back to article The End of Abandondroid? Treble might rescue Google from OTA Hell

Google's attempt to cure the Android's ever-worsening fragmentation issue and slow updates might actually turn the tide. Updating existing handsets is one of the biggest challenges Google faces in the next decade. While Apple can update half of its user base to the newest code within two months, and almost all within a year, …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward

    Only time will tell if this direction will be successful., but I will welcome it as it will be beneficial to get security updates no matter who your carrier may be.

    Having said that, I now wonder if they will only support newer phones, or will they be providing upgrades for older phones so that you can upgrade your phone in order to take advantage of the newer system. But I don't think it will ever happen, they will only focus on newer devices, and older devices can go die in a landfill somewhere.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Problem being that the phone manufacturer would have to provide the upgrade to the newer system, so stuff that is now landfill will stay that way.

      The alternative is running a third party ROM - which will likely take advantage of this asap

      1. fuzzie

        I believe the BSP (Board Support Package) from the SoC provider now provides the HAL upon which the rest is built. Since Qualcomm has a habit of end-of-living SoC after about 18 months, it's highly unlike they'd care to issue updates on those. In theory, Oreo can run with a legacy "shim" layer, but I suspect it's also not worth the effort.

        1. johnnybee

          "Run this AOSP if you want to Play"

          The idea is that handsets with Oreo ON RELEASE will not be certified for Google services if they can't run boot a minimal AOSP release (as defined - and kept secret from we plebs - by Google).

          The upshot of that is that handset manufacturers will have to conform to a relatively strict HAL definition for *basic* functions, but be able to retain control of their USP features. You will, therefore be able to upgrade, but may have to choose between <feature_you_have_come_to_rely_on> and latest greatest android version.

          This is definitely an improvement. Note, however, that it only affects handsets seeking to be certified by Google with Oreo; previous handsets upgraded to Oreo will not have to comply with this to *retain* certification.

          My next handset will have Oreo at launch...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @johnnybee

            OK, let me see if I understand this. If you get such a "certified" phone now it will have to be able to boot a minimal release for basic functions, but won't support features that aren't in that minimal set like say fingerprint reader, wireless charging, IR blaster or one of many other features that some Android phones may have but all don't have so Google can't include it in their minimal/basic HAL.

            So how would that help OEMs patch more frequently? They can't deliver the Google patches directly to the user, because people who buy phones with beyond minimal feature sets will assume those features won't be disabled. Sure, with work the OEMs can port those fixes into their "full" OS but they can do that today so it isn't helping them at all.

            So if I understand this correctly, the bargain basement sub $100 Androids may be able to be kept up to date better than a $500+ flagship with lots of bells and whistles? That might encourage the security conscious just buy the cheap model in the first place, and learn to live without the features...

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: @johnnybee

              As long as the driver architecture doesn't change, those features should still, probably work, but you get the new features and security updates promptly.

              Fingerprint readers, wireless charging and many other fairly standard features are supported directly in android, although it will be a question of how well the drivers are implemented, as to whether they still work.

              On the other hand, I'd rather have a secure phone and have something like HDR photos broken for a few days than have HDR photos and a pwmned phone...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Google could help a lot

      Google could help a lot if they limited the OEMs crapware to just apps.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Google could help a lot

        Yes.

        Though this whole idea is ancient and I never understood why phone makers didn't start working this way in Windows CE and Symbian era.

        Even Windows NT worked on loads of platforms and CPUs from NT3.1 (the start) till NT4.0 (when it started falling off the rails).

        Though I think Google's flavour of "Java" is the based on the portable Desktop version rather than the crippled cut down official Mobile Java. Sun or Oracle wouldn't licence the Desktop portable Java for Mobile devices, only the Mobile version which had been on Symbian etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Google could help a lot

          Sure, Windows can be installed on many different pieces of hardware but you can't swap a drive with an active Windows install between PCs. That's what the article claims is now possible with Android, where an identical OS load can be booted on multiple different types of hardware.

          Though I have to think even they do that the OEMs still have to distribute it. Google can't simply update the kernel underneath OEM customizations and "just assume" it will works. With OEMs left in charge, they still won't have incentive to invest anything into updating phones older than a 18-24 months - once they are no longer sold anywhere it is all a cost and there's little benefit to the OEM.

          The better Android gets at updates the more problems there will be, simply because software updates are never perfect. Google has been insulated from that because the OEMs drive the updates, and even when updates happen they are so spread out they keep under the news radar. If that changes - well just look at Apple with the autocorrect bug that replaced 'I' with 'A <wackysymbol>'. Google hasn't had to deal with this yet thanks to fragmentation, so they don't make the news / become a pop culture meme like the 'I' thing did for a hot minute.

