One of the biggest issues with Google’s Android platform is the delay in the roll-out of the latest updates. Despite the latest developer previews rolled out earlier in the year, the base structure of Android requires the manufacturers to work with the Android team for making the source code compatible with their own devices. Upon that, a custom launcher or skin like Samsung’s Touchwiz or Xiaomi’s MIUI requires more time for the manufacturers to develop and implement them with the latest Android software. However, all of those delays in getting the latest software on your phone is about to be reduced in the upcoming days with Google’s Project Treble.
A post on the Android Developers Blog has detailed Project Treble, a utility that Google wants to implement in the Android ecosystem to roll out the latest updates to the end user, regardless of the device’s make. Project Treble will make it easier for Google to roll out Android updates to a Samsung phone on TouchWiz UI and a Huawei phone on EMUI within days of releasing them on its Pixel phones. “With Project Treble, we’re re-architecting Android to make it easier, faster and less costly for manufacturers to update devices to a new version of Android,” said Iliyan Malchev, Project Treble team lead.
Under the new software code guidelines, OEMs can deliver the next Android update to their users by simply updating the Android OS framework, without working with chipset manufacturers again for driver compatibility and other complex coding frameworks. Initially, manufacturers had to rework on the standard Android Open Source Project (AOSP) ROM (Google’s standard Android software) after the chipset manufacturers, like Qualcomm and Mediatek, modified the source code according to existing hardware compatibility. In certain countries like the US, the OEMs also had to accommodate the code changes for carrier regulations in the Android software, i.e. specific changes for AT&T or Verizon-based Android smartphones. The additional modification made the rollout of the latest Android reach the user by the time Google readies the next Android update.
This is how updates are delivered now
However, you should still keep in mind that the Android update rollout won’t be as fast as iOS devices on custom Android devices. The primary reason for that is the development and implementation of a new OEM-custom UI for every new Android release. For example, if Project Treble was available before the release of Android Nougat, the Samsung Galaxy S7 would still have taken months to get it because of a new version of TouchWiz UI specific to the Nougat release. Xiaomi, on the other hand, managed to release the Nougat update to its existing MIUI 8 on their flagship MI 5, albeit after three months. Therefore, it seems that Project Treble will benefit manufacturers like Xiaomi immediately who prefer to roll out the latest Android first, followed by a UI change later in mid-life of the latest Android’s lifecycle.
One major issue with Project Treble is its availability on the existing Android ecosystem. Google clearly states that this new feature will be implemented on devices “launched” with Android O and beyond. This could mean that either the benefits of Project Treble will be only available to the devices coming pre-loaded with Android O or all devices getting the Android O update in the next year. The possibility of latter could be true as Google states that the current Developer Preview for Android O on the Pixel phones is already having support for Project Treble. It remains to be seen whether or not custom Android manufacturers will implement this on their existing lineup of smartphones destined to get the Android O update.