to do with the hardware binaries.

    • Anonymous

      This is what is Jean-Baptiste Queru stated in the group in reply to my question…
      Jean-Baptiste [email protected]:06 PM (3 hours ago)to android-contrib

      “None of the files have been removed, at least not intentionally.
      Unless something is wrong, they’re still on the drivers page, butthey’ve been moved all the way to the bottom, and aren’t linked fromthe table of content.”

      • Derek Stiles

        I see it now.  Thanks.

  • Tl;dr everything’s fine, shut up

    • kevin

      tl;dr not fine.

      We will not be able to build AOSP without hacking it together.  We likely never will be unless the entire way android is built is changed, which most likely won’t happen just for CDMA users.  If you are at all interested in custom roms, don’t expect to ever see a TRUE AOSP build for the Toro, as it is simply impossible without the keys being distributed, which would in turn compromise the security of every Toro out there.

      • Tim242

        They’ll just pull them from the phone.

      • Anonymous

        False. You can still build pure aosp as long as you have a physical device to extract the proprietary binaries (using files in aosp).

        • Anonymous

          i still think somebody needs to jump qualcomms case.

          • PC_Tool


      • Anonymous

        Kevin, do you build ROM’s?

      • angermeans

        you obviously did not read nor do you have any idea how AOSP is built. You can build AOSP from the GSM builds and it will work, but data, calls, and text will not. That is because the binaries needed are through the carriers and the people like qualcomm that make the chips and although android is open sourced the code for these are very much closed and always have been and always will this has not changed. It sounds like Google has never had rights to distribute this and they are signed by different keys than the keys Google uses to sign Android aosp. This has not kept us from ever seeing aosp builds in the past and unless something happens it womt in the future. Devs will continue to get these signed proprietary software pkgs off the devices them self but Google doesnr have the rights to give them on developer.android.com so they simply updated the site.

        I cant believe I spent ten minutes writing exactly what kellex and the multiple people the last couple days have done when you could have just read it so please stop fear mongering and/or educate yourself. Please!

      • you’re obviously a developer who knows how to build source roms…. oh wait, your whole statement contradicts that. It’s easy as pie to build from source for toro and pulling the necessary keys for cdma support is even easier.

      • Jdstell

        Wow. You need to read the post again…