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Pie's launch is the litmus test for Project Treble
Android 9.0 Pie is finally here, for some smartphone users at least. It’s a familiar story for many; a new version of Android hits, Pixel users grab it right away, and the rest of us wait for roadmap announcements from our smartphone manufacturers. This can be agonizing, especially as there are often delays.
Project Treble, introduced with Android 8.0 Oreo, should alleviate this stress, making it quicker and easier for manufacturers to update phones. How quickly manufacturers get around to rolling out Pie updates will tell whether Treble has worked or whether Google wasted a lot of time.
Why Treble is so important
Fragmentation is still one of Android’s biggest perceived weaknesses, especially when rolling out more crucial security patches. It’s been a year since Android Oreo’s release, yet the operating system features on just 12 percent of all Android phones currently in use. It just takes manufacturers too long to update existing handsets, and support rarely lasts more than two years.
Historically this hasn’t all been the fault of smartphone manufacturers. Before Project Treble, manufacturers relied on chipset manufacturers like Qualcomm for updating their platforms to work with the latest versions of Android. Older chipsets, especially non-flagship versions quickly dropped from the support list. Treble essentially defines a clear separation between the hardware and software layers, making it simpler for manufacturers to update Android software without waiting for chipset manufacturers.
Google has removed the update bottleneck. Brands don't have any excuses to hide behind anymore.
The good news for consumers is manufacturers don’t have any excuses to hide behind anymore. Google has made providing updates much easier. Now we can see which brands actually care about providing long-term updates. Unfortunately, not all phones updated to Oreo support Project Treble, so many will still miss out on faster updates.
Android 9.0 Pie updates should generally arrive a lot faster than previous versions. Manufacturers have had the beta code for a while and can immediately begin work on their final software without the previous chipset wait. Updates should roll out before the end of 2018, rather than in the new year like last time. Any slower and Treble won’t feel like a worthwhile investment.
The situation looks promising so far
A number of Android smartphone manufacturers already appear to be making use of Project Treble to roll very quick Android 9.0 updates out to their handsets. Essential Phone customers are already good to go. OnePlus has also promised updates for its range of smartphones, although a timetable hasn’t been forthcoming. A few other phones from Nokia, Xiaomi, and others also saw Pie beta software, and therefore should get a final version soon.
If big brands delay updates until 2019, Treble won't have been a worthwhile investment.
Larger manufacturers are also making plans for Pie releases this year. Vivo told Android Authority it plans to release Android Pie in Q4 2018. Sony confirmed it will release the update for its XZ1 and XZ2 ranges starting in September. Huawei is also reportedly testing Android 9.0 for high-profile phones like the P20 Pro, Mate 10, and Honor 10.
Of course, we still haven’t heard a peep from a certain large manufacturer, which has historically been slower with updates. Project Treble’s success could well hinge on whether Samsung feels like keeping up with its smaller competitors’ updates.
Project Treble isn’t just about bringing brand new versions of Android to consumers though. It encourages manufacturers to roll out regular security patches and fixes as soon as they are available. For Treble to really be a success, we need to see fast updates to Pie, as well as consistently prompt security patches.