If you are using a Nexus smart phone as I recommend, you will want to know about this: Google is now offering downloadable OS images which let you update the handsets manually without wiping them as well.
As you may know, Google already offers downloadable “factory” images to Nexus owners. These images work like those a Windows phone user would download with theWindows Device Recovery Tool: They let you wipe out the phone or tablet and return it to its original, pristine state. If you are a Nexus owner, it’s not a bad idea to keep the factory image for your particular device on hand. Just in case.
(Google also routinely offers images for next-generation Android versions to Nexus owners as well, using a system that somewhat mimics the Windows Insider program over here on the Redmond side of the fence. For example, you can now install the Android N Preview on Nexus devices, and I’ve done so with my Nexus 6P.)
The problem with the factory images, of course, is that they do require you to wipe out the device—an act I call “nuking it from orbit”—meaning you’ll need to be careful not to accidentally destroy any data on the device.
So this week Google revealed a new set of OS images for Nexus owners that let you install newer Android versions more quickly, rather than waiting for them to appear over the air (OTA). (Which, to be fair, they do, as Nexus owners get monthly updates.) And these images let you update the device without needing to wipe it out. Yes, it provides an in-place upgrade.
You can find these images—called OTA Images for Nexus Devices—from the Nexus Files for Developers web site. There are images available to the past several generations of devices—the Pixel C, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 9, and Nexus Player—and you’ll need to use some command line skills to make it works. (Shades of Android’s weird Linux heritage, I guess, though it seems like a GUI front-end would be easy for Google to create.)
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