Google is once again trying to solve the problem of slow Android updates, and this time, the company says it has a solution that’ll make it “easier, faster, and less costly for manufacturers” to update their phones to new versions of Android.
The answer is a feature inside of Android O called “Project Treble,” which is supposed to let manufacturers update their phones without having to make a ton of software changes first.
Google has essentially split apart its own work on Android from the work that its hardware partners do on Android to make sure it works with their latest chips. If Treble works like Google says it does, companies like Samsung and Motorola will be able to issue Android updates without waiting for a chip partner, like Qualcomm, to first send along software updates.
It’s not clear if this removes all hurdles or if manufacturers will still have to update Android’s code to make sure that features specific to their phone are working. But it certainly sounds like one of the most concrete things Google has done to address the problem of Android fragmentation.
While the fragmentation situation has gotten better over time, it certainly hasn’t gone away: the latest version of Android, Nougat, has been out for more than eight months and is still on only 7 percent of Android phones. Android Jelly Bean, which was succeeded almost four years ago, is on more devices than that.
Google has tried to speed up Android updates in the past without much luck, so this is still very much something we have to wait and see on. And perhaps more importantly, there’s still one big hurdle: this feature arrives in Android O, and who knows when any existing phones will get updated to the new OS.
We’ll hear more about Treble at Google’s I/O conference next week. The company should be talking more about Android O there, too, though the operating system likely won’t see a full release until later in the year.