Google today provided more visibility into its work on Project Treble, which is meant to accelerate the rate at which phones are updated to new versions of Android. Google has been working with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung to improve how phones handle major updates. Google explained that is has been collaborating closely with these silicon makers because that’s “where the journey of making an Android device always begins.” Phones can’t be updated if the core silicon doesn’t support the new build, which means processor makers need to update the software for their chips as a first step in the process. “This software, commonly referred to as the Board Support Package, contains not only the chip-specific vendor implementation, but also all of the Android Open Source Project and pieces of the framework that are missing, (e.g., carrier-specific telephony functionality),” explained Google. Project Treble makes it possible for newer AOSP frameworks to run on older chips because it reduces the need for older components to support each Android release. “Silicon manufacturers have to do all this work just once, rather than every time there is a new release of Android,” said Google. Another issue is the timing between the release of Android, the phones, and the chips inside the phones. Google says it is common for phones to ship with older versions of Android because the possibility of bugs can interfere with retail availability. “For OEMs who target the holiday season, it is often safer to launch on an older Board Support Package with a year-old or even older Android version” that is known to be stable and compatible with the silicon. Google says this is “at the heart of the slow uptake of the latest Android release, even on flagship devices.” To solve this moving forward, Google and its silicon partners have created Board Support Packages that are ready for Android P in advance of the platform’s release. Google says Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung will be able to introduce Android P for their silicon much faster than before, which will in turn lead to quicker system updates for end users. This is why Google is able to bring the Android P developer platform to phones other than its own Pixel devices.
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