How Android updates are released: HTC infographic on why KitKat may be late

by: Chris SmithDecember 26, 2013


Android has been often criticized for the time it takes for OEMs to release the latest versions of the mobile OS to customers, but HTC has put up an useful infographic in which it shows us how updates are released for carrier devices, unlocked edition and developer devices and Google Play edition (GPe) devices.

According to HTC, there are several steps involved in releasing an Android update, as follows:

  • Stage Zero: Evaluation
  • Stage One: Development
  • Stage Two: Integration
  • Stage Three: Test/Certification
  • Stage Four: Push to Customer

Stage Zero: Evaluation

As you’ll notice in the detailed image (link at the end of the post,) it all starts with Google releasing the PDK to OEMs (HTC included) ahead of the actual announcement of an upcoming version of Android, so the new framework can be evaluated. After the new version of Android is released, OEMs further evaluates requirements, while waiting for the chipset manufacturer to determine whether the new Android OS version will be compatible with its current chips.

Stage One: Development

Then, drivers and optimizations are released by the chipset maker for the chips that will support the new Android OS version, with a “modified board support package (BSP)” being delivered to HTC for the devices that use the chipset.

Stage Two: Integration

Up until now, no matter what HTC device we’d be talking about, HTC proceeds in a similar fashion. However, after the BSP is provided, HTC takes different steps depending on the device it has to update. On GPe devices, HTC moves directly to testing, while on carrier and unlocked models, HTC comes up with a new software version for those devices to asses whether it can support them – in case the devices are supported then the source code is infused with HTC’s Sense for each device. For carrier versions, the company has an additional step in place after integrating Sense, which is working with each carrier to add carrier modifications including apps, services and requirements to the firmware.

Stage Three: Test/Certification

The next step is for HTC to submit a software build for Lab Entry, which is then tested. In case bugs are found during testing, a new build with fixes is released. The carrier versions of the handset will be tested by carriers as well, which have to approve the update before it can be released to the public.


Stage Four: Push to Customer

Once the software is accepted, Google Issues its Technical Acceptance, at which point HTC prepares the over-the-air (OTA) update to be released to customers. HTC handles the update for the unlocked and developer edition versions, Google pushes the update to GPe models, while HTC and carriers release the update for the carrier versions.

Wrap Up

The infographic shows there are eight and nine steps for GPe and unlocked devices, respectively, to be updated, while carrier updates require 12 steps – that’s why carrier updates take longer to be released (image above). Considering that most people buy on-contract handsets – therefore carrier custom models – the infographic explains why they’ll have to wait longer to run the latest Android OS version in town. While this is an infographic provided by HTC for HTC devices, other OEMs most likely have similar Android update steps in place for their devices.

In addition to providing the infographic, HTC has listed the Android 4.4 KitKat update status for various HTC One versions:

Are you already running KitKat on your HTC device?

Click here to see the detailed infographic.

  • AndroidBoss

    HTC should make the next Nexus phone.

    • MasterMuffin


      • NeedName

        whomever makes it, I would like to see some DragonTrail glass on it.

      • nebsif

        Sony is trolling google via rockstar, so screw them and their washed out displays

        • MasterMuffin

          Sony is part of that? :O

          • NeedName

            Sony is a part of the consortium however, Rockstar acts “independent” . . . whatever that means.

            MS and Apple are using more than one patent troll these days.

            However, google chose not to join the consortium at the time the patents were purchased.

          • MasterMuffin

            So yes or no for Sony? :)

          • NeedName

            Sony is a part of the consortium that owns Rockstar. That sounds like a “yes” to me. . . but they supposedly do NOT have a say over what Rockstar does.

      • patrick

        sony will make the next nexus phone because of it’s powerful hardware and quality phones “said by google one year ago”

      • AndroidBoss

        I heard Motorola was gonna make one, but that was a long time ago, like when the Nexus 4 came out. I think LG is doing a good job; however I only like their Nexus lineup.

      • Leone Sam

        Gusta …

  • Groud Frank

    The title of this article should be “One More Reason to Get Unlocked Phones”

  • NeedName

    HTC has never been good with updates. . . even when their devices ran stock Android.

    • Amine Elouakil

      That’s way the HTC One was one of the first if not the first android phones to get updated to the latest android version.

  • my Droid DNA is running KitKat but that’s because i rooted it :]

  • smokebomb

    “for those devices to asses…”

  • smokebomb

    Custom ROM your device before you do anything and you’ll get more timely updates from the ROM community than you will from enterprise companies.

  • Anirudh

    They taking the ‘android firmware update status’ to a whole new level of transparency

    Next level i can think of is their weekly project status ppt’s shared by respective managers :P

  • anexiole

    hmmm i have an unlocked htc one purchased from jb hifi here in australia and yet, I still don’t have the kitkat ota…. sigh :(

  • taa

    Can you make a video about this?

  • Diamen91

    Very nice infographics!