On a frigid January day in 2010, Googlechanged Android forever by introducing the Nexus One. This pure Google device was to be the first in a series of phones that showed off the unaltered Android platform in all its glory. It was called a “superphone” by Google at the event, but less than two years later, the Nexus One has reached end-of-life. Google has announced that the Nexus One won’t be updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).
According to Google’s Hugo Barra, the Nexus One is just too old to run Android 4.0. This caused many Nexus owners to collectively scratch their heads. The Nexus One has a 1GHz Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC), 512MB of RAM, and a WVGA screen. On the surface, this sounds a lot like the Nexus S, which will be first in line for the Android 4.0 update. So what’s wrong with Google’s original baby?
Let’s start with the Snapdragon S1 SoC, which is downright old, having first shipped in 2009. The clock speed is fine, but the chip does less work each clock cycle than newer Qualcomm processors. Of greater concern is the Adreno 200 GPU which is capable of just a fraction of the performance seen in other GPUs. Android 4.0 makes use of hardware acceleration for 2D drawing, so a sluggish GPU could be an issue.
Perhaps the most serious impediment to the Nexus One getting Ice Cream Sandwich is the small storage space. We aren’t talking about user-accessible SD storage, but the internal ROM where apps and the operating system reside. The Nexus One was designed by Google and HTC to have just 512MB of ROM, 190MB of which was dedicated to user apps.
Anyone that used the Nexus for any length of time probably remembers bumping up against that storage limit. ICS is going to be larger than Gingerbread was, and it is very possible that it just doesn’t fit on the internal storage, or if it does, it might take up a large part of the app storage space. This would not be an upgrade in the true sense of the word for users.
But it doesn’t end there…
So these shortcomings are more than likely colluding to keep the Nexus One from getting a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich, but what about otherphones? The Nexus One was such a big deal when it came out that it was used as the template for other phones like the HTC Desire, Droid Incredible, and HTC Evo 4G. There are a few differences here that may offer some hope, but things are looking grim for these phones too.
All these devices run on the same Snapdragon S1 SoC that the Nexus One uses, with the same Adreno 200 GPU, but the Evo and Incredible have a bit more internal ROM space. If that was the deciding factor, they might still be able to handle Ice Cream Sandwich. The HTC Desire has almost identical specs to the Nexus, so it’s certainly in the same boat.
Even if the hardware supports ICS, we know that HTC would prefer to move on from these old phones. The company attempted to avoid building a Gingerbread ROM for the Desire, citing its low storage space. Eventually HTC relented and got the update out, but that does not bode well for an Android 4.0 update.
All told, the Nexus One will have had full support for roughly 22 months by the time ICS arrives in November. Given the issues with Android updates, this is about as good as it gets. Users that want Ice Cream Sandwich on their Nexus Ones will likely have to root and go the custom ROM route. The community is sure to strip the OS down to make it fit on the Nexus’ limited system partition, if at all possible. However, with official support ending, this feels like the end of the line for an iconic device.