          1. Tim Seventh

            Re: Google could help a lot

            Sure, Windows can be installed on many different pieces of hardware but you can't swap a drive with an active Windows install between PCs. That's what the article claims is now possible with Android, where an identical OS load can be booted on multiple different types of hardware.

            You mean swapping a windows installed hard drive to complete new hardware? You can do that for Windows, it's just all your drivers will be mess up and you might lose your windows license for oem home/pro grades. You can do that with Linux and macOS too. Mobile OS's are the ones you can't do that, because iOS started as devices specific and android copied that.

            Though I have to think even they do that the OEMs still have to distribute it.

            The article sourced xda-developers where the devs said they were able to get Android 8 rom working. In another word with treble, xda-developers can also distribute it.

            The better Android gets at updates the more problems there will be, simply because software updates are never perfect.

            At least you'll get a choice instead of no updates at all.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Google could help a lot

              You mean swapping a windows installed hard drive to complete new hardware? You can do that for Windows, it's just all your drivers will be mess up

              So what you're saying is that I'm right and you CAN'T simply swap hard drives. The drivers are part of the OS, after all.

            2. davidp231

              Re: Google could help a lot

              " you might lose your windows license for oem home/pro grades"

              Change enough, and you're made to reactivate. Unless you mess with OEM stuff - they will refuse to activate as activation information is sat in the BIOS. I had an old Compaq laptop lose all its SLIC settings and Windows decided it was no longer a Compaq, so complained about activation because it thought it was an HP (which is technically true). Restoring the stuff in SLIC restored Windows to normal(?) without the need for a reinstall.

          2. phuzz Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Google could help a lot

            "you can't swap a drive with an active Windows install between PCs"

            Since Vista this has been possible. It doesn't always work, and you'll want to update the drivers afterwards, but it does work most of the time.

            The only problem I've come across is if you want to move to a machine that requires storage drivers that aren't a part of a default Windows install, but most machines are using an Intel SATA controller of some description so that's not a big problem.

    3. big_D Silver badge
      Mushroom

      It isn't just carriers. We have a fleet of Samsung Galaxy phones at work (S5 through S8) and none of them have been patched beyond August 2017. My personal Nexus device has the latest November updates...

      When even the biggest Android suppliers can't be bothered to protect their customers, why should you ever buy a phone from them?

      My Nexus is slowly nearing the end of its useful life, with updates planned for about another 12 months. The Pixel line are just too expensive and I don't know of any third party manufacturer that keeps their devices patched to cover the latest zero-day fixes. Does anyone know of any manufacturer that has released the November 2017 patches for their flagship devices, let alone models 12 months old or older?

      That is the one thing I liked about Windows Phone, it offered central patching from MS, similar to that of Apple, and the configurability of Android. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. I have both the Nexus and a Lumia 950. The 950 is a much better phone to use, but most of the apps I use have been pulled or are unstable (WhatsApp and FitBit being two prime examples, the former seems to use a random number generator to decide whether to notify you of incoming messages and the FitBit app would lose contact with the FitBit device and you either had to re-install the app or reboot the phone several times a day...

      Although I don't like the iPhone, I feel it might be the only valid option for long term support, when I replace my Nexus next year... :-(

      If this initiative from Google works, it might offer some hope. You can't release an Internet connected device today and not offer at least security updates in a timely manner for the lifetime* of the device.

      * Judging by the people I know, lifetime is between 3 and 5 years.

  2. Semtex451
    Gimp

    I know some folk on Gingerbread, but these types don't care when they really should.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      I still run a phone on 2.4 (if memory serves me correctly)

      It's not my main phone, but it still works quite happily doing the limited job it does...

      HTC Desire S as a mobile data connection over USB...

  3. dajames

    Seems to hold some promise

    ... unless the reason you are looking to upgrade is to fix a bug in the vendor-supplied layer, in which case this leaves you worse off than before.

    It should help most people get a newer version of Android on their old phones, though, and that's something.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Essentially a Java phone!

    Thank you very much say the Oracle Lawyers.

    Ok Google, wanna settle?

    That one POV.

    But honestly, this mess does nees sorting out. This may be a step forward but only if the makers get on board. I wonder how this will go down in China and umpteen dozen real cheapo makers who all want to be the next Xaomi etc?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Essentially a Java phone!

      Not really.

      It *is* a Java phone.

      What Oracle allege is that Google STOLE Java by... interfacing with something that was a JavaVM. Which was always a nonsense.

