When Apple releases a new version of iOS, it rolls out to millions of iPhones and iPads almost immediately. When Google releases a new version of Android, it’s a crap shoot to figure out whether you’ll ever get it at all, unless you’re using a Nexus or Pixel device.
That’s because after Google releases a new version of Android, chip makers, phone and tablet companies, and wireless carriers all have a role to play before the update makes it to your phone… if it ever does.
Now Google has unveiled Project Treble: a new architecture for Android that should make it easier for device makers to push Android updates to users quickly.
In a nutshell, Project Treble separates the Android OS framework from the Vendor implementation.
Chip designers and device makers can use a new vendor Test Suite to ensure that their software meets Google’s standards, and when a new version of Android is released, the device maker doesn’t need to change the custom code at all. All that changes is the Android OS framework.
Google is also working with hardware companies including Sony and Qualcomm to integrate code changes into the Android Open Source project, which should make it easier, for example, to ensure that phones will retain compatibility with specific wireless networks after an update. A side benefit? Custom ROM builders will also get access to that code.
While Project Treble provides tools that could encourage device makers to update more quickly (and more often), there are no guarantees. It’s still going to be up to third-parties to determine if and when to push updates. Just because Google is making things easier on them doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
It’s also worth noting that Google only promises Project Treble will be available on “new devices launched with Android O and beyond.”
In other words, current phones need not apply… well, mostly. Google does point out that Pixel phones using the Android O Developer Preview are already using the new Project Treble architecture. But it’s unlikely that any other current phone will support the feature. So unless you have a Pixel or Pixel XL, Project Treble is something that might affect you in the future… but not the present.
With Android O set to launch later this year, I wouldn’t expect to see Project Treble widely integrated into non-Pixel phones until this fall, or maybe early 2018. After all, Android 7.0 was released last August, but there are still some device makers shipping phones and tablets with Android 6.0 or earlier.