Leading by Google and Qualcomm, can they solve the Android upgrade problem?

A few days ago, my colleague Xiaozhi said to me "angry", "My OnePlus 7 Pro can't upgrade Andorid 11, it's all because of Qualcomm", and then sent an official announcement from the OnePlus community. In the announcement, OnePlus stated that it is cooperating with Qualcomm's technical team to strive to solve the upgrade problem of OnePlus 7/7T series as soon as possible. And below this post, many OnePlus users expressed anger and helplessness like Xiaozhi.

Just before the deadline, OnePlus updated the latest progress, stating that the internal test of OnePlus 7/7T series hydrogen OS 11 was started on December 24, but the specific time of the public test was not announced.

▲ Official announcement on the adaptation of OnePlus 7 / 7T series Android 11. Picture from: OnePlus Community

When I told Xiaozhi the news, Xiaozhi sighed and replied, "This can also be landed, I didn't expect it", "It is estimated that the public beta will wait 12," and then fell into silence again.

Indeed, there were many Android phones that were unable to get the upgrade to the major version of Android due to the underlying chip. The anger and helplessness of the OnePlus 7/7T series is not unreasonable.

▲ Google Galaxy Nexus.

At first, Google’s son, Galaxy Nexus, chose Texas Instruments chips. However, Texas Instruments withdrew from the mobile phone chip market. Without the targeted support of the underlying chip vendors, Galaxy Nexus could not be upgraded to Android 4.4 Kitkat, and only kept the three versions updated for two years. .

Later, Android devices using Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (MSM8974) could not be upgraded to Android Nougat because Qualcomm did not adapt. The next case is Xiaozhi's OnePlus 7 Pro.

Such chip-level problems are difficult for mobile phone manufacturers to solve by themselves, and naturally there is no way to promote adaptation to the new Android system. If you want to upgrade, manufacturers can only communicate with chip manufacturers and urge chip manufacturers to solve problems. The upgrade progress and timeliness of the corresponding models will be worse.

▲ Xiaomi Mi 11 equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.

In order to avoid this situation in the future, Google and Qualcomm have carried out in-depth cooperation, saying that they will guarantee three-year Android system major version updates and four-year security patch updates for mobile phones equipped with Snapdragon SoC.

In other words, in the future, new phones equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC will have a longer update cycle, at least four major Android system versions (including Andorid 11) will be updated, until Android 14, and monthly security patches Small updates will last until 2025.

Are you lazy if you don’t actively update your Android system?

According to past experience, Android devices generally have a system upgrade period of about 2 years. Even Google’s "pro son" Pixel series will only guarantee a 3-year major version update and a 3-year security patch update.

However, Android manufacturers' products are updated frequently, and there are many flagship, mid-range, and entry-level models, and resource updates will be concentrated on popular (flagship) models. Therefore, it is difficult for manufacturers to guarantee that all products will have a long enough (2~3 years) update cycle, more often only a few minor version updates.

Then, why are Android manufacturers so inactive in updating their systems? Are they lazy?

To clarify this problem, let's first clarify the steps required for an Android major version upgrade.

  1. Google sends the source code to AOSP (Android Open Source Project);
  2. Chip manufacturers download the source code and modify the source code so that the equipment equipped with its own chip can operate normally;
  3. The chip manufacturer sends the modified code to the OEM, and the OEM performs targeted adaptation (system customization) according to its own needs;
  4. OEM conducts small-scale internal testing and then small-scale public testing;
  5. After stable and mature, large-scale OTA push will be carried out.

In recent years, Google has paid more and more attention to the issue of Android fragmentation, and the speed of submitting source code has been much faster. At the same time, in order to reduce the adaptation time of chip manufacturers, Google will also send the source code to some chip manufacturers in advance.

When chip manufacturers get the source code and make targeted modifications, they may encounter technical problems and delay the progress of the modification, such as the recent "OnePlus 7/7T series", but it is a minority.

It is the OEM mobile phone manufacturer that really affects the adaptation progress. After the chip manufacturer submits the modified version of the code to the OEM, the OEM manufacturer needs to perform low-level adaptation and system customization for each device. This process has a huge workload. Due to the large number of adapted models, a lot of manpower and material resources are required. Resources, finally transformed into a long wait for users.

In fact, mobile phone manufacturers are not lazy. Of course, they also hope to quickly complete system iterations and updates, but there are too many "adaptation tasks" that "concubines can't do."

In order to reduce the burden on mobile phone manufacturers, Google launched Project Treble

In order to further reduce the workload of OEM manufacturers to adapt to the new system and continue to reduce the fragmentation of Android, Google introduced a mechanism called "Project Treble" in 2017 (Android 8.0).

