A couple of days ago Samsung’s arm in the US made an official statement about updates to Android 4.4 KitKat for its devices – specifically, those sold in the US of A. 14 different models made the list, and they should all get the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system at some point (with rollouts already commencing for some handsets). Back then we told you not to think that the international variants of the devices on that list would necessarily be updated too.
And it turns out we were right to caution you. Today a list of internationally sold Samsung devices that will get updated to KitKat surfaced in Poland, where a local blogger got in touch with a Samsung spokesperson to nail things down.
The good news is that this list is even bigger than the US-centric one, with 17 devices on it: Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Mega 6.3, Galaxy Mega 5.8, Galaxy Grand, Galaxy Express 2, Galaxy Note 10.1, Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, Galaxy Note 8.0, Galaxy Tab 3 7.0, Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, and Galaxy Grand 2 LTE. Some of these may jump directly to 4.4, and others that are running older software versions may still receive some interim updates as well.
The bad news is that, as you may have gathered, the Galaxy S III isn’t on the list. Yes, that means that the company’s flagship from two years ago will only see KitKat for its versions sold in the US (and maybe Canada as well). Samsung’s reasoning for this is incredibly ironic – apparently there’s not enough RAM in the internationally sold model for the update to work well. The Galaxy S III has 1 GB of RAM internationally. Let’s all remember how Google made a big fuss about KitKat being extremely well optimized for running on devices with as low as 512 MB of RAM… so this clearly isn’t the fault of the OS itself, but once again it’s TouchWiz getting in the way.
Samsung’s pretty heavy UI overlay has long been criticized for, well, being too heavy – occupying too much space, and consuming too many resources (one of the most important ones being, you guessed it, RAM). So while ‘vanilla’ KitKat may run soundly on devices with just 512 MB of RAM, and it has no problems doing the same thing on, say, the Moto G (which has 1 GB), the i9300 Galaxy S III will never see this version of the OS. Because TouchWiz.
There’s going to be pushback here, and if there is enough, maybe Samsung will reconsider – although it’s not done so in the past (for example, when it decided the Galaxy S II would be stuck on Android 4.1 forever), so don’t get your hopes up. Finally, this information has been clearly stated to be valid for “all countries”, not just Poland.