Google Says Project Treble Has Massively Accelerated Android Updates

 

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Google built the Android platform on openness and partnerships with device makers, and that has helped make it the most popular computing platform in the world. However, Google has also struggled to get OEMs to update their phones in a timely manner. It’s tried numerous ways to speed up Android version rollouts, but none of them have worked until now. Google says that Project Treble has more than doubled adoption rates.

Google announced Project Treble in the run-up to launching Android 8.0 Oreo, and all phones that shipped with Oreo support this feature. Before Treble, all Android device OTAs required manufacturers to get updated firmware from vendors like Qualcomm that could connect the hardware to updated Android code. Project Treble did away with that requirement by separating the vendor layer from the OS. Now, drivers are forward-compatible, allowing OEMs like Samsung and OnePlus to simply plug in the new Android layer.

One of the first examples of Treble in action was the Android partners beta program — both Android 9 Pie and Android 10 (Android Q) were available during the testing phase on numerous phones from OEMs like OnePlus, Huawei, Essential, and more. That suggested Treble could help, but the way Android rolls out to users is more important. Sadly, Google no longer updates its platform distribution numbers regularly. It has, however, announced some updates figures to talk up Treble’s success.

According to Google, the update timeline for Android 9 Pie was the first real test of Treble because only phones that shipped with Oreo needed to support the feature. After one year, Oreo’s usage across all devices was only at 8.9 percent. At the same point the following year, Android 9 Pie was running on 22.6 percent of Android devices. Assuming new device launches remained about constant, that’s more than twice as many devices updated to the latest version of Android.

We’ve seen evidence of this along the way, too. Companies like OnePlus and Essential have been rolling out updates at the same time or slightly after Pixels. Android updates are still far from perfect, of course. If you buy a budget phone, you’ll probably only get a single major update, and it will come months later than flagship phones. However, you’re still more likely to get updates now that Treble runs on all modern Android phones. Google continues to push for better update support with features like Project Mainline in Android 10. With Mainline, Google can get critical OS components updated immediately rather than waiting on OEMs.

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