Will Verduzco · Aug 7, 2013 at 05:00 pm

New Nexus 7 Factory Images Not Available; JBQ Leaves AOSP

Now that’s a doozy, isn’t it? Before proceeding, let’s take a moment for that to better sink in. In addition to support from the AOSP, one of the hallmarks of the Nexus program has traditionally been the availability of factory restore images. This is more than a simple convenience for Nexus device owners. Rather, it allows for users to safely and reliably restore their devices to their factory state.

As a result of the availability of factory restore images, Nexus device owners always had a safety net available for when (not “if” here at XDA) they decide to leave the confines of stock software and venture into the realm of aftermarket development. And the loading of unsupported firmware was always a relatively supported task, as evidenced by the availability of the simple command fastboot oem unlock.

There have been minor inconveniences along the way, however, as exemplified by the Nexus One and Nexus 4 factory images. Ultimately, these issues were all resolved in some way or another. For the Nexus One, HTC was able to release factory images. And for the Nexus 4, Google released the images after some time had passed. However one thing links these devices, along with the new Nexus 7 (2013): Qualcomm.

As a quick refresher, the Nexus One used the original Snapdragon system-on-a-chip with a single core Scorpion CPU mated to an Adreno 200 GPU. The Nexus 4 uses the Snapdragon S4 Pro, which features four Krait CPUs and an Adreno 320 GPU. Finally, the Nexus 7 uses a potentially lower-binned Snapdragon 600, which has been relabeled as an S4 Pro. And coincidentally, all of these devices have faced significant setbacks in their factory image availability.

The suspicions of Qualcomm’s intrusion into the procedure were then confirmed by the former technical lead of the AOSP, Jean-Baptiste Queru, when he wrote the following on Google+:

 Well, I see that people have figured out why I’m quitting AOSP.

There’s no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can’t boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I’m getting the blame for something that I don’t have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead.

While this was the most clearly the issue has thus far been stated, his followers knew something was amiss ever since JBQ tweeted on the matter back on July 30th:

That feeling when lawyers sabotage the launch you spent 6 months working on? I haz it. Sad sad sad sad sad sad.

The bottom line of the factory image drama is simple: We currently have no officially supported way to factory restore our Nexus devices. We don’t know if this will be solved by Google and Qualcomm like it was for the Nexus 4, or if this will remain a longer-standing issue requiring the intervention of an OEM partner, as was the case with the Nexus One. And finally, this forced the man ultimately in charge of the technical side of the Android Open Source Project to resign.

Luckily, there are options available for users looking to restore their factory firmware, thanks to XDA Senior Member ATGAdmin who released a factory restore package for users in need. In fact, a certain editor-in-chief of a certain mobile development forum’s news site already had to make use of such accommodations after some late-night flashing without adequate precautions left him with an unusable slab. However, these images are unsupported, and it would ultimately be better if they were to come from Google themselves.

Because of this issue, and past issues like it, the future direction of the Android Open Source Project is unfortunately all too nebulous. It’s times like these that we’re grateful that other open source options are beginning to emerge.

[Via Android Police]


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Will Verduzco

willverduzco is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Will Verduzco is the Portal Administrator for the XDA-Developers Portal. He has been addicted to mobile technology since the HTC Wizard. But starting with the Nexus One, his gadget love affair shifted to Google's little green robot. He is also a Johns Hopkins University graduate in neuroscience and is now currently studying to become a physician. View willverduzco's posts and articles here.
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