      It's still the same design as Java - a bytecode-based portable virtual machine architecture, and even still has a lot of Java compatibility. It just doesn't touch the software belonging to a stupid company that thinks they can own anything that interfaces with, or duplicates their standardised API.

      Dalvik and Android Runtime are still both runtimes that take Java code input and produce code that runs on a portable virtual machine.

      Oracle think that means that Google should pay them something ludicrous like 10% of every handset they've ever sold. Google say that reimplementing a Java compatibility layer from scratch with their own code to replicate an existing standardised API for backwards-compatibility purposes isn't illegal. One of them is right. And one of those arguments is the basis of everything from Samba to LibreOffice, Dalvik to POSIX layers.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Essentially a Java phone!

        Quote:

        "In May 2012, the jury in this case found that Google did not infringe on Oracle's patents, and the trial judge ruled that the structure of the Java APIs used by Google was not copyrightable."

        ... Google have never claimed it WASN'T designed/based on/replicating Java. The courts say how they did it is legal. And that, in fact, the Java API isn't copyrightable anyway.

    2. fandom

      Re: Essentially a Java phone!

      Considering how much The Register uses Linus' outburst as click bait they should go and ask him about porting the Linux Kernel to Java.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Essentially a Java phone!

        If someone does ask Linus, we really need it filmed. I nominate the SlowMo Guys!

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Essentially a Java phone!

          If someone does ask Linus, we really need it filmed. I nominate the SlowMo Guys!

          I think colinfurze would be a better choice.

          He's an expert at surviving madly dangerous projects!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They need to enforce the GPL

    Vendors have modified the Linux kernel - these changes are covered by the GPL.

    Android should validate that only stock Linux kernels are installed on a phone, and deny accesss to Google API services (Google play) if large manufacturers haven’t upstreamed their fixes.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: They need to enforce the GPL

      Gosh, if only there were a kernel-taint mechanism we could use to do exactly that.

      The fact that they HAVEN'T means that they know there are problems with doing so (i.e. manufacturer's don't want to have to release GPL drivers for ARM 3D functionality, etc.)

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: They need to enforce the GPL

      That's right: send for the lawyers…

      1. TVU Silver badge

        Re: They need to enforce the GPL

        "That's right: send for the lawyers…"

        Regrettably, that seems to be Oracle's approach to everything these days and they're light years away from the open source-friendly Sun Microsystems days. Ultimately, I don't think that type of attitude will in any way help Oracle in the long term because businesses will steer clear of their products knowing that litigation will almost certainly appear at a later date.

    3. davemcwish

      Re: deny accesss to Google API services

      My suspicion is that the manufacturers will see this as a way to continue, so far successfully, upselling a new phone in this scenario by blaming Google because a customers phone has suddenly 'stopped working' as opposed to admitting it's the vendor layer lock preventing updates.

      It's this dog's breakfast of Android O/S support that's held me off from switching ecosystems. My 2013 vintage iPhone 5s is still supported by the latest version of iOS. I can't think of a similar age Android handset that runs Oreo.

      @Peter Gathercole - This and the increased cost of a handset/sim deal with a network provider is why I'll always choose sim only deals. So far my handsets, including the one I passed to the missus have been 2nd hand and worked just fine. Really can't see a significant use-case to do anything different.

    4. Jonathan 27

      Re: They need to enforce the GPL

      I think a lot of people are worried that trying to enforce the GPL like that will end in it being determined legally unenforceable. All they need is one precedent.

  6. Richard Jones 1
    Unhappy

    What About It Moto?

    My Moto G4 Play was supposed to get out of 6 a while back, I'm still waiting. This might be partially down to my current carrier EE. The phone is not network locked and was previously updated while on Tesco PAYG mobile, but since connecting onto my EE account, nothing, including poor EE service at home...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What About It Moto?

      Mine was patched last week, but not upgraded.

      Now runs like a lame dog that had it's balls cut off, 3 legs gone lame and been blinded in both eyes.

      Other than that, all is well.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Now runs like a lame dog that had it's balls cut off etc....

        Is that a change? In my experience that's what happens to all Android handsets after 6 months of use, update or no....

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: What About It Moto? @RJ1

      EE don't provide updates to phones that they supplied, so why do you think they will provide OTA updates for one that they didn't?

      If your phone uses stock Moto firmware, it should be possible for you to get the code to put it on yourself.

      EE have a bad habit of getting tweaked firmware from the handset manufacturers for the phones they supply, with a slightly different EE specific model number, and a different ROM id. They then do not provide the updates, and the changed ROM id prevents you putting the stock manufacturer ROM on them without significant effort.

