According to a Google memo that was allegedly leaked, all new Android smartphones must come with Android 4.4 KitKat pre-installed. And that includes handsets with lower and mid-range specifications as well as flagship phones.
Budget and mid-level phones, such as the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Core LTE, traditionally ship with older forms of Google's operating system, with software upgrades to more current versions arriving anywhere up to a year later. But that is about to change if the memo is real.
According to Mobile Bloom, the document was sent by the Android team at Google to at least one major Android OEM partner. It states:"Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases. Each platform release will have a 'GMS approval window' that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available."
Without Google Mobile Services (GMS) approval a phone would be without core Google apps, such as Maps, Hangouts and Google Now. There's a possibility this would apply to Google Play access too.
If true, this will come as something of a shock to manufacturers, especially those who dabble in devices for the Third World or who rely on "my first smartphone" sales to bolster their profits. Ensuring that the specifications for those handsets are of a high enough level to run Android 4.4 smoothly could raise prices at that end of the market, effectively making it redundant.
Either that or manufacturers could turn to other operating systems for their budget smartphones, such as Firefox or, ahem, Tizen. Now there's a thing...