AN­DROID UP­DATES: No longer for the priv­i­leged

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - By Liu Hongzuo

The silent, yet mas­sive changes to how An­droid han­dles smart­phone up­dates will benet both pre­mium and low-end de­vices. It couldn’t come at a bet­ter time.

The difculty in updating An­droid

After­mar­ket An­droid phone users would be painfully aware of how slow and chal­leng­ing it is to get the lat­est ver­sion of the OS onto their de­vices. In fact, only 15% of all An­droid phones out there are run­ning An­droid 7.0 (the lat­est rmware at the time of writ­ing), which is abysmal when com­pared to 79% of iOS users run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of the OS on their mo­biles.

Tra­di­tion­ally, An­droid up­dates fol­low this pat­tern: they hand over up­dates to chip mak­ers like Qual­comm, who cre­ate the soft­ware driv­ers to sup­port them. Th­ese driv­ers are handed off to brands like Sam­sung, LG, HTC, and Huawei (to name a few) to layer their re­skins and fea­tures (like Sam­sung and their Edge Panel UI) be­fore pass­ing the baton to net­work car­ri­ers for dis­tri­bu­tion. This process can take months, with many de­vices never see­ing a ma­jor up­date from the time it is re­leased in re­tail.

Google Tre­ble

En­ter Google’s so­lu­tion, Project Tre­ble. In­stead of wait­ing on big con­sumer tech brands to do the right thing, An­droid di­rectly talks to the sil­i­con man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies that make the chips for th­ese after­mar­ket phones. Any changes to An­droid are done at a new level called “ven­dor in­ter­face”, be­gin­ning from An­droid 8.0 (Oreo) phones. The sil­i­con man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t need to re­com­pile driv­ers for up­dates be­cause An­droid’s go­ing to do it for them.

An­droid One

To address low-end phones not re­ceiv­ing sup­port early into its life­span, Google de­cided to get to the root of the is­sue, whereby they take over the de­ci­sion-mak­ing and hard­ware se­lec­tion, so up­dates reach stock An­droid sooner. In fact, there’s al­ready four gen­er­a­tions of such An­droid One phones, with the lat­est be­ing Xiaomi A1. The only prob­lem is that the avail­abil­ity of the An­droid One pro­gram is still very lim­ited.

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