Google-Qualcomm partnership makes four years of Android updates a reality

The work will lead to lower upgrade costs and support for devices for longer periods of time, Google claims

Android figurine

Android phones in the future will support up to four new OS versions thanks to a collaboration between Google and Qualcomm.

All new mobile platforms with Qualcomm silicon will get four OS version updates and four years of security updates, according to a blog post by Google engineers.

In 2017, Google changed Android to be more modular and enabling easier updates. This move, known as Project Treble, split the OS framework and device-specific low-level software (called the vendor implementation).

While this was good for device manufacturers, it introduced “additional complexity” for chipmakers.

“For each SoC model, the SoC manufacturers now needed to create multiple combinations of vendor implementations to support OEMs who would use that chipset to launch new devices and deploy OS upgrades on previously launched devices,” said Google engineers.

They added that the result was that three years beyond the launch of a chipset, the SoC vendor would have to support up to six combinations of OS framework software and vendor implementations – something that resulted in enormous engineering costs.

The new solution now extends the “no-retroactivity principle” to the SoCs as well as to devices. “With this change, the SoC provider would be able to support Android with the same vendor implementations on their SoCs for device launches as well as upgrades.”

Over the last year, Google has worked with Qualcomm so that “all new Qualcomm mobile platforms that take advantage of the no-retroactivity principle for SoCs will support four Android OS versions and four years of security updates”.

This means that a device will ship with the initial Android OS and then will receive 3 additional software updates over the course of its life. Security updates will extend for an additional year, to cover the final software launch, bringing the total lifespan to four years.

Engineers added that all Qualcomm customers will be able to “take advantage of this stability to further lower both the costs of upgrades as well as launches and can now support their devices for longer periods of time”.

The move will see Google reusing the same OS framework across multiple Qualcomm chipsets. It added that this would “dramatically” lower the number of OS framework and vendor implementation combinations that Qualcomm has to support across their mobile platforms and results in lowered engineering, development, and deployment costs.

Google said that the change would be taking effect with all SoCs launching with Android 11 and later.

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