Everyone on the Interwebs kinda assumed that the Android handsets that Sprint is due to offer in the coming weeks were going to be based on Android 1.6. After all, Android 1.6 was the first to offer CDMA support... and Sprint is a CDMA carrier. Right? Right???
No such luck. Both Android devices Sprint will release will ship with Android 1.5 with the CDMA codebase apparently backported. Not only that, it sounds like Android 1.6 won't be available from Sprint until 2010 and it won't be an over-the-air upgrade. Sprint's official word on exactly when is just "when it's available".
1.6 has a number of notable API changes but also a number of important features - most notably text-to-speech and multitouch functionality. HTC's SenseUI was an attempt to staple on several features on the 1.5 codebase that only recently became available. Now that Android 1.6 is available some of those SenseUI features are redundant... such as multitouch in the Web browser.
The biggest problem isn't necessarily with the end-user however - Spring launching with Android 1.5 causes huge headaches for developers. Several developers... myself for one... was counting on this product launch to usher in a landscape of 1.6 apps. Without an easy, transparent means of updating to 1.6 (such as over-the-air upgrades) it is also unlikely that the average Hero or Moment user will ever upgrade to the latest OS.
So what's a guy to do? Well... Motorola's Sholes is supposedly going to hit before the end of the year, and supposedly with Android 2.0 (although I doubt that). On the other hand it's launching on Verizon's network, which can be prohibitively expensive.
Sounds like there are no good options right now for an Android 1.6+ handset, unless Sprint can figure out an easier way to push updates.