Google is increasing pressure on OEMs for faster Android updates
Google is reportedly focusing more on providing faster, more regular updates to its Android operating system. The world’s most popular mobile operating system, with an active user base of about 1.4 billion users, has seen a large portion of its devices run into the current version of the OS. As a result, it poses a huge challenge for Google to deliver its best features to its wider users. For example, features introduced in Android Marshmallow, such as Google Now on Tap, Doze, and app permissions find applications in a very limited percentage of devices, creating a very significant problem, especially for security and other related issues.
According to a Bloomberg report, Google plans to take steps to ensure that the update process is speeded up. Alphabet Inc.-owned company is urging carriers to bypass the security patch testing process every month, which Google aims to push into its devices each month. In addition, the company will publish a list of OEMs in order of importance / relevance, requesting other smaller OEMs for more frequent updates to climb the stairs.
There are a number of hurdles to the update process for Android OS, especially the test times required for regular updates. While big OEMs like Samsung and LG are committed to Google’s plan for regular monthly updates, they also struggle to deliver it equally across all their devices. Relatively small OEMs by volume, like Motorola, have resorted to quarterly updates, while HTC and many others have preferred that Google’s timeline for updates be “unrealistic.”
Yet another reason that hinders regular Android updates is the cost involved in the testing process of updates, which can go up to “millions of dollars”. Standard testing procedures are in place to ensure that cellular networks are not disrupted by updates. Major telecom providers such as Verizon and Sprint take up to 12 weeks to complete its tests, and with Google’s latest guidelines, operators want to reduce the time to a few weeks.
Google’s recent push for more frequent updates has come in the wake of recent reports that a very small percentage of devices have been upgraded to Android Marshmallow. A large number of devices, including previous versions of Android, including Android Lollipop, are still being unveiled, while more devices are still running Android KitKat. In comparison, Apple’s iPhone users have largely moved to the latest version of the operating system, giving the company an easy place to provide regular security and maintenance updates, making the user experience more fluid. Compared to Android, 84% of iOS users have already migrated to iOS 9, leaving iOS 8 slightly behind and even less so in older variants.
In an effort to streamline the user experience of Android smartphones, Google has apparently taken on the responsibility of pushing manufacturers to provide the latest version of Android. It may not have an immediate effect, but it should help users move on from old iterations that are still exposed to notorious security flaws.