Google hopes to speed up Android updates from OEMs with Project Treble
One of the biggest frustrations with Android is the slow update process. While Google’s own devices, such as the Pixel and Pixel XL, typically receive security patches and OS updates quickly, OEMs often fall far behind in the update schedule, sometimes abandoning updates for devices less than a year after its release. Google hopes to fix this with Project Treble, an ambitious move they’re calling “the biggest change to the low-level system architecture of Android to date.”
In a nutshell, Project Treble is designed to work similar to Android’s existing app API, only for the operating system as a whole. Thanks to the Developer API and its associated test suite, Android app developers have long been able to develop an app and expect it to run on the myriad of Android devices, despite the differences in hardware and layered software. Project Treble will introduce a new “vendor interface” to allow better communication between the framework of the operating system and whatever implementation, or “skin,” of Android individual OEMs put on their devices. This will then be tested by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS), similar to the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) currently in use by app developers.
Project Treble looks promising. As it stands now, Android OEMs must rewrite large chunks of the code upon the release of a new Android version (commonly called a “dessert release” due to Google’s penchant for naming new versions after desserts). With Project Treble, OEMs would only have to update the OS framework without having to touch any of the underlying code. This framework would interface between the hardware and the software using the vendor interface, creating a faster, easier update path. OEMs would also be able to submit specific code changes for their devices to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), creating a database of software fixes and updates that would be used in future Android updates.
Project Treble will be released with Android O. The API is currently running on the Developer Preview of Android O on the Pixel and Pixel XL.