      I've been caught by this twice with 'phones that came from them. I'm now seriously looking at not upgrading my current phone, but buying an unlocked phone and dropping to a sim only deal.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: What About It Moto? @RJ1

        Bit like the latest barrage of Mr Bacon adverts for an Apple watch that ONLY works on EE...I'm sorry, what? So this piece of expensive well crafted deluxe wristwear requires me to pay you to check what the time is?

        Really don't understand how that is supposed to be encouraging people to buy, sounds more like a Ratner moment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What About It Moto? @RJ1

        I'm now seriously looking at not upgrading my current phone, but buying an unlocked phone and dropping to a sim only deal.

        That takes the MNO out of the upgrade loop, it doesn't help if the handset maker won't release an upgrade. But the days of getting better value by buying a phone on contract are (mostly) behind us. Usually far better value to buy your own handset and go SIM only, you can change deal as often as you want with a thirty day rolling contract, and avoid the big three by choosing an MVNO if you want. You also can choose to buy the various Chinese handset brands that offer excellent value, but aren't offered by the major networks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What About It Moto?

      "My Moto G4 Play was supposed to get out of 6 a while back, I'm still waiting. This might be partially down to my current carrier EE."

      If you've got a Tesco firmware running on EE, then likely nobody is going to update it OTA. EE won't have Tesco firmwares, Tesco won't have your phone in their database, and Moto only release open market firmware. You need to do it manually, probably from a Tesco firmware (O2 might apply OK)

      My Huawei P9 Plus had an open market Nougat firmware available back in about May. My carrier (O2) have just released it about two weeks ago (long after I ditched the phone for a Pixel).

      Part of the problem is network desperate to stock the iPhone, so if Apple say "OK - you can stock the phone but you're not going to mess around with the firmware", they have no choice. Manufacturers of Android handsets haven't got the same clout as there's more choice, so if Sony were to try the same line with Vodafone, Voda could just say "Well that's fine, we'll stock some more Samsungs instead and convince all our customers they're better"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What About It Moto?

        Manufacturers of Android handsets haven't got the same clout as there's more choice,

        Well, SIM-only customers (now about 30% of the UK market and rising) don't have the carrier bloatware problem, so if Project Treble delivers, we'll be laughing. Well, laughing to the extent that we can when Google takes every single byte of data and squirrels it away forever.

        And then there's the question of if Treble delivers, when will that be?

  7. ldm

    OEM has to enable it though

    e.g. the Nokia 8 is in the process of getting Android 8, it's being rolled out OTA but not currently (as of right now) available to unlocked/carrier-free devices in the UK. Those who do have it report that Treble is not enabled.

    Hope springs eternal - I didn't realise until after getting the device that OEMs had to explicitly enable support for it, and Treble was one of the main reasons I got this specific phone. Perhaps they'll turn it on later - right now I'm on 7.1.1 which is at least still a supported OS.

    1. James Cooke

      Re: Lithium batteries are last century's technology

      Anything that ships with Oreo out of the box has to have Treble support. It won't help all the existing phones out there but your next phone might get a lot more support than the last one.

  8. Whitter

    Vendor layer

    From my own POV, the vendor-layer has only ever been a problem, not a boon.

    And certainly not something I want to pay for. I'll but the phone, but not your lock-in thanks.

    Anything that simplifies the vendor-added layer into something that does not get in the way with patches (and ideally, something that can be removed or changed) the better.

    1. fuzzie

      Re: Vendor layer

      This info graphic from Sony is probably a reasonable representation for how most OEM have to deal with Android updates. My understanding of Treble is that it addresses the first three steps. It also has some support for carrier overlays so those can be more cleanly merged into the final OEM stack

      * http://www.xperiablog.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/rsz_sony-xperia-software-rollout-roadmap.jpg

      It's possible that, if the below-HAL parts haven't changed, that the OEM may even be able to skip (some of) the Phase 2 certification steps. Those don't just add lead time, they're expensive, especially for OEMs in many territories.

    2. Ben 44

      Re: Vendor layer

      @Whitter - "vendor" in the case of Treble is the SoC vendor. Not the phone vendor or network.

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Not Google's problem

    I disagree with the premise: Updating existing handsets is one of the biggest challenges Google faces in the next decade.

    The plethora of different Android versions has little effect for the vast majority of users. If this were not the case there'd be court cases from here till eternity.

    Legally Google is in the clear because it pushes all relevant patches to AOSP. Most revenue-relevant API services are already rolled into Google Play Services.

    Manufacturers have little or no incentive to up their game until they are held liable for not publishing relevant patches.

    That said this is a welcome development.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not Google's problem

      Legally Google is in the clear - but if the Android answer to my; 6month old phone is vulnerable to a web page hack that will leak my online banking details - is just go and buy a new £500 phone every 6months.

