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Android 11 could force all smartphone OEMs to adopt seamless updates

The feature makes OTA updates a riskier affair, while also letting you use your phone during the update process.

Published onApril 8, 2020

Android 11 logo stock photo 5

New Android 11 phones could make the software update process way more efficient and secure. According to evidence discovered by an XDA recognized developer, Google could make it mandatory for all new Android 11 phones to feature Seamless Updates.

What are Seamless Updates?

Seamless updates were introduced by Google on Android Nougat. They ensure that a workable booting system remains on the disk during an OTA update by creating virtual A/B partition structures.

When your phone receives an over-the-air update, Android’s Seamless Updates feature will patch an inactive partition in the background while an active partition with the existing software keeps running in the foreground.

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Once the update is applied to the inactive partition, you’ll be asked to reboot your phone. When you reboot, the inactive partition with the new software update will become the active partition, completing the update process. The previously active slot will remain as is and will be available in case there are any issues with the new update.

How is this more efficient?

One benefit of the A/B partition structure is that you can keep using your phone while the OTA update happens in the background. The only downtime you’ll face is when you reboot your device.

However, a bigger advantage is that if an update fails for any reason, you will not have to re-flash your device or send your phone to a repair center. You can simply roll back to the older OS on the other partition and re-attempt the update once it’s fixed.

What is Google doing?

Not all smartphones OEMs use virtual A/B partitions. While brands like Google, Motorola, OnePlus, Sony, HTC, and Asus reportedly offer the feature in some of their phones, bigger OEMs like Samsung, Huawei, and Oppo still don’t seem to support it. This could change soon.

The XDA member found evidence of a recent change that Google made to its Vendor Test Suite (VTS). Starting with Android 11, Google will check if a phone supports A/B partitions or not. The device will fail the VTS if there’s no support, and every Android device must pass this test in order to preload Google Mobile Services (GMS).

Related: What is HMS? All you need to know about HUAWEI’s new mobile ecosystem

Given this mandatory change, mobile vendors will have no option but to support Seamless Updates.

It really is a win-win situation for consumers who wouldn’t have to worry about their devices getting bricked during updates. Smartphone OEMs will have to figure out a way to optimize storage in a way that ensures these system partitions don’t take up too much space. However, Google already has a nifty way of doing so and others can just borrow a page from its book.

When to expect mandatory Seamless Updates?

Google hasn’t announced anything officially, but if the evidence found by XDA is any indication of things to come, you can expect phones launched in late 2020 and beyond to feature Seamless Updates.

Are you wondering if your phone supports the feature? You can check for this through the Treble Check app, revealing whether your phone supports both Treble and Seamless Updates.

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