Google, Qualcomm Moving to Four Years of Android Support

Posted on December 16, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google, Mobile with 14 Comments

Project Treble has helped Android 11 get off to a fast start. And now, Google and Qualcomm are moving forward to support new Android versions for four years.

“In the past few years, the latest Android OS has been adopted earlier by [device makers] and deployed in larger numbers to our users, … driven by [device makers] delivering faster OS updates [by] taking advantage of the architecture introduced by Project Treble,” a new Android Developer blog post reads. “Despite the events throughout 2020, there is a continued momentum among our partners to either launch their devices on Android 11 or offer Android 11 [as an upgrade] on their devices earlier.”

As Google describes it, Project Treble was “an ambitious re-architecture of Android” in which the OS framework was split from device-specific low-level software. Project Treble software images are guaranteed to be backward-compatible with the previous three versions of device maker implementations, in addition to the current release, for a total of four years of software compatibility support.

Google has also had to work with hardware chipset makers like Qualcomm to ensure that each System-on-Chip (SoC) version they supply will support all combinations of OS framework software and device maker implementations, for both new hardware and for upgrades.

“Building on our deep collaboration with our colleagues at Qualcomm, today we’re announcing the results of this work,” the post notes. “Going forward, all new Qualcomm mobile platforms that take advantage of the no-retroactivity principle for SoCs will support four Android OS versions and four years of security updates.”

The change applies to all device makers that use Qualcomm chipsets and impacts Android 11 and newer, Google says.

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Google, Qualcomm Moving to Four Years of Android Support”

  1. walterwood44

    Gee, this is sure generous of them. They are a bunch of greedy bastards only interested in selling new phones! My original Pixel XL that cost about $1000 when purchased went out of support last year after only three years and not even serious bugs will be fixed.

    On the other hand, Microsoft put out a patch for 10 year old Windows 7 and my 12 year old car still has support for critical repairs but no patches for expensive smartphones.

    • reefer2

      In reply to walterwood44:

      Yeah, in comparison to desktop OS, support for mobile ones are terrible. I think this is a move because of Apples five year support plan for iOS. Samsung recently upped their Android/OneUI support to. Hard to motivate much shorter support then what their main competitor offers.

      I think that in the near future both Apple and Android makers will further extend their software support as people increasingly use older phones and of course expect them to be safeguarded for the good money they payed for them.

      Im still running my 2018 Samsung Galaxy A6+ that still feels snappy and it did get Android 10 last year but will miss out on Samsungs new support plan so no Android 11 for it.

  2. reefer2

    In reply to proftheory:

    Smartphones are soon to be 14 years old, way past the mature mark.

  3. retcable

    Before everyone gets too excited, this is just Google and Qualcomm deciding to do this. It is not Samsung, Oppo, LG, Sony, OnePlus, or any other phone manufacturer. Google sells only a very tiny number of Pixel phones compared to the other makers. Yes, Qualcomm modems are in every Android phone since they are essentially a monopoly in the cellular modem space as they own all the patents, but they do not make the phones themselves, and those phone makers are notorious for wanting to "test and evaluate" Android OS versions for months and years before they allow them to be installed onto their phones, and even that is after they modify the OS and stuff it full of crapware, bloatware, and 3-4 of their own versions of apps that are included in Android OS.

    A glaring example of this Android OS fiasco: My OnePlus McLaren edition personal phone is still waiting on its Android 11 update, while my iPhone 12 work phone has already received 3 point release updates since iOS 14 came out. Google has a LONG way to go in solving their fragmentation problem.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Just Google and Qualcomm. So just the maker of the platform and the maker of most of the underlying hardware. Yeah, don't get too excited. :)
      • retcable

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        How many times, and how many programs has Google come up with that are supposed to remedy the fragmentation and update problems? I can count several just off the top of my head, with Treble being the latest. Treble has not been much of a success, with a lot of recent Android phones, some I have owned, being months behind on their security updates that are supposed to be a part of Treble's regular and required updates. And some never receive the promised full Android OS updates.

        Those updates are being blocked by the device makers, not Google and Qualcomm. Google can try all they want, and they are trying, I give them full credit for that, but getting regular security updates and full Android OS updates past the companies that actually make the phones has been exercise in futility thus far.

  4. codymesh

    pathetic. The support needs to be double this - at least 8 years

  5. mike2thel73

    Too little too late.

    What most of the online reporting outlets are not making a big enough stink about is the fact that google/qualcomm are not going to hold oem's accountable if they decide not to update a device that's four years old or less. Qualcomm mentioned that extended support will also eventually be given to mid and low end devices/chipsets but again it's up to google's hardware's well documented how that's going to go.

    I've already decided my next phone will be an iPhone flagship.

  6. JH_Radio

    About damn time! So the biggest question then becomes what is the oldest processor line that will get this 4 year stuff? and which phones that are older than 2021 get this?

  7. sscywong

    In reply to proftheory:

    Smartphones that haven't gotten to that mature hardware environment? You sure?

    To me the smartphone hardware has matured for years already... What's the difference between different "generation" of phones in recent years aside from the camera and display?

  8. MikeCerm

    Pretty crazy that Windows 10 will run on any PC from (realistically) the last 15 years, and yet Google and Qualcomm are only just now figuring out how to do 4 years of updates (and all handset makers except for Google will probably still not deliver updates to anything but their most recent flagships).

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