      Then Apple might be laughing all the way to the new bank it had to build when the old one got full.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Not Google's problem

        but if the Android answer to my; 6month old phone is vulnerable to a web page hack that will leak my online banking details - is just go and buy a new £500 phone every 6months.

        Luckily, it isn't. We need to take the retailers and the manufacturers to court to get them to do their job. Might add as much as € 10 to a handset.

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    As it should be

    Computers were supposed to make out lives easier, not provide a future dystopia of vendor lock-in.

    Bring it.

  11. Steve Knox
    Boffin

    This needs more detail:

    While Apple can update half of its user base to the newest code within two months, and almost all within a year, Android lags far behind.

    This needs supporting evidence, preferably a matrix of manufacturer/carrier (if applicable)/update frequency/response time.

    I've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence -- on both sides of the story (e.g, my Samsung devices on AT&T US get regular updates, but I've got a very nice Asus tablet which sadly hasn't received an update since I bought it) -- but no good statistical treatment. Anyone got a good source for that?

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: This needs more detail:

      This is interesting:

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/271774/share-of-android-platforms-on-mobile-devices-with-android-os/

      It shows that Kitkat (4.4) is still the third most used version. Nougat hasn't caught up with it yet.

  12. IanDs

    My OnePlus 3 has had regular OTA updates, most recent one was to Android O last week.

  13. cbars Bronze badge

    Great

    "much like how Microsoft Windows can run on nearly any computer hardware"

    Let's make a linux derivative, slowly close the source for all the useful bits (G Play) and then copy Windows

    +1

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Great

      "much like how Microsoft Windows can run on nearly any computer hardware"

      Only really applied NT 3.1, NT3.5, NT3.51 and NT4.0, and only if HAL was implemented. But it was on Power PC, x86, MIPS, Alpha and 64 bit Alpha. Curiously XP had a version for Itanium as well as x86 and eventually x86-64. Win CE was a sort of cut down static version of NT and perhaps supported four CPU type at one stage (ARM, x86, ??, ??), but a later phone version was ARM only.

      Never applied to Win Shell on DOS (last versions Win9x and WinME).

      Vista / Win7 was very limited (NT6x actually) on HW & CPU.

      1. davidp231

        Re: Great

        Indeed - the original 64bit version of XP was the Itanium version. They just changed the name slightly for the x86_64 version.

  14. adam payne

    Phone manufacturers they want to make money and one way of them doing this to to abandon update support for older phones. They will only continue to support old phones with updates if they are have no other choice or that choice is removed from them altogether.

    1. Aitor 1

      Support

      Charge money for support, say 5£ per major Android, and most people with a bit of sense would pay.

  15. drewsup

    always wondered why..

    Google just couldnt just provide the base android, then with your phone hooked to a computer after android was updated, it would then prompt you with Hey, you need to upgrade these drivers to work with the new OS, you know, like windows used to be like when you freshly loaded it .

    1. Barry Rueger

      Re: always wondered why..

      This! It's one thing for manufacturers and carriers to just stop providing updates, but a much more significant problem that it is nearly impossible to update a device on your own. Google could at least make core components easily available and installable so that end users could find a way around lazy phone companies.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: always wondered why..

        Google can't - prior to Treble, an Android update for a specific handset required binary blobs (developed for a Google-issued update for a specific chip) to be sent by the chipset vendors to the original device vendors.

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    They don't regard the extra pennies on making a phone even a little bit future-proof as worth it

    Ah, but this very site carries regular installments of "oh my god this is huge update your phones NOW", so the lack of updates will weigh into my choice of a new phone in the future.

    For example, zero updates and baked in Facebook crap that couldn't be uninstalled are why I'll never buy another Sony phone...

    1. Dave 126

      Re: They don't regard the extra pennies on making a phone even a little bit future-proof as worth it

      My Xperia P received updates to 3 Android versions, my Xperia Z3C a couple (before I dropped it). Whilst @heyrick might have a point about older Sony phones, any prospective buyer would do well to go beyond his single comment and get the lay of the land from reading threads in XDA Developers or sonesuch.

      If anyone here knows of a site that has tracked manufacturer updates of phones over years, please do share. :)

  17. fishman

    Does it really matter?

    Considering that the android handsets that do get updates (Nexus, Pixel) make up a very small percentage of overall android sales, consumers don't seem to really care. We (Reg readers) care, but we are tech savvy and good looking, too.

    1. JohnFen

      Re: Does it really matter?

      Well, I'm tech-savvy and good-looking, but I honestly don't care whether or not my phone gets regular automatic updates. But then, I use third-party ROMs anyway (I can't think of a phone that I'd be OK with leaving the "factory" image on), which gives me the benefit of being in charge of when, or if, an update happens.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: Does it really matter?

