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Nearly a quarter of all Android devices now run Pie, but updates are still way too slow

Android 10, Pie, and Oreo easter eggs
Android 10, Pie, and Oreo easter eggs (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Project Treble has improved phone update rates tremendously, shaving off months from the time users used to have to wait.
  • Two manufacturers even got their Android 10 updates out the same day as Google, marking a new record in update speed for non Google-branded devices.
  • Further improvements are likely in the years to come as more OEMs adopt these programs and additional phones are enrolled in Android betas.

Project Treble, or better known as Google's big rework of Android's core design philosophies, has been implicit in the drive to get big OS updates out in a reasonable amount of time. We've seen the direct fruits of its labor with the last two big Android releases. Last year, when Android 9 Pie was announced, Google showcased the update not just on its Pixel phones, but also on seven different phones from seven different manufacturers. Likewise, this year's Android 10 announcement included a beta version that could be used on 18 phone models from 12 different companies, not even counting Google's own Pixel line. That's a huge improvement from only Pixel or Nexus phones being able to participate in the past.

Beta pilots are great and have shown massive improvements in update time for some companies, like OnePlus, who have gotten major updates out faster than ever. To draw comparisons, Xiaomi updated the Redmi K20 Pro and Essential got its phone updated to Android 10 on release day, while OnePlus delivered the final Android 10 update in 18 days. That's opposed to companies like Samsung, which are still toying around with Android 10 beta updates in late October and aren't expected to roll out the final version until at least some time in November.

Source: Google

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Still, the rate at which larger companies like Samsung, with dozens of devices to update at a time, has improved significantly over the years, as we're looking at updates that take months instead of a year or more (if ever, for some devices in the past). That means that you no longer have to stick with Google's own Pixel line if you want updates quickly, as the number of phones that are getting quick updates is growing year-over-year.

Backing that up is data directly from Google, which shows the rate of Android update adoption to Android 9 Pie for phones that shipped with Project Treble support. This last part is important, since Project Treble required a specific phone architecture to work properly, and the change this brought can be directly compared with older phones that do not have this update-friendly design. Google even cites many in the ROM development community which were able to port Android 10 to 15 devices within days of the final code release from Google, all of which were done on phones that launched with Android 8 or 9.

Android 10

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

While Project Treble has been an incredible improvement across the board, the rate at which most Android phones get updated is still incredibly slow. Going on Google's own chart, Android Oreo accounted for 8.9% of the entire ecosystem just before the release of Android 9 Pie. Subsequently, Android Pie made up 22.6% of the entire ecosystem just before the release of Android 10.

That's a significant improvement by any measure, and while it shows that Project Treble has had tremendous success, there's still a lot of work to be done. Seeing a year-old update on less than ¼ of all Android-powered devices is a pretty dismal number by any account but, comparatively, the previous version of the OS wasn't even on 1/10 of the devices in the same time frame the previous year.

Nicholas Sutrich
Nicholas Sutrich
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
15 Comments
  • Two year old flagship LG V30+ (sprint)
    .. Still rocking only Android 8.0.0 This is a huge problem.
  • This is one of the reasons my daily driver is an iPhone.
  • I would rather have Android lollipop than the solitary confinement of iOS. iOS updates are annoying, Bugs and updates to fix the bugs and updates. And iOS is still trash..
  • Is rather use a dumb phone that use the locked down prison that's iOS.
  • What a joke
  • Android updates are a joke? Or 250% increase in adoption yoy is a joke? Or this article is a joke?
  • Yeah, give me a single good reason why my Moto Z2 Play still doesn't have Pie more than a full year after release. Meanwhile, the cheap as chips Nokia 3 I had for a little while has had Pie for months. Android is usually quick to receive blame, but most of the responsibility lies on manufacturer ambivalence. At least if Motorola didn't have a thousand software channels and would just release a main Pie ROM allowing users who want it to load it via ADB recovery, that'd make a gigantic difference. But no, and it's no wonder they're releasing the Moto G8 this month, because come February they'll be forced to release all phones with Android 10 (thank goodness for some actual rules and enforcement, Google). At this point, I give up - I'm only buying Android One devices from now on.
  • I couldn't care less about the Android version. I only keep a phone for 12 to 18 months. What I'd like to see though are security updates! And while my Notes so far keep up with it one day I might be interested in a cheaper phone and then - poof - no more of that!
  • Nokia phones are good regarding security updates
  • A Samsung phone getting quick security updates? Hahaha.
  • "Dog Slow" compared to what? If you say Apple then your talking about one company making the hardware and software. So the only proper comparison is how many pixel phones have the latest version of Android. Android has updated more phones that are not their hardware than Apple has.
  • If you want the latest Android operating system it is all about marketing.
  • It's definitely not. Android 10, for example, finally allows for per-use permissions instead of just per-app, meaning I can set Twitter/FB/JoeShmoe'sCalculatorApp to only access my location when the app is open and completely restrict access when it's not in use. Each update includes progressively more security updates, and that's a very good thing.
  • I'm still not sure why all of these articles pop up like this. Everyone knows when you buy certain Android phones, not all manufacturers have the resources to keep updating them. They're are just too many variables. Especially once you hit that $500 and below market. Now, I security patches I could see, but you're not going to be getting the latest and greatest Android versions. You should only be comparing apples to apples and that's iPhone vs Pixel. Now, Project Treble has greatly improved just about all models which is a good thing.
  • I agree. If you want to compare iOS updates to Android, it should iPhone to Pixel. A huge chunk of the market buys phones other than these. Android one is the way to go outside of the Pixel, if you can. But you could always but an iPhone, that updates the really old devices, then those devices become virtually unusable after the update. Just so Apple can say "we are not fragmented".