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Google’s Project Treble to Speed Up Android Updates

Google's latest attempt to get makers of Android phones and tablets to roll out updates faster is called Project Treble, and it's intended to remove an entire category of partners from the update pipeline.

Treble, announced on Friday ahead of next week's Google I/O developers conference, will make it possible for device manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola to push OS updates to their users without waiting for an updated version of the firmware that controls the devices' chipsets.

Android is an open source operating system, so phone makers are free to modify and test it to suit their hardware. That means it looks very different on each mobile device that runs it. Since Pixel phones are designed and supported by Google, they run a version of the OS with few modifications. Meanwhile, Motorola also installs skin-less versions of Android on its phones, while Samsung and Amazon tweak their version of the OS to the point that it barely resembles the version running on the Pixel.

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Every time there's an update, the companies not only have to ensure that it works with their modified version, but they also have to wait for chip makers like Qualcomm to ensure that it's compatible with the phone's modem, processor, and other components. Finally, they have to work with the mobile carriers to push out an update.

That lengthy process means Android is woefully fragmented compared to iOS, a fragmentation that reportedly makes Google quite upset. Just 7 percent of Android users are running the latest version, Android 7.0, compared to 79 percent of iOS users who are running iOS 10.

By removing the chip makers from the update process, Google hopes to speed it up. Major chip makers like Qualcomm and Sony are already on board with the Treble project, and Google says that it will roll out with the next version of Android, codenamed Android O.

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