        It's not only Nexus and Pixel phones that get updates. It was only those phones, plus Project Silver phones, that were guaranteed updates though.

        The whole point of this article is that any Oreo phone should be easier to update because some of the updates can now be applied independently of chipset or phone vendor.

    2. Duncan Macdonald

      Re: Does it really matter?

      Depends on the use - my phone is running 4.1 (which IS rather old!!) but for my use that does not matter - it gets used as a phone, bookreader and camera. There is NO banking use, no credit card details, no paypal details etc. Data is normally turned off and WiFi is only turned on at home when I want to load something onto the phone. My amazon account has no credit card linked to it (I use prepaid Amazon gift vouchers instead) so there is very little on the phone that any hacker could get.

      Unlike the current youngsters whose life revolves around their phones, I just regard it as a useful tool that can be readily replaced.

      (The phone is NOT used as a SatNav because the THL W8s has a bad GPS - it takes over 10 minutes to get a fix while standing in the open.)

    3. PNGuinn
      Megaphone

      Re: Does it really matter? @fishman

      Hey! Speak for yourself!

      Some of us on here are tech savvy, butt ugly and proud of it.

  18. David 132 Silver badge
    Coat

    Let's hope...

    ...Treble helps boost the user bass.

  19. Dr Mantis Toboggan
    FAIL

    Yet Again Fail

    "While Apple can update half of its user base to the newest code within two months, "

    Google can update pretty much all it's userbase to the new code within a few days of release...

    Android is not a phone manufacturer, it's an operating system and clearly plenty of people get really confused by this. How hard is this to understand?

    Do you also walk into a car dealerships to buy a new set of tyres?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Yet Again Fail

      Do you also walk into a car dealerships to buy a new set of tyres?

      If Audi say, we don''t do any safety recalls and we don't allow you to fit winter tires on your own. And anyway we don't have to support the car because although we built it, but you bought it from VW car sales inc not directly from VWAG so we are legally in the clear.

      While BMW say - we will do all fixes for free within 6months for the next 10years on all BMWs.

      Which do you buy from ?

    2. djstardust

      Re: Yet Again Fail

      Do you also walk into a car dealerships to buy a new set of tyres?

      Some people do, but they're also the owners of the iphone.

    3. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: Yet Again Fail

      @ Mantis

      "Do you also walk into a car dealerships to buy a new set of tyres?"

      Personally, no I don't, but apparently here in N.A., both ford and toyota *insist* that one should only get one's tyres from them. I hear the ads on radio at *least* three times a day. And my VW dealership keeps sending me buy 3 get one free deals for tyres, where I'd be paying double for each of the three what I would pay @ costco **for precisely** the same tyre. (not that the VW dealership has been allowed to *touch* my vw since I bought it.)

    4. Steve Knox
      Holmes

      Re: Yet Again Fail

      Google can update pretty much all it's userbase to the new code within a few days of release...

      Android is not a phone manufacturer, it's an operating system...

      So if you have a Toshiba, Sony, Lenovo, et al. PC with Windows on it you're not part of Microsoft's userbase?

      Google's userbase includes everyone using any of their products -- and Android is a Google product.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet Again Fail

        You really don't get it do you? Why are you comparing PCs to mobile phones?

        Android is built for the hardware it needs to run on. Windows you download device drivers. They are two very different ways of doing things. I would opt for the Android approach any day, as on Nexus and Pixel is works very well indeed.....

        1. Steve Knox
          Boffin

          Re: Yet Again Fail

          You really don't get it do you? Why are you comparing PCs to mobile phones?A smartphone IS a PC. It's a different form factor, but it's still a computing device with a general purpose CPU, RAM, storage, and I/O devices.

          Android is built for the hardware it needs to run on. Windows you download device drivers. They are two very different ways of doing things. I would opt for the Android approach any day, as on Nexus and Pixel is works very well indeed.....

          In general, you're correct. The advantage of the Android model is performance, which is important within the constraints of lower-power systems like smartphones. The advantage of the Windows model is flexibility, which is important when software is intended to run on a broad range of devices.

          However, this distinction is completely irrelevant to the definition of "userbase". If I use a product of yours, I am a member of your userbase. Users of any device with an Android OS are members of Google's userbase, just as users of any device with a Windows OS are members of Microsoft's.

