Android Figure lineup

Google may finally be cracking down on Android fragmentation in a serious way. A recent report from Android Police suggests the Internet giant is pressuring its manufacturing partners to ship newer versions of its mobile OS or risk releasing a new device that’s missing Google Play and the company’s other essential apps.

This package of app store and pre-installed apps, called Google Mobile Services (GMS), exists separately from the Android Open Source Project. According to a chart obtained by Android Police, Google recently began enforcing a GMS approval window for each version of its mobile OS which lasts until about nine months after its initial release.

google android release window chart

As you can see in the chart above, which Android Police says it has fact checked against multiple sources, manufacturers can no longer submit new devices that run anything older than Android 4.2, since that GSM approval window closed on Feb. 1. This won’t be an issue for manufacturers who choose not to provide Google’s suite of apps, but for companies that rely on Google Play, Gmail, Maps and the rest of GMS these new restrictions will mean they need to launch devices with newer software.

For most of us using the latest smartphones from Samsung, LG and Motorola this won’t mean much of a change, but on the low-end it could lead to some real improvements.