Process of an Android OS update

April 19, 2016

This is a continuation to the previous article that explains why Android updates seem to take longer than Apple’s. If you missed it, click here to go back, or you can just ignore that and get right into the nitty gritty of an update process.

From the top

First, Google is the creator of the Android OS and initiates any updates to the OS. That’s pretty simple, get a few geeks in a cubicle and make them come up with a better Android version. If only it were that simple.

With Android, you can’t just create one OS for all devices given that they all have different processors. Samsung devices use the Snapdragon processor but also sometimes use their own Exynos chip. Other manufacturers also have their own processors such as the HiSilicon Kirin on the Huawei, Nvidia, Qualcomm and lots more. All these processor creators have to provide Google with a code that will enable the OS to communicate with the processor, which, of course, takes more time.

As you can see, what was supposed to be a couple geeks’ job now requires dozens to cover every processor in the market. As for Apple, they only have their own chip, like the A9 chip in the iPhone 6s, which makes their job a lot easier and faster.

When this is done, however, Google will announce the release of a new Android version, move up the alphabetic order, and pass the baton to the smartphone manufacturers. At this point also, Nexus devices will quickly get their updates as OEMs work on the code.

Second in line

The next step is for each smartphone manufacturer to customize Android to whatever they like. Samsung call it TouchWiz, and this basically alters the icons, colours, menus and other minute stuff. This is the most time consuming process because each company has to customize the OS for every device they produce. For Samsung, that means customizing for the S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, Note 5, Note 4, etc. Samsung alone have over 54 devices ranging from high-end to low-end, and that can take some time.

Almost there

Once this lengthy, tenuous process is tackled, regional issues have to be overcome, and these have to do with the carriers. The carriers’ reputation, being tied to the Android OS, do not want to take any chances and have to test the devices all over again to make sure there are no problems. The carriers have to make sure the OS works with their network bands plus if it works with their SIM cards, which means they have to test CDMA, GSM and other aspects.

Handling each phone model and testing it, just like the OEMs, takes even more time, but it has to be done. Then most carriers will then add their own bloatware into it and that just pushes the time a little farther.

In the end

Finally, here we are, everyone’s satisfied: carriers are happy, manufacturers are pleased, and by then, Google is already talking about the next Android version. I know, frustrating. But it’s the collaboration between so many parties in the process that makes it a bit slower unlike with Apple where everything is done under the same roof. Nevertheless, Android is still the most popular mobile OS in the world, and perhaps all this nit-picking had something to do with the amazing OS you’re running right now.

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