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The Android Update/Upgrade Process

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The Android Update/Upgrade Process

The Release by Google

 

Google's Android Team is responsible for developing updates to Android; these updates contain new features, bug fixes and enhancements at the core to the platform. Once completed, the Android team make these updates available to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

 

Think of these releases as a blueprint or reference diagram, although the software exists, it's not in a usable state.

 

It is designed to help manufacturers build the new features of Android into their devices, not to be run on a device directly.

 

If this update is a major upgrade (such as Android 6.0 to 7.0) Google will select a handset manufacturer to partner with and work together to develop a demonstration device.

 

It's important to note that this work has been ongoing for many months prior to Google making the announcement, which gives that particular device a significant head-start on the journey that other devices must catch up.

 

Other device manufacturers then take this blueprint for the new release and decide whether or not the devices they have in the market have suitable hardware and technical specifications to work with the new Android update.

 

For those devices that meet the minimum requirements, the update continues to the next stage of the journey – manufacturer development.

 

 

Manufacturer Development

 

The manufacturing partners of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) use this reference diagram to begin the hard work of customising the update for their devices.

 

The chips, displays, processors and antennas all differ between each device and manufacturer, and these components may need additional or new software to be written in order to work with the new Android version.

 

If you’ve ever installed Windows on a laptop without any drivers, you might be familiar with the kind of experience you can expect - certain things simply won't work until you get the software necessary for your specific computer's configuration.

 

Each software update released by the Android team has to be hand-coded by Manufacturers to ensure that it will interact in a positive way with the plethora of hardware combinations that exist throughout Android devices.

 

This complicated process takes a significant amount of work by manufacturers, with multiple revisions and quality-assurance tests taking place at each stage.

 

After what is often months of work, the update is finally developed into a workable state for the various hardware variants, and to progress to Stage 3 - manufacturer customisation.

 

 

Manufacturer Customization

 

After they have developed the update into a workable platform for their devices, some manufacturers choose to customise the Android experience with their own proprietary overlays or enhancements.

 

Sony's default launcher, custom applications and "X-Reality for mobile" functionality are examples of Manufacturer Customisation.

 

Manufacturer customizations often bring added usability and features to the device as well as making some Android features more accessible for a wider variety of users. It can also introduce new features that are not present in stock Android (such as built-in iTunes synchronisation or WiFi tethering prior to the introduction of Android 2.2).

 

While this process can take time, it is significantly less than is necessary for development back in stage two. Once this process is complete, the update is ready for the last stage of development – carrier customisation.

 

 

Carrier Customization (does not apply to "generic"/unbranded mobile devices)

 

In the final stage of the Android assembly process, manufacturers ask carriers for input on customisation.

 

This process includes the manufacturer installing a carrier’s configuration profile into the update. As a result, end-users don’t need manually enter internet, MMS, voicemail and other network-specific settings each time they update their device.

 

Carrier customisation also offers an opportunity to install or remove applications from the update.

 

While these changes are made at the request of the carrier, it is the manufacturer who does the work to code them into the update. Carriers don’t make these changes themselves and don’t see the update until the process is complete. It’s important to note that manufacturers may also pre-install applications onto your device, including applications that they request such as the "My Service Provider App".

 

Once customisation is complete, a manufacturer finally has a ‘Release Candidate’. They believe the update is ready for release and then make the build available to carriers for quality assurance testing and regulatory certification.

 

Now, carriers begin working closely with manufacturers to ensure the update meets regulations relevant to their country and their own expectations of an excellent user experience for their customers – the next stage is testing.

 

 

The Testing Process

 

There are many parties involved in the release of software updates:
  • Google
  • A manufacturer’s local and global development team
  • A carrier's local and global devices teams
 

Why do we need to do test software updates?

 

There are two primary reasons we test software updates for your tablets and smartphones:

  • To ensure the best possible customer experience, and;
  • To ensure that we remain on-side with relevant regulations for telecommunications devices.
 

These regulations govern how a telecommunications device should operate under certain circumstances and are enshrined in law.

 

What do you do during “testing”?

 

Testing software updates to existing devices is a rigorous process. When an update is in testing, it’s not as simple as loading the update onto a phone for a week and seeing how it feels. It’s quite a scientific process with reports of outcomes running to nearly 100 pages.

 

Our testing teams carry out thousands of individual testing procedures and scenarios ranging from the ability to place an emergency call under unique or unlikely circumstances, to loading a song via Bluetooth and the ability to immediately play that song back, to conducting a physical drive-test through a variety of network conditions to monitor the antenna performance.

 

If a device or update fails any of these tests, the manufacturer is notified (if it is not the manufacturer doing the actual testing) and the update is rejected.

 

It is then the responsibility of the manufacturer to deliver an entirely new build of software that addresses the shortcomings. As far as the Android journey is concerned, the build must return back to the Manufacturer Development stage for this bug-fixing to take place.

 

Bug-fixing is sometimes a lengthy process, and the software update may have to be ripped to pieces to find out where and what has gone wrong. It’s important to note that every software build for every carrier is subtly different.

 

This means that a bug that’s holding back a release may not be present in other builds, and while it can be frustrating to wait while these issues are ironed out, there is a responsibility to address them before release.

 

What bug could be so terrible that it stops the entire release?

 

Here are two examples of what we call “blocking issues” – circumstances where we have rejected an update. One is for regulatory reasons, the other is for a detrimental customer experience:

  • Device unable to make emergency calls when a SIM-PIN is enabled
  • Settings are not pre-populated after factory reset is performed

 

How long does testing take?

 

Although this is one of our most frequently asked questions, it’s next to impossible to give a true estimate on how long “testing” will take.

 

Sometimes an update is delivered to testing parties in a perfect state – it passes all tests and is almost immediately made available for download by users.

 

However sometimes an update isn’t so lucky, requiring multiple cycles of testing and bug-fixing to bring it up to a condition that meets requirements and is suitable for release.

 

We’ll only know how long it takes for an update to be approved once that update is approved, so as much as we’d love to give you an estimate – our estimates would simply not be reliable.

 

 

Release to Users

 

Once an update has successfully passed testing, we notify the manufacturer who then schedules the roll-out of the update.

 

In most cases you’ll receive a notification on your device when the update is ready for download.


Note: This was not written by me... I have however, tweaked it to remove references to other manufacturers and also references to the author (a particular carrier), so as to keep it generic.
 
This is the update/upgrade process used for most manufacturers and carriers around the world; there might be one or two minor exceptions, but this is essentially the process everyone follows.
 
If you were ever wondering why a particular mobile device is not being updated/upgraded or why it is taking so long for the update/upgrade to roll-out, hopefully this post will help to explain why...

  • I can't help you if you don't tell me what mobile device you're using & what version of Android it is running, in English (you can use Google Translate - http://translate.google.com).
  • The more information you can give me, the easier I can help you!
  •  Please kudo this post if you think it has been helpful; or mark it as the "solution" if it fixed your problem, so that other users facing the same issue can find the solution!
1 REPLY 1
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Re: The Android Update/Upgrade Process

Товарищи специалисты ответьте мне пожалуйста,  почему мой смартфон sony z ultra не обновляется до Андроид 6???  А телефоны попроще, типа sony m или с серии обновляются.? 

Comrades experts, please tell me why my smartphone sony z ultra is not updated to Android 6 ??? A phone is simpler, such as sony m or with a series of updates.?

 

GT