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Project Treble is turning out to be more important than we thought

While we're all busy arguing about Android P's gestures and swooning over the new features, something far more exciting didn't get the attention I think it deserves: seeing the first fruits of Google's labor with Project Treble. In a completely unexpected move, Google released the first beta version of Android P for not only its own Pixel phones, but also phones from seven different companies. It's neat for owners of the individual phones from each of the manufacturers to get an early look at Android P, but that's not why this announcement is so exciting.

The real importance is that seven phone makers get extra-early access to Android P and can start working with the new platform. Yes, Google has partnered with Nexus manufacturers in the past, and Developer Preview versions of Android have been available for some Sony phones. But this is a whole new level of manufacturer access, and it's all because these phones support the new Project Treble system for more seamless application of software updates. By making phones with Android Oreo out of the box and Project Treble enabled, these companies can more easily make Android P run on their phones because the user-facing software is separate from the firmware underpinnings developed for Oreo.

Google provided the groundwork and tools necessary to update software quickly.

Sony, Nokia, OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, Essential and Vivo are all part of the beta program. These are huge companies that sell tens of millions of phones a year. And now each and every one of them has already started its work on making Android P work on its phones — about six months before Android P is released with the upcoming Pixel 3. And let's be clear, this doesn't just help them release P updates for the one phone that's part of the beta program — it sets the development in motion for getting Android P to their entire lineups faster.

There are many moving pieces at play here that could eventually get in the way of Android P updates from these companies, but Google's laid the groundwork and given the tools necessary for each of them to release new software on a far quicker time frame. Both providing extremely early access to the software and an operating system that facilitates a simpler update process is a recipe for faster software updates for end users. It isn't as exciting right now as using Android P's new gesture interface, but it's undeniably more important for the Android market as a whole moving forward.

Now, a few more thoughts on the hectic week that was:

  • As you may have read, I'm still not sold on Google's new "digital wellbeing" initiative — even though I agree we should all consider using our phone less. I just think Google isn't coming at it from the most sincere perspective.
  • Digital wellbeing aside, it's been fun to play with Android P — particularly since I didn't really bother with the initial Developer Preview on my Pixel 2 XL.
  • The gestures clearly aren't finished, and I'm almost entirely withholding judgement because of it. Same goes for many of the visual/color changes. I'm loving the transitions and feature additions, though.
  • We all got distracted by Google I/O for a hot minute, but there's also a whole lot of hardware coming soon. The LG G7 is about to hit stores, the OnePlus 6 will be unveiled in just a few days, the HTC U12 is close. It's a great time to be in the market for an Android phone.
  • Also, BlackBerry "KEY2" it is. It's so intriguing that the new TCL-made BlackBerrys have kept alive the thought that someone needs to offer an Android with a physical keyboard.

