Project Treble: Google Hopes To Make Android Update Process Smoother With New Initiative

For years, Apple device owners have had it much easier than Android phone or tablet users. While new versions of iOS, first and foremost, typically roll out to everyone at the same time, that’s not exactly the case when it comes to Android updates, which roll out on separate dates depending on the device or mobile carrier, and tend to be pushed out in “phases,” meaning some users may get the new software days before others do. This phenomenon of fragmentation has frustrated Android device owners for quite some time, but Google hopes to take some steps to change this with its new initiative, Project Treble.

In a blog post shared earlier this week on Google’s official Android Developers site, Project Treble team lead Iliyan Malchev offered a quick advance look at the new project, which is hyped up as being the biggest change to date to the Android operating system’s low-level system architecture. With an infographic explaining how the average Android update is fleshed out before getting rolled out to users, Malchev explained that there are five steps in this process, starting with the release of the update’s open-source code, and ending with the testing, certification, and eventual release of the new software.

According to Google’s blog post, Project Treble is a “re-architecting” of the Android operating system as we know it, one that would result in a more affordable, simpler, and faster way for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to roll out new Android updates to their users.

Based on how it’s described, Project Treble looks like a potential game-changer and an instant solution to the myriad of update issues Android users have to go through. Thanks to its “stable” vendor interface, OEMs only need to update the Android OS framework without having to get input from silicon manufacturers, should they be ready to roll out an update to device owners. That, as well as the new vendor interface itself, is going to be a byproduct of the project’s main feature — the isolation of device-specific vendor implementation from Android’s framework.

However, a report from Ars Technica suggests that Android users shouldn’t set their expectations too high — Project Treble can theoretically make Android updates roll out faster, but there are a lot of variables that could come into play, starting with OEMs tendencies to add their own user interfaces/experiences (UI/UX) on top of stock Android. With companies like Samsung known for changing the entire Android UI and adding their own special software features, it would seem that Project Treble doesn’t reduce the amount of work Android OEMs need to, or would want to do, when it comes to software updates.

Companies such as Samsung tend to add a ton of features on top of stock, or vanilla Android software. [Image by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Samsung]

There’s also the problem of motivation, as Ars Technica described it. Just how willing would OEMs and carriers be to break the cycle and start rolling out updates sooner, or to make sure everybody gets their updates at the same time instead of the software rolling out in “phases” or “stages”?

“OEMs and carriers will still be a roadblock in the way of updates, and they are still free to drag their feet when it comes to updating older models.”

Google explained that its partner OEMs tend to take a while when rolling out Android updates for older devices because it is often time-consuming and expensive to do so. This business implication — a “negative effect on companies’ bottom lines,” according to Ars Technica — often results in OEMs taking their sweet time when it comes to new versions of Android.

Those hoping to have this new, hopefully smoother Android update process take effect on their existing devices may have to wait, as it still isn’t sure if, when, or how Project Treble will be available on older phones or tablets. Google says Project Treble will be available on all new devices with Google’s upcoming “Android O” platform and beyond, with its architecture found on Android O’s Developer Preview for Pixel phones.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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