Google And the Qualcomm They collaborate to enable a longer support window for flagship Android smartphones. Qualcomm will now, with the help of Google, support its chipset for three years of major OS updates and four years of security updates, enabling a better Pixel level for all future Android phones, provided your OEM is willing to collaborate. This policy starts with the flagship Snapdragon 888, but even minimal chips will be supported. Qualcomm PR tells us, “The plan is to roll this out to all Snapdragon chipsets, including the lower-tier chipsets, with the new Snapdragon 888 platform going.”
Part of the Android Updates Challenge is the ongoing series of sponsored software that needs to be maintained, across multiple companies, from the Android repository to your phone. Google and Qualcomm now say they are ready to pass the update wand to OEMs for three major and four years of security updates, but OEMs will actually need to update their Android skins and ship builds to each of their devices. If they don’t, we at least know who to blame now.
Both Qualcomm and Google blog posts contain the same wording, that is, they “will support 4 versions of the Android OS and 4 years of security updates”. Read this quote closely and you’ll discover two different units of measurement taking place there, which some people have misinterpreted. While there are four years of security updates, the two companies count the initial Android version in their bid for “4 versions of the Android operating system,” so it’s three years of major Android updates, not four. We reviewed again with Qualcomm and returned “Qualcomm will support launch version + 3 OS upgrades, for a total of 4 major versions of Android OS. Snapdragon 888 will support Android 11, 12, 13 and 14.”
This is the same update plan that Pixels and What Samsung promised, But with another year of security updates. Bear in mind that Qualcomm also offers this level of support for lower end devices, so while this is only a small step for flagship phones, lower phones could see increased support for windows.
Google’s blog post goes into details on how to make the update easier for SoC manufacturers like Qualcomm. Project Treble’s re-engineering of Android split the operating system in half, separating the OS from the device with a modular interface. This makes it easy to run the same Android architecture across multiple hardware parts (called a generic system image, or GSI). While this makes things easier if you’re an OEM building the look of Android, it looks like Google has been piling up update requirements on SoC vendors.
SoC vendors are partly responsible for implementing a “vendor” in Project Treble – the lower half of the split OS that has hardware support. While things above the Project Treble split were guaranteed backward compatibility, the hardware support wasn’t. For every SoC, Qualcomm will need to maintain vendor implementation for every switching software history. This means one for phones launched with Android 10, the other for Android 11, and the third for devices that launched with Android 10 and upgraded to Android 11.
This system has not been well measured. Today, Google vaguely announces changes to Project Treble that will allow Qualcomm to support new and updated devices with a single vendor implementation. It has also (again, mysteriously) set up some kind of scheme to allow Qualcomm to use the same vendor app across multiple SoCs, which will reduce the update work even more.
Faster updates happen slowly
Google is also taking this time to update us on Android update status. Android 11 has the fastest adoption rate ever and outperforms the previous (previously The fastest ever), At least in terms of raw users (I doubt the ratio will be much different because I doubt that The overall figure Active Android users have changed in a year.) Thanks to Project Treble, the Android 10 blueprint has turned into an evil hockey stick about 100 days after launch, and we’re not at this point yet with Android 11.
Of course, this is still not compatible with Android with what Apple is doing, which is five years of major OS updates and Seven years From security updates for iPhone devices. Apple is the SoC vendor, operating system developer, and device manufacturer, so it has fewer logistics to operate, and it doesn’t have to deal with maintaining profit margins at every step of the process.
Each Android update announcement appears to be one small step towards improving the situation, and there won’t be a magic bullet far from that Blow up the entire system. Almost every sentence in this article can end with the warning “If an OEM wants to collaborate,” and for many, this last link in the update chain will be the important link. If your OEM doesn’t want to play ball, well, you know what to do, right? Vote with your wallet!