Same As It Ever Was?
Qualcomm and Google hit the headlines with an announcement that they will now “support 4 Android OS versions and 4 years of security updates.” This is certainly not a bad thing but it isn’t exactly a groundbreaking change to much of the Android ecosystem, indeed it is more of a reiteration of what they currently do for high end Android phones, with the only change being an extra year of security updates. Any Pixel or high end Samsung phone currently gets three years of security updates and, technically four OS versions, as long as you count the version it ships with.
For those using lower end phone or other devices this is good news, as those devices did not necessarily receive the same number of updates and many quickly became insecure. Even adding one more Android version will be of great benefit to many users of tablets and lower end smartphones; honestly the devices which should be secured as best as possible.
There is a catch of course, as OEMs will actually need to update their Android skins and ship working builds for those devices which could be a problem for some devices. In an attempt to make this somewhat easier for OEMs to ensure they can easily provide updates Google is making some changes to Project Treble, their way of splitting the software and hardware into two components. Currently Google handles the software side, with the OEMs responsible for ensuring that their hardware will be able to support three OS updates.
The new Project Treble is intended to move the hardware compliance component from the OEMs to Qualcomm, which may work very well if the vague description they offered is accurate. This certainly won’t completely fix the Android ecosystem but it is a good step going forward for lower end devices.
You can also get a second opinion and more details by following the links at Slashdot.
Google and Qualcomm now say they are willing to pass the update baton to OEMs for three major updates and four years of security updates, but OEMs will actually need to update their Android skins and ship working builds to each of their devices. If they don't, we at least know who to blame now.