Somewhat concerning news is coming in that Google has removed all references of CDMA hardware from their developer pages. Not only has all information regarding CDMA devices been removed from the documentation, but the source code and firmware images for individual devices such as the Motorola XOOM and even the flagship Galaxy Nexus is gone.
An official statement from Google clarifies their position:
For various technical reasons, recent CDMA Android devices implement core telephony functionality in .apk files provided in binary form by the carriers. 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. Because we aim to make sure that we are as clear as possible about the degree of support that devices have, we updated the docs over at source.android.com to reflect this reality.
CDMA is the cellular technology used primarily in the US by Verizon Wireless and Sprint, and could be considered the competitor to the more common GSM, which is used by essentially every other cellular company on the planet. This change in Google’s policy basically means that the extra difficulty involved in supporting devices from Verizon and Sprint made them incompatible with the open nature of Android, so they’ve been dropped. More to the point, it also means that CDMA devices will no longer be considered full fledged development devices, which may have a far reaching impact on which carriers will be getting “Nexus” devices in the future.
What Does This Mean?
This change is unquestionably going to have the biggest effect on the Galaxy Nexus, Google’s current flagship device, which is available exclusively as a CDMA device in the US. Until a GSM version of the Galaxy Nexus is officially available in the US, the only Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) development phone available in America is the T-Mobile and AT&T version of the Nexus S. The Nexus S is now over a year old, and while still a respectable device, it’s a far cry from the industry leading Galaxy Nexus hardware.
In addition, this change may also mean that future Android updates for the devices like the Galaxy Nexus will be coming from the carrier, rather than directly from Google as previously promised for Nexus devices. For people who bought their Galaxy Nexus expecting a “pure Google” Android experience, this could be a very big disappointment.