Android is probably the most used mobile operating system today and even after so many crazy developments, it still faces a problem which has been there since its Inception. Yes, we are touch basing Android Updates today. We all know how slow Android updates can be and believe it or not, it has actually forced users out of the Android ecosystem to iOS which is exactly opposite when it comes to software updates.
The latest Android Distribution stats show that about 15 percent of Android users are still stuck on KitKat which was released in 2013. Android Nougat is on about 15 percent devices as well and the latest iteration i.e. Android Oreo is not even in the picture at the moment.
First things first, Android is an Open Source Project (AOSP as we call it) and what I mean by that is that anybody can get the permission to use Android’s source code to build their own version or better known as the Android skin for a particular device. However, there are various factors which come into the picture.
Android devices use chipsets from different manufacturers such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, Intel etc. So in order to make the new update compatible with each of the chipset, the respective chipset makers share their codes with the different OEMs. As a result, this step easily takes up a month for the chipset makers to blend the new update to their different processor variants. On the other hand, Apple doesn’t really have to go all this as the devices who will get a new software update are all Apple devices, hence, they all use Apple’s own chip inside. This is primarily the reason why Apple takes a lot less time testing an update on a particular device than any of the Android chipset makers out there.
The next step is where OEMs bake in their own Android Skins. The source code which the OEMs receive from various chipset makers is then layered with company’s own proprietary skin. Samsung’s TouchWiz, Xiaomi MIUI, HTC Sense, ColorOS all our examples of Android skin. Now, this layering might involve adding in certain features, blocking certain features, adding certain apps etc. Post this, the OEMs try to add certain hardware features to their devices to make them even more distinctive. Samsung Galaxy S8 and Noe 8 having the Iris Scanner feature is a prime example of this.
The last step involves testing. Yes! Before companies like Samsung, HTC, LG, Lenovo, Xiaomi roll out an update to their users, they first release it for a bunch of people who then test everything which can possibly be tested on an Operating System update. OnePlus’s Open Beta update programme is pretty close to what I am talking about here. Further, this is where Carriers also perform their own testing in order to make sure that the update is stable.