          I think you're trying to say that Google's responsibility ends at distributing the new code to HW manufacturers, but Google themselves are saying that that doesn't cut it, because users are lacking version updates and, more importantly, critical security updates, due to manufacturers' unwillingness or inability to release updates in a timely manner or for all active devices. This is where Treble could help Android by adding a more complete HAL, allowing Google to push security, performance and feature updates without having to wait for HW manufacturers to update, recompile, and validate their code.

          1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

            Re: Yet Again Fail

            "You really don't get it do you? Why are you comparing PCs to mobile phones?" Someone said.

            "A smartphone IS a PC" I think someone replied.

            A smartphone is absolutely NOT a PC. Would you suggest your washing machine is a PC because it has a computer in it? Your car? Etc? Etc? Etc?

            No. These are all devices that happen to be driven by a computer. The thing is not to focus on the computer but focus on the device. You can use a PC for many things, but phones you use in completely different ways.

            An example – you can write a book on a PC. While you could possibly do this on a phone, you most likely would not want to.

            I think whoever said a smartphone is just a PC was being an apologist for Microsoft "Windows Everywhere" approach. This is the wrong approach. It is the cheap way of doing it. Software is much better when it is tailored to the functionality and the hardware form factor.

            1. drewsup

              Re: Yet Again Fail

              I call BS in this, modern phones ARE a pc, with keyboard,modem and screen built in, in fact high end phones are being touted as "pc power" in your pocket, yes binary blobs, blah, blah,blah, but it points to where Android is broken.The phone manufacturers need only update the blobs, that get will get attached to the base OS by a software program loaded on your pc during the phone update process, this CAN be done.

              Send via my windows phone, which is a small pc, albeit a crap one!

              1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

                Re: Yet Again Fail

                drewsup: "I call BS in this, modern phones ARE a pc, with keyboard,modem and screen built in, in fact high end phones are being touted as "pc power""

                No, if you read what I said before, many devices use computers inside. The user is hardly aware of the computer, just the general device functionality. Just because they run a computer does not make them a PC. The form factor of a phone is far away from a PC and the functionality is different. I still have a Macintosh because I don't expect iPhone form factor to do the same things, even the 12" iPad.

                Same thing will be for Windows, even though full Windows is run on everything. That does not make it a good idea. Different systems for different forms is a much better idea.

                1. Steve Knox

                  Re: Yet Again Fail

                  Many devices have electronics inside, but that's not what defines a PC. A PC is a general-purpose device. A washing-machine, or a car, is a specific-purpose device.

                  Now look at the modern smartphone. What do you do with it? Well (true story), when the sales droid asked my wife that when we were shopping for new phones, she said "well, taking pictures, playing games, facebook -- y'know, phone stuff." You know, phone stuff -- that phrase now means so much more than "talking to people at a distance" (and apparently everything but to the missus...) I use mine for note-taking, navigation, etc. We can do this because they're now general-purpose devices.

                  The only difference between a modern smartphone and a modern PC is the size and shape of the case they come in. You can get smartphones which run full-fledged Windows, and PCs that run Android. You can mine cryptocurrencies on your smartphone and can make phone calls and even use your 4G data plan when wi-fi is not available with your PC.

  20. Ilsa Loving

    Will this help current phones?

    I am assuming that, while this new architecture is good, it won't help current and past phones. This is the architecture Google should have implemented on day one, not 10 years later, after "Landfill Android" became an official term.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will this help current phones?

      Anonymously, as a former employee:

      Google is a big believer in monolithic repositories, see articles such as Why Google Stores Billions of Lines of Code in a Single Repository. It is also a big believer in assuming that whatever it decides to do, it can steamroll over the target industry. See its attitude towards copyrights other than its own.

      I think you're right about what Google should have done from day one, but I don't think that organisation is capable of making that sort of rational decision. Rushing with questionable judgement to market with an attitude that the rest of the world will have to bend to its will is the Google way; implicitly admitting an error after a decade like this is virtually unprecedented.

    2. rdhood

      Re: Will this help current phones?

      I imagine that, in the beginning, that Google thought that they would put out updates and the bloatware pushers would update THEIR respective images and send out an update. I imagine that Google DID care, but they couldn't fathom that ATT/Verizon/Sprint/Tmobile would sh!t on their customers. Once realized... and with a few really really nasty bugs floating around like a time bomb, Google finally acted.

      1. JohnFen

        Re: Will this help current phones?

        "they couldn't fathom that ATT/Verizon/Sprint/Tmobile would sh!t on their customers."

        So nobody at Google were actually customers of the major carriers? How else could they not fathom this? Shitting on customers is a core part of their business model.

  21. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    There's a layer missing in those diagrams.

    and that's the layer that will **** it all up ....