To put it simply, Google divides the source code into the bottom core and the upper interface part, and works with chip manufacturers to undertake the bottom core part of the code. And Google has changed the previous Android mechanism, the underlying core driver does not need to be upgraded along with the Android version number, and can be solidified in the phone.

This means that OEMs don’t have to adapt each mobile phone individually, and are directly responsible for the adaptation and customization of the upper-level interface. This greatly reduces the workload of the previous mobile phone manufacturers and, in theory, conforms to Google All models with the Project Treble mechanism can be upgraded to the larger version of the Android system.

In addition to Project Treble, Google has also expanded the scope of cooperation with third-party Android phone brands. Last year's Android 10 Beta supported 21 mobile phones from 13 manufacturers for the first time, reputed to be the most in history. And for this year’s Android 11, brands such as Xiaomi, OnePlus, OPPO, vivo, and realme have launched the Android 11 Beta version upgrade plan for the first time. Compared with the past, the speed of adapting to the new system is significantly faster.

However, most of the first-time upgrades for Android 10 and Android 11 are Beta versions, and they are also limited to some mainstream/flagship models. There is still no way to cover more models. This is also a problem encountered by Project Treble. .

What did Qualcomm work with Google to solve?

After the cooperation between Google and Qualcomm, the adaptation efficiency of the underlying core parts of Project Treble has been improved, and the system adaptation that mobile phone manufacturers are responsible for only plays a role in promoting the adaptation speed of the manufacturers.

The update frequency of Android phones is very high, and each manufacturer launches a number of phones with different locations every year. Naturally, the workload of adapting to large versions of Android is also huge. At the same time, domestic mobile phones have customized systems with their own characteristics, and many localized functions make the adaptation work more complicated.

▲ Atomic components of vivo OriginOS.

In addition, the highlights of the Android major version update in the past two years are far less than the highlights of some domestic Android system customization, and users "perceive not strong." As a result, mobile phone manufacturers have gradually shifted their focus to the development and adaptation of "new systems", and their enthusiasm for adaptation to large versions of Android has decreased a lot.

Relatively speaking, it is more important for older models to get Android security patch updates in a timely manner than for larger versions of Android. Android security patches are a special type of update that Google has released every month for the past 5 years. These security patches can patch security vulnerabilities in the Android system in time to ensure device security.

Google releases a security patch every month, and mobile phone manufacturers arrange their own adaptations. Can the vendors’ security patches be fixed in time and what is the update cycle?

I randomly found several old and new mobile phones in the editorial department of Aifaner, namely Pixel in 2016, Mi MIX2 released in 2017, OnePlus 7 Pro released in 2019, vivo S7e and Huawei P40 in 2020 . Respectively update to the latest system, check the latest security patch date.

The results are as follows: Pixel updated to October 6, 2019, Xiaomi MIX2 updated to September 1, 2019, OnePlus 7 Pro updated to October 1, 2020, Huawei P40 updated to November 1, 2020, vivo S7e Update to November 1, 2020.

In addition to my son Pixel, the security patch update cycle of many products is actually linked to the Android system. It can be considered as a two-year update cycle, which means that many old Andorid devices have a security guarantee cycle that stays at two years. The cooperation between Google and Qualcomm means that regardless of the configuration, as long as there is a Qualcomm core, Google will provide four-year security patch updates for these old devices. This means that the lifespan of old phones may be doubled compared to the past. The final landing situation still depends on the manufacturers' own adaptation capabilities.

▲ After the release of the new version of Android, the growth of the number of users of each version, Android 10 is far ahead. Picture from: Google

In order to promote the update of the Android system and further eliminate fragmentation, Google has launched many initiatives, such as the Project Treble plan, and cooperated with the underlying hardware manufacturer (Qualcomm). After the release of Android 10, Google even bound the GMS service certification with the Android system version number. To obtain GMS certification, the new machine needs to be pre-installed with Android 10 (or the old machine is upgraded to the new version), which continuously promotes the installation rate of Android 10.

We will not discuss the commercial factors behind the binding of GMS and the Android system here, but Google’s "a few tricks" has indeed increased the update rate of Android 10 and Android 11 a lot, and under the tide of 5G replacement, the Android system’s Fragmentation is also developing in a good direction. The key is that no matter the major version of Android or the extension of the security patch update cycle, we benefit from it.

#Welcome to follow Aifaner's official WeChat account: Aifaner (WeChat ID: ifanr), more exciting content will be provided to you as soon as possible.

Ai Faner | Original link · View comments · Sina Weibo