Google engineer explains how Android updates roll out and why you shouldn’t force them

November 21, 2013
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Android 4.4 KitKat logo - aa

According to his LinkedIn profile, veteran Google engineer Dan Morrill “leads the team ensuring Android application compatibility, and administrating the Android Open-Source Project.”

In addition to knowing Android inside out, Morrill is a redditor and regularly contributes to r/Android answering questions that pertain to the inner workings of our favorite operating system. Here are his latest nuggets of Android wisdom:

  • About Android updates and the Check now button

As Dan Morrill explains here, updates roll out in batches, starting with 1 percent of all devices in the first 24-48 hours. The team checks for problems, and if everything goes to plan, proceeds to update the next batch, typically consisting of 25 percent of devices. So the percentage of updated devices goes from 1%, to 25%, to 50%, to 75%, to 100% over a period of 1-2 weeks.

And here’s the thing – the devices that go into each batch are randomly selected once for each batch. In other words, if you are turned down for the first batch, you have to wait for the next one, and no amount of tapping the Check now button will help.

The bottom line is there’s no point checking for updates more than a couple of times per day.

  • About forcing the update by clearing the Google Service Framework data

In a related thread, Dan Morrill also explains what happens when you clear the application data of the Google Service Framework, a trick that some users employ to get Android system updates faster. Morrill talks about the negative side effects of the procedure, which is not even guaranteed to work in all cases.

The issues occur because the procedure resets the Google Cloud Messenger ID, which is the service that Google’s apps and many other third-party apps use to transfer data to and from Android devices. Depending on your setup, clearing the Google Service Framework can cause all kinds of problems with your apps, which persist until all of them get a new GCM ID.

Instead of clearing GSF data, Morrill recommends the impatient to manually sideload the image file with ADB, a procedure that my colleague Adam Koueider walks you through here.

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