Android's update situation is notoriously bad, even flagship phones like the Galaxy Series take months for the latest updates to come out . Google has not stood still on this, and the hard work on Project Treble begins to pay.
What is Project Treble?
Until last year, much more work was done to build an Android update. This was what would happen with each update, no matter how small it is:
- Google builds the new update and adds it to the AOSP archive.
- Silicon suppliers like Qualcomm and MediaTek would add and test code so that their processors would support the new software version.
- Hardware suppliers like Samsung and LG enter and test code to support other hardware in the phone and their own software features.
Project Treble simplifies it a bit . From phones sent with Android 8.0 Oreo, the silicon supplier code may differ from the hardware vendor code. Instead of Qualcomm, MediaTek, and other SOC manufacturers who need to write new drivers for each update, the driver interface can be used on newer versions of Android and still work. Samsung, LG and other device manufacturers do not have to wait for this code to begin their update work, which means rolling out to consumers much faster.
It was voluntary for phones that were updated to Oreo to be compatible with Treble, but with Pie that goes away: All phones that get an update to Android Pie must be compatible with Treble.
It's starting to work
After one year of use, Project Treble is already paying off: Google expects more devices to update to Android 9.0 Pie at the end of this year than updated to Android 8.0 Oreo by the end of 2017. At the 2018 Android Dev Summit, Google showed multiple phones from different hardware vendors, which could run on exactly the same general system image (GSI).
Showing GSI running on all these different phones is a good testament to how well Treble works and application developers can use GSI to test Android P compatibility, ie on a device that has not been officially updated by the manufacturer.
It's good and good if you are an app developer, but if you are an average consumer, it may be difficult to care. But what it looks like is: it's likely that your phone will get a software update faster because it may skip some of the job to get that update. This also makes the update cheaper for the phone manufacturer, giving them more incentives to support older devices.
But it's still not perfect
Although these improvements are good, if fast updates are the most important factor for you there are still only a handful of manufacturers to choose from . Google's Pixel phones would be fastest, but Android One phones like Nokia's line are not far behind. We'll see if the Treble enhancements help, but Samsung has a tendency to stick to software updates until the next Galaxy S phone is released, meaning users have to wait for spring to see platform updates.
Although not perfect, Project Treble has already made a huge improvement in the Android ecosystem, which means the phone will be updated so much faster!