-Andrew

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

22 Comments
  • Gives hope that Android will move on to a better system of updates and upgrades. Would have been great to have the latest Huawei phones in the beta lost as they also came out with Oreo out of the box
  • It's too bad that more of these phones aren't available in America. OnePlus pulled the 5T off the market, so of the phones that support the developer preview, only the Essential phone is not horribly overpriced.
  • This is very encouraging, it would be even better if Samsung, the biggest Android hardware manufacture available globally, was also involved, this whole week I haven't heard anything about their involvement in anything. At least it's also come out that Google Assistant is coming to countries like South Africa before end 2018, that opens a way for Google hardware.
  • sadly nothing will chance, only high end devices will receive updates
    example: BLU has 250+ phones and how many Oreo? 1, yup only 1 device with oreo over more than 250+
  • To be fair, I owned the Blu Life OneX. I expect absolutely nothing from Blu as a software provider. The phones are so cheap there isn't a point updating them, and especially with how many new ones they release each year. Plus, I don't trust Blu, less than I trust ZTE or Huawei
  • Some things will change. Some others will unfortunately, stay the same
  • You get what you pay for. Did you really expect a cheap phone, but with reasonable specs, would get a tonne of timely software support? C'mon man.
  • Sandboxing apps has been around for awhile. I'm glad Google is stepping up and finding a way to help everyone stay secure. Thank you Google.
  • I am most definitely in the market for a new phone. There's so many to choose from. All I know is that the U12 needs some decent marketing and carrier support.
  • Treble ONLY works with Snapdragon 845, 660, and 636 mobile platforms, thus far?
    Since my Moto X4 Android One uses the Snapdragon 630, it is NOT compatible with Treble?
  • Where are the Koreans? I see Sony, Japanese, HMD Nokia, Finnish maybe, Essential, US, and 4 Chinese manufacturers. At this point why not make Android One phones like Nokia does. It's more straightforward. And 2018 will the year where people will get updates fast enough, or faster than the past, putting to rest those people who said "I don't need updates, my phones already has those features 3 years ago." Yup keep dreaming guys, under the hood optimisation and platform uniformity means more developers can use the latest API and optimisation.
  • Until Samsung moved to Android 8.0, Oreo usage was barely over 1%... It's at about 5.5% now. Just like Oreo has not mattered, neither does P. Sure, on the separate issue of monthly security patches... They matter more. Android Central grossly overstate the importance of Android OS.... Always. In fact, I'm surprised those obsessed by the Android operating system aren't now complaining that the expansion of features in Android P aren't "bloatware" or getting to big... True, gesture controls have been available on other phones for a few years.
  • The fact that take up is slow does not mean it doesn't happen.
    How many phones are still on Android 2 or 3?
    Yes Android P might be what Samsung will be using in a couple of years but it will be using it.
  • I think the main effect of Treble is that you may see more phones that are released right after a new version of Android include it out of the box, and you MIGHT see some updates come sooner, but I don't think we're going to see manufacturers release many more updates than we see now. The reason is pure economics. Look at the S8 and S8. If Samsung continues to provide timely updates to the S8, fewer average consumers will be as likely to run out and buy the S9. They aren't viewing their phones as hardware with an OS that can be updated to do almost or entirely as much as that shiny new phone in the store. They look at a phone as this thing that has certain features. Does the new one have a feature that they want--something their old one doesn't have? If so, they're more likely to buy the new one. It usually doesn't occur to them to be pissed at the manufacturer for not pushing out timely updates because they often view phones as static devices. As long as they keep working, people are happy. So the manufacturers actually have a disincentive to push out updates for too long. They just need to keep the phone running until the next model is released. At that point, they have a financial incentive to make it look a little dated and stale.
  • Project Treble has no impact on most phones getting faster updates. People don't understand what Proejct Treble does.
  • Leave it to Google to lead Android to bigger and better things and while it's great that all these OEMs are on the Android P beta program, I'm particularly pleased that Nokia is there as they've been the one OEM that's impressed me, with their commitment to updates, if I wasn't dead set on getting Pixel 2 XL, Nokia would definitely be my alternative option. This gives hope that other OEMs will come on board including Samsung, eventually but I really don't care about them too much but I'll definitely be following Nokia though. This is the fruits of Google's labour with Project Treble and I like what I'm seeing so far. Good job Google as always.
  • A few phones getting beta releases of STOCK Android means nothing for most phones getting final releases of OEM customized Android.
  • At first you'd be surprised that Samsung isn't on the list, but then again, they'd forget :^)
  • Google has been saying updates will be more timely and frequent since ICS. Maybe they have gotten better, but for the most part, a phone that is older than 12 months almost never receives an update, security or OS. Personally, I think Treble should be treated like Google Play services. Google should push the update to the phones, and be done with it.
  • Google can't really do much about it. It's the phone makers that are to blame.
  • Yeah, good stuff
  • Project Treble allowed more phones to get the Android P Developer Previews but it won't help in phones getting the final updates. These phones were getting a Developer Preview of STOCK Android directly from Google. For most phones, like from Samsung, the phones aren't getting stock Android. They are getting the the Samsung-ified version of Android. Project Treble separates the code for hardware (basically drivers) from the rest of the OS. It doesn't nothing to decrease the time to Samsung-ify the new OS and that is where the bulk of the time is spent.