Android updates run through a series of steps between the announcement by Google and when it's installed onto your device.
This series of posts will take you through that journey to help you understand how an update gets from Google to your smartphone or tablet.
News sites and blogs erupt with headlines like “Google releases Android 4.0!” – and you, eager to stay on the cutting edge, begin to ask how you can get this update onto your device.
However, this announcement is only the first step in a long journey that software updates take from release to delivery to your device.
Here at Vodafone we certainly play a part in this journey through the testing and certification of each update, but it’s only the last hurdle of a long, long race.
Let’s see what a software update goes through before Vodafone can even begin this testing and certification process.
Google's Android Team is responsible for developing updates to Android; these updates contain new features, bug fixes and enhancements at the core to the platform.
Once completed, the Android team make these updates available to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
Think of these releases as a blueprint or reference diagram, although the software exists, it's not in a usable state.
It is designed to help manufacturers build the new features of Android into their devices, not to be run on a device directly.
If this update is a major upgrade (such as Android 2.2 to 2.3, or 2.3 to 4.0) Google will select a handset manufacturer to partner with and work together to develop a demonstration device.
The Nexus One, Nexus S and GALAXY Nexus are all examples of this.
It's important to note that this work has been ongoing for many months prior to Google making the announcement, which gives that particular device a significant head-start on the journey that other devices must catch up.
Other device manufacturers then take this blueprint for the new release and decide whether or not the devices they have in the market have suitable hardware and technical specifications to work with the new Android update.
For those devices that meet the minimum requirements, the update continues to the next stage of the journey – Manufacturer Development.
The manufacturing partners of the AOSP use this reference diagram to begin the hard work of customising the update for their devices.
The chips, displays, processors and antennas all differ between each device and manufacturer, and these components may need additional or new software to be written in order to work with the new Android version.
If you’ve ever installed Windows on a laptop without any drivers, you might be familiar with the kind of experience you can expect - certain things simply won't work until you get the software necessary for your specific computer's configuration.
A great example of this is Sony's Ice Cream Sandwich Preview Release for their Xperia range.
Even months after Android 4.0 was released by Google many features don't work on the new version, including the most basic function of a smartphone: making a phone call.
Each software update released by the Android team has to be hand-coded by Manufacturers to ensure that it will interact in a positive way with the plethora of hardware combinations that exist throughout Android devices.
This complicated process takes a significant amount of work by manufacturers, with multiple revisions and quality-assurance tests taking place at each stage.
After what is often months of work, the update is finally developed into a workable state for the various hardware variants, and to progress to Stage 3 - Manufacturer Customisation.
Over the coming week we'll take you through the rest of the Android Software Journey.
Our next post tomorrow will focus on Manufacturer and Carrier Customisation, followed by the final stage next Tuesday - testing and certification.
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