Google Project Treble: Modular base for faster Android updates

Google Project Treble: Modular base for faster Android updates

Android updates are often a vexing issue for many users, due to the wait times and for vendors because of the time and effort involved. With a new step called Google Project Treble, updates for Android are coming faster.

Google describes the progress of an update process in several steps. After Google provides the code, chip makers such as Qualcomm or MediaTek adapt them to their hardware and then deliver the new code to device manufacturers. They then adapt the code to their own devices such as smartphones and tablets. Under certain circumstances, providers may work with network operators for further adjustments. Only after these steps is an update to the end user completed.

Expiration of an Android update
Android update progress (Image: Google)

New interface with fixed code for chips

This is supposed to go faster for the hardware delivered with Android O for every upcoming operating system version, for which Google worked with suppliers of chips and devices. The necessary step is according to Google the separation of the so-called ” vendor implementation ” – largely adapted code of the Chiphersteller – from the Android framework. A new ” vendor interface “, which Google refers to as a modular basis, is integrated between the vendor implementation and the framework. This interface is validated by the Vendor Test Suite (VTS) and thus verifies the compatibility of the hardware and the new version and is guaranteed by Google. Similarly, Google is already using apps tested through the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS)

No waiting for chip makers anymore

The advantage of the new vendor interface is that Google has a smaller workload: so far, a lot of code needs to be renewed when, for example, a smartphone is updated to a new Android version. Due to the fixed integrated interface, which can be easily adopted for the new version, device manufacturers no longer have to wait for the appropriate code of the chip controllers. In turn, the operating system can be updated independently of this.

Project Treble
Project Treble (Picture: Google)

Practical implementation has to be demonstrated

Google has not yet announced any further details in the respective blog post, so it is unclear for what period of time an ongoing compatibility with a device can be expected. Frequently there are missing drivers for old processors for new Android versions Reasons for missing updates. Whether this can be improved by Project Treble in the medium or long term remains to be seen.

Since the manufacturers and network operators still customize their own software for a new Android version or test new features, an upcoming update can also delay with Project Treble, depending on how fast the manufacturer or provider works.

In addition, Google has announced plans to encourage network operators, chippers, and hardware vendors to integrate their Android code changes into the Android Open Source Project, eliminating the need for new fixes and customizations for each Android version.

Project Treble is already in the preview

Project Treble is already running in the Android O developer preview. More about the operating system can be expected for Google I/O 2017, which starts on May 17th. In the further course of the summer, Android O is to appear, then Google wants to publish the entire documentation for Project Treble.

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