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Google limits Android support for CDMA phones

Android power users may face hobbled handsets

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Google is dropping full support for CDMA handsets running Android, leaving millions of customers wondering if their phones and tablets will be able to cope.

Last Friday, Google posted a message on Google Groups to say that in the future, the Chocolate Factory wouldn’t provide full support for CDMA devices, such as those supported by Verizon – and, presumably, China Telecom and other CDMA-system users. It also amended the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) website

“For various technical reasons, recent CDMA Android devices implement core telephony functionality in .apk files provided in binary form by the carriers,” said the posting. “To function correctly, these .apk files must be signed by the so-called 'platform' key. However, when an individual creates a custom build from the AOSP source code, they don't use the same signing key as these CDMA flies were signed with. The result is that these files don't work properly, and pure AOSP builds running on these devices can't place calls, access mobile data, and so on. “

The news caused a storm of protest among users concerned that their handsets, like the recently launched Samsuing Galaxy Nexus, would no longer be supported. Many suggested this was a result of Google’s ongoing spat with Verizon over the Google Wallet payment system. On Monday, however, Google clarified its position, saying that there was no need for panic: mainstream devices would still be supported, just not custom builds.

“Just to be clear this change is only related to AOSP support for these devices – that is, personal custom builds,” said a new posting from Android engineer Dan Morrill. “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.”

While this answer will reassure many, there are still questions over the issues that linger, particularly for Android power users who are looking to customize their own handsets. There's also uncertainty about what this new policy might mean for CDMA users of Android worldwide, and if other devices such as tablets running Android will be effected.

El Reg contacted Google for clarification, but no answer has yet been received. ®

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