Project Treble Has Made Android Updates Faster

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Android updates have been a mess for as long as there have been Android updates, and none of Google’s past attempts to improve the situation have gone anywhere. In Android 8.0 Oreo, Google implemented Project Treble, which was supposed to make it faster and easier for OEMs to roll out new OS versions. This is the first update cycle when Treble could make a difference. So, is it? Probably!

Project Treble takes the old monolithic system updates and splits them into two parts. There’s a vendor implementation that controls the phone’s hardware like the ARM chip and radios, and then the Android OS plugs into that. This arrangement means the vendor layer is forward-compatible with future OS updates, so device makers don’t need to rebuild each update on top of new vendor code.

Google’s pitch for Treble is that it would speed up system updates while also making it possible to support phones for longer. Even if a hardware vendor stopped making drivers for an old chip, OEMs could still update the OS on top of it. However, only phones that shipped with Oreo (like most 2017 flagships) were guaranteed to have Treble.

treble

At first, updating Oreo phones to Pie didn’t seem any faster than the Nougat to Oreo update timeline. However, the data assembled by Android Authority shows Pie is making its way to some phones faster. The site looked at how long it took for Nougat, Oreo, and Pie updates to hit the flagship phones from Samsung, Huawei, LG, OnePlus, HTC, Sony, Motorola, Xiaomi, and Nokia.

According to the data, the Pie update started reaching Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus, Sony, and Xiaomi phones faster than Nougat and Oreo. LG hasn’t released a Pie update, and it’s too late to improve its record. LG’s updates have traditionally been a mess anyway. Motorola’s update timeline gets longer every year, but that’s probably a result of repeated job cuts. HTC is also lagging — it has yet to roll out any updates, and it might never get around to it as the company continues to hemorrhage money every quarter.

It’s important to note this is not a measure of how many total phones are getting the Pie update. It’s just the initial rollout for flagship devices. Phones in certain markets (like the US) could still be delayed for carrier testing, and midrange phones might still get slower updates. Still, project Treble appears to be making some positive impact.

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