Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lenovo Ideapad K1 - Icecream Sandwich options

Well, this is a change.

Lenovo finally came out with the long sought after Icecream Sandwich update for their K1 tablet last week, and what appeared at first to be a major disappointment turned out to contain a major, and extremely positive, surprise.

Let's quickly get the negatives out of the way. You are very, very, very, unlikely to want their official update. Their official update is missing the Google Play Store. This wasn't originally the plan, and Lenovo intended to include it, but found their plans to get an ICS update out there quickly resulted in a version of Android that wasn't compliant with Google's standards.

Fortunately, while Google is strict about official, commercial, versions of Android and the Google Play Store, they're more forgiving when it comes to open source, third party, distributions. And that kinda brings me onto the good point: Lenovo released the source code to their version of Icecream Sandwich - and opened the bootloader while they were at it.

Essentially, the K1 is now an open tablet. And already the number of versions of ICS has blossomed from one limited version to FIVE rather good versions. And it seems probable that, thanks to Lenovo's decision to work with, rather than against, the Open Source Android community, the K1 may be one of the first tablets out there with Jellybean.

Most of the work is down to a programmer called Kreg Hanning, a regular on Lenovo's forums as well as a contributor to Rootzwiki and XDA Developers. He's done an awesome job analyzing the Lenovo code and combining it with the Google software and official Android releases, and produced four new versions of Android ICS. These are:

  • A simple distribution of the official Lenovo build but with the Google Play Store added.
  • A version of the above with "root" access for users needing advanced functionality.
  • A version of AOSP - Google's official open source distribution of Android - with the ClockworkMod recovery (I'm simplifying it a little, but essentially CWM is an OS update mechanism ) and Lenovo's drivers.
  • A version of the above with "root" access for users needing advanced functionality.
And Kreg Hanning's also working on a Jellybean port.

You can get the first two here, and the others here. All four can be installed using either Windows or GNU/Linux and come with the necessary tools to do so.

There are some problems you probably need to be aware of. On my version, at least, camera access seems to be dodgy. And most users are having problems with many apps on the Google Play store - including apps that worked fine under Honeycomb - being marked as "incompatible" with the various ICS distributions. Interestingly, it seems to be an entirely different set of apps - the versions derived from the official Lenovo distribution will not run Google Maps, and the versions derived from AOSP will not run Google Play Music, and none of them will run Chrome.

So... which one do you want to run? Well, it's fairly easy:

  • If you're reliant on your existing apps, wait. There's no rush and there really are problems with the compatibility thing.
  • If you want to make the jump, and you know what root is, enough to know to reject it if an app asks for it for no reason, get the AOSP version with root. Otherwise get the AOSP version without it.
Why the AOSP version? Well:
  • All five versions will wipe your tablet. Completely. None of your old apps or data will survive. However, ClockworkMod Recovery in the AOSP versions will ensure you at least keep your data (and sometimes, if rarely, your apps) between updates in the future.
  • The AOSP versions seem to be slightly more compatible with apps in the Google Play Store.
I'll keep writing about this here if nobody objects... ;-)


  1. Thanks 4 the info great blog

  2. Loved the blog. I installed both the ASOP and simple one with root access. I use the simple version with root access because it was c compatible with my racing games. But the ASOP version did boot quicker. A lot of incompatible apps can be installed if u download the lenovo app store.