If compared to Google with its Android, Apple has long experienced the advantage due to the company in having controls on both the hardware and the software of iPhones.
With hundreds of unique devices that run Android at any given time, Google is having extreme difficulties in keeping up with Apple in terms of speed and the effectiveness of major updates.
But despite the vast differences of software that OEMs offer on top of Android Open Source Project (AOSP), Google has been able to push many updates through Google Play Services, even when users' devices are no longer receiving major OS updates from their manufacturers.
With Google introducing new practices over the years to speed up its ability to push major updates, Google is also testing newer version of Android much earlier through Developer and Public Beta programs for Google Pixels, and other OEMs.
As a result of all the above, Google revealed that Android 10 was the quickest adopted Android version ever.
In a blog post announcing the achievement, Google described how it managed to accomplish this feat:
- Android 8 Oreo introduced Project Treble, which splits the core Android OS from OEMs' customizations. This effort sped up the adoption of Android Pie by 2.5X. Every Android device that preloads the Google Play Store has been Treble compliant since that point.
- Android 9 Pie introduced Generic System Images (GSI) so developers can use them for app-compat testing on real hardware. This sped up Android 10 adoption by 1.5X compared to Pie.
- Then in Android 10, Google started updating components of the OS directly via Google Play system updates (Project Mainline). This provides security and privacy updates for the OS in a way that’s similar to apps – through Google Play. As a result of this, Google managed to directly updated 285 million devices with fixes for security vulnerabilities.
- Google Play also helped Google in pushing critical updates to applications and services, such as authentication, push notifications, and Google Play Protect. One example is the launch of the Exposure Notification API, where Google managed to update more than 2 billion devices with COVID-19 contact-tracing ability.
For future prospects, most notably for Android 11, Google wants to expand its abilities in Android by introducing some "major themes in updatability."
For example, Google said that Android 11 has 7 OEMs participating in its Developer Preview program with a variety of hardware for testing. Google also said that updates would install in the background on a separate OS partition and applied at the next reboot. Then there is what it calls the "A/B OTA" (aka Seamless Updates).