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4 min read 2 comments

Sony explains the long wait for Android updates

Less than a week ago, Google released Android 9 Pie. The new software is already available for Pixel and Essential phones, but owners of Samsung and Sony devices are still waiting. Ever wondered why these updates take so long? Sony has an explanation.

In a blog post, alongside announcing which Xperia smartphones will be getting the Android 9 Pie update, Sony explains why walking the road from Google’s release for Pixel phones to third-party models is taking so long. After the Oreo update, the Japanese manufacturer wants to promote a clearer understanding of the reasons for these late rollouts.

Sony revealed that it only receives Google’s Platform Development Kit (PDK) mere weeks before the release of a new Android version. PDKs are sent out to allow manufacturers to adapt their own apps and innovations before release. However, Sony explains that whilst Pixel owners are a couple of weeks away from a major software update, Sony is only just starting work on getting the latest version to its phones.

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Smartphone manufacturers don't have a very long lead time. / © Sony

Customization, and a lot of testing

The first job is to get the hardware working with the software. Sony does not use all of the standard components of the current Qualcomm chips, so the part of the OS that is responsible for hardware-software communication (HAL) needs to be adapted so that a new version of Android will run on Sony’s smartphones. This process goes right back to basics, such as getting telephoning, messaging and internet connections up and running. Next, Sony’s owns apps such as the music player, the camera app and the lock screen need to be reconfigured.

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The components are adapted step by step. / © Sony

Once everything has been fine-tuned, the first stage of testing begins. Sony distributes models running the new software internally in order to collect feedback and identify bugs or other problems. At the same time, laboratory tests are carried out and further feedback is gathered from Sony’s trusted third parties regarding the stability and performance of the software. Only then can Sony start the rollout of new software.

The final checklists and gaining approval

Once all the tests have been completed and Sony is happy with the results, it’s time to check whether all of the technical standards for Bluetooth and WLAN, for example, as well as the manufacturer's own software requirements, are met. Certificates need to be obtained. There is also work to be done for carrier-specific adaptations and optimized versions.

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Time to wrap things up and launch it. / © Sony

Sony then releases the new Android software in waves, in order to have the option to withdraw the update if problems have slipped through the net. During this period, Sony scans its own forums, as well as third-party boards and social media channels, for more feedback and continues to release patches for bug fixes.

Feeling better about the long wait for software updates?

Whilst some of you might not be surprised at how long it takes to develop software for smartphones, Sony hopes that by detailing this information its customers will have a better understanding of how much work goes into these updates. The testing phase, in particular, seems long but is ultimately for the benefit of users. Rushed updates can lead to serious functionality problems, and perhaps Sony's blog will create a little more understanding about the time it takes to prevent these issues.

However, the infographics provided by Sony will fuel the argument that Sony should switch to completely Vanilla Android software, along with the Android One initiative. Significantly fewer of these time-costly adjustments would be needed as a result, and it would only speed up the process overall.

As you can see in our Android 9 Pie update overview, the first manufacturers have already announced which models will be updated and when the new software will be released. Are you satisfied with the speed of software updates for your device? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Sony

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  • Isn't this something, going forward, that "Project Treble" is suppose to rectify? That is, if said manufacturer, agrees to the terms of project Treble?
    Personally, I think a LOT of what Sony says is corporate hogwash. Most reasonable people know why there is a huge delay in updates. $$$$ In pushing back or outright withholding updates, they hope the end user, many who ditch phones within 24 months, will be easily talked into a NEW one. From a U.S. user perspective, for whatever reason, most U.S. users will still (over pay) and purchase their phone from a carrier. So from a carrier standpoint, it makes sense when someone walks into a store with a 12-24 month old phone, to steer them into spending more money on a NEW phone, rather than "waste your time" on updating an "old" phone.
    I picked up an Essential phone within the last 2 weeks and the minute it connected to wi-fi, it went from 7.1, to 9. If the monthly patches come along that way, THAT is how they all should do it, but, for the $$$ reasons, won't until Google forces the issue (hopefully). when Google started with Android, I understand they wanted to build up the brand, so making it AOSP made sense, but, now they should start to pressure manufacturers & carriers into timely updates, not 6-9-12 months down the road.


  • I don't know if the "problem" for most users is delay, or simple unavailability of any OEM information or commitments that they plan to serve upgrades. I recently got a Lenovo tablet and was surprised to find a full "Android Upgrade Matrix" (google it) for all its models, showing which have and which have hard plans to get Android version upgrades. (My Android 7.1.1 should get 8.01 in November this year.) I've never seen another OEM do that, it ought to be standard practice, Google ought to force OEMs to do it as a term of licensing, and Sony ought to volunteer tomorrow morning to publish the URL to its own Android upgrade matrix for all its models.

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