Good news, at long last.
Fragmentation? What fragmentation?
It took over a decade but it seems Android is on course to the promised land: a time when every device running Android would be powered by the latest version of the operating system.
A day after it released the second beta version of its upcoming Android 11, Google took the time to reveal some interesting information regarding the current latest version of Android, Android 10.
According to Google, “the adoption of Android 10 has been faster than any previous versions of Android.”
In a post on its Android Developers Blog, the Android team at Google informs us that, “Android 10 was running on 100 million devices 5 months post-launch – 28% faster than Android Pie”.
The story was very different just 3 months ago, though.
The company attributes this to the various measures it had put in place to accelerate the rate of Android updates, going as far back as the release of Android Nougat 4 years ago when it rolled out Seamless System Updates (aka A/B System Updates).
This allowed devices to download updates and install them while still in active use and enforcing the changes after a reboot at a time of the user’s choosing. It also removed the need for one to have sufficient storage – equivalent to the update file size – as the update could be “streamed” instead of needing to be downloaded and stored locally, a big deal at the time. Importantly, it made it possible for devices to boot up as usual in the event an update failed, something that required an operating system re-installation previously. All these are factors that have defined the judgement by device makers on whether or not to update devices.
Traditionally, it has taken over a year for the latest version of Android to clock the double digits in percentage as far as adoption goes. As shared above, that is not the case with Android 10 thanks to measures instituted both in Android 10 and its predecessor, Android 9 Pie.
With Android Pie in 2018, Google introduced Generic System Images (GSI), a single Android build that can be flashed and run on several devices, which made it easier and faster for developers to test-drive new versions of Android for compatibility with their apps and, in the case of developers at companies that Google partners with for the release of Android-powered devices, for the broad range of tests and modifications necessary before deployment.
In the same year, Google also introduced the developer preview programme that saw the Android testing phase expanded to include non-Google devices from Google’s partners. The advantage has been that device makers have been able to test Android builds for months before Google releases the final consumer-ready builds thus allowing them to be able to make the same available to end-users faster. The dividends have been reaped in Android 10. “As a result, we saw a further 1.5X increase in the adoption of Android 10.”
A year before, in 2017, Google had introduced Project Treble which, by the company’s own admission, “sped up the adoption of Android Pie by 2.5X”. Read what Project Treble is all about – and why it has been this important – here.
With Android 10 last year, Google moved to make things even easier with Project Mainline which allowed it to update Android operating system components directly through the Google Play Store for things like security fixes instead of waiting for the usual big update once or twice a year, something most of its Android partners, the device makers, have been so bad at for long. “… in our most recent deployment, we directly updated 285 million devices with fixes for security vulnerabilities,” Google says of its push with Mainline.
Building on the gains made in Android 10, Google has added 9 new operating system components to the existing 12 that are updateable through Google Play in Android 11. It is also building on the A/B System Updates it introduced back in 2016 by introducing a Virtual A/B System Updates mechanism to lighten the physical load on the system so that update files take less and less space.
Google has also opened up Android 11 testing to various device makers with at least 7 of them signing on to try the new version of Android on 13 of their devices.