At a meeting at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen, China, ahead of today's Mate 10 announcement, the company's software boss told Android Central that updating existing handsets to the new versions is also a priority, while also commenting on security updates and the next version of Android, Android P.
Dr. Wang Chenglu, Huawei's President of Consumer Business Group Software, told AC that Oreo for the Mate 9 will arrive around four weeks after the Mate 10 begins shipping. Assuming the new phone ships within the next month, that should mean unlocked Mate 9s will be upgraded to Oreo before the end of the year.
Dr. Wang confirmed that the Oreo update will bring Google's Project Treble feature to the older phone, potentially accelerating any further updates. In addition to new features in Oreo, Mate 9 owners can look forward to performance improvements in EMUI 8. The company's own internal benchmarks showed a small but significant improvement in responsiveness for the Mate 9 going from 7.0 to 8.0, with a score of 85, up from 79. (The Mate 10 scored 89 in the same tests.)
Performance improvements and Project Treble will be coming to the Huawei Mate 9 with Oreo.
As for security updates — arguably more important than Android platform upgrades — Dr. Wang says Huawei will target monthly security patches for its new flagship phones, assisted by Project Treble. That's a considerable step up from its current pace of quarterly security updates, though Wang framed this as a "target" for the company as opposed to a hard promise to users.
Interestingly, Huawei is also doubling down on co-operation with Google in the next version of the OS. "We have an earlier engagement with Google for [the] Android P version," Wang told AC. "For the P version, we started engaging with Google more than three months ago [as of late September]."
Huawei's focus in Android P will involve "not just features and functionality, but also AI ecosystems," he said, pointing out that by doing this, Huawei could ensure its latest Kirin CPU are best optimised for Google's Tensorflow Lite library — an important part of helping developers leverage its NPUs (neural processing units) in AI-equipped apps.
All of this is big news for a company that's historically dragged its heels on OS upgrades for older phones. The usual hurdles, including mobile operator certification, are likely to apply even if Huawei is able to meet its update goals for unlocked devices. Nevertheless, early signs are that the company is finally taking software updates seriously.