  22. davidp231

    It also depends if the network provider can be arsed to fling out updates as well. The same model phone may or may not get any updates whatsoever depending on who you're with. Bad if you're a general consumer who doesn't delve into the realms of flashing ROMs, or the OEM just makes it impossible to do so, even on factory unlocked kit.

    Bad example: Factory unlocked Sony Xperia M2 - some don't allow unlocking of the boot loader at all, so you're stuck with whatever Android version is present after what little updates come down.

    Good example: Network locked HTC One M7 - flash a different model number and you can stick different ROMs on it. You can even flash the special Google dev version onto it for a more pure Android (ie no custom HTC launcher) if you set it right.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      re:It also depends if the network provider

      It's almost like there is a God ...

      My preceding post was highlighting that in the end, it will be the networks that fuck this up with their cruft.

      Maybe everyone else needs a pisspoor Vodafone, or O2, or EE collection of unkillable, unremoveable apps on their device. But I don't.

      I guess I am probably an edge case, but when I buy a phone - outright - I don't want any shit on it at all. I also don't want to have to root it to use it.

  23. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Simple fix

    Require all makers to allow bootloader unlocking, in the same way we enforce network unlocking.

    Then we can all run lineageos and get nightly updates

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Simple fix

      Interestingly enough they do exactly that with Chromebooks -- they're required to have a bootloader that's unlockable without opening the case. The ChromeOS platform came out later than the Android one, and I think they learned a few things in between.

  24. Lorribot

    Google better hope Microsoft haven't patented sensible OS design or it could be sue balls at dawn.

    1. JohnFen

      Does Microsoft have any sensible OS designs to patent?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google, please get out of your own way.

    The biggest roadblock to adoption of newer Android releases (such as 6.x Marshmallow and 7.x Nougat) on existing Phones is the Google Cockup with FDE (full disk encryption), on both the technical side (they fouled up on early Qualcom snapdragons hardware crypto support in Android, on both performance and stability),

    and in order to REALLY fuckup the situation, they're asking for mandatory storage encryption in 6.x and 7.x.

    This political insanity within Google has caused Samsung and its customers to get locked into Android 5.0.x riddled with hundreds of unpatched security holes for millions and millions of existing phones and Tablets based on earlier Snapdragons (400,600,800,805), such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 series (5"., quad-core 1.9 Ghz Krait 300,, 2GB Ram, fullHD Display), or Galaxy Tab 4.

    https://blog.elcomsoft.com/2016/03/smartphone-encryption-why-only-10-per-cent-of-android-smartphones-are-encrypted/

    https://nelenkov.blogspot.de/2015/05/hardware-accelerated-disk-encryption-in.html

  26. Lorribot

    Windows of opportunity

    Now if Microsoft released a Windows Phone image that would go on all those old Android phones.........

  27. Bob Vistakin
    Boffin

    It's not just phones any more

    Android Things, Googles IoT offering, aims to do for them with IoT what Android did for them with mobile. The current AT release is based on Oreo, which is where Treble was introduced. System upgrades and base hardware portability for IoT is a world of hurt which makes smartphones look simper than Diane Abbott's abacus. It's very much in Google's interest to nail these fragmentation issue across all hardware, not just smartphones.

  28. Jeffrey Nonken

    It sounds like the programmers at Google have learned the concepts of abstraction and loose coupling. Bravo! Next they'll learn to avoid global variables and magic numbers.

    Any day now they'll graduate Computer Programming 101.

  29. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

    Java advantage - only if it makes coffee

    "Android has two advantages - it's essentially a Java phone, and Java was designed to be portable, and the base is open source code"

    Those are not advantages. As we have seen time and again, consumers don't care what language any software is written in – only on what it does.

    Neither is open source an advantage. But the Darwin base of iOS is also open source – so you are wrong on two counts there.

  30. Nimby
    FAIL

    Sanity check failed, back to Land(roid)fill as usual.

    Frankly, I'd sooner expect to see a startup company based on a legacy Android buyback program used to make cheap distributed computing servers (with built-in UPS) to make a bigger dent in the Antiquedroid problem than Treble ever will ... and I don't even expect said imaginary startup to ever exist!

    Meanwhile, I'll be duct-taping a collective eBay extravaganza of an Intel Compute Stick, a 4G USB modem, a USB touchscreen, and a battery together to make my own full-OS phablet before I buy any of the latest "smart" phones. At least that way I'll have proper security, OS upgrades, software that actually does something ... and still have the same lousy battery life.

    Shame no one can be bothered to make a product worth buying these days.

  31. Random Q Hacker

    Linux has had version independent drivers forever, no? In Linux, it would just be a matter of the vendor providing a new bootloader and initrd with updated kernel and appropriate boot time drivers...

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