“This time, things will be different,” or so Google says with each major dessert-flavored Android release that it pushes to phones and tablets. But looking at Android Marshmallow and Android Nougat over the past two years proves that’s not entirely true.
Adoption of Google’s newest operating system is just 7.1%, still conspicuously low with of all users around the globe tasting its much-hyped features. Even more eye-opening is that out of the two billion active Android users, an estimated 360 million people are still running Android 4.4 KitKat, which was released in 2013.
So when, if ever, will things be different for Google in reaching more of its community with each new release? Well, right now, if it can be trusted to deliver on its latest promise.
What is Project Treble?
Project Treble is being angled as Google’s proper fix for the nasty, notorious clog that prevents new Android operating system updates from reaching more device makers and thus, more consumers in a timely manner.
More specifically, Treble takes aim at the vendor implementation, a slice of the Android architecture that talks with the hardware inside of the phone. Previous updates to the OS have required device makers to undertake the costly, code-heavy task of completely retooling it, according to Google. This is likely the cause for delay for most manufacturers, and why some seem to take a stance against updating at all.
Google’s bold move is to make the vendor implementation futureproof from the point of manufacturing. Its device partners can focus solely on updating the rest of the Android framework, which seems like more than enough work on its own.
In the past, the fervent pleas from the smartphone community seem to be persuasive enough to sway companies into updating devices, but if Treble actually changes things, it could remove anyone’s need to protest in the first place.
Will Treble strike a chord?
Project Treble isn’t a solution to Android’s fragmentation problem today.
As stated earlier, the divide between old and new operating systems is miles wide and will remain that way. However, it will help Google turn the page into a new chapter, starting with Android O. And while that means that millions will be left behind until they buy a new phone, it’s a good thing for a few reasons.
Android O won’t necessarily cost everyone a small fortune to be a part of. Its announcement of Android Go paints a convincing picture that Google’s latest is for everyone, not just those with cash or a steadfast commitment to the company’s own products that tend to be expensive.
Android Go is a resource-light branch of Android O that can run on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM. Given this flexibility, as little as $100 might be all it takes to have access to the latest features and security updates.
But, if you do have money to spend, Project Treble will ensure that your device of choice will have the latest updates faster than ever. At least, in theory.
For its own devices, Google promises at least two years’ worth of major updates before they are dropped to the curb. This begs a much larger question: could Treble disrupt a product’s lifecycle?
While it’s unlikely to change Google’s rhythm of support, or any company's for that matter, it’s more realistic to envision that Treble's changes will allow many popular manufacturers to provide these updates for much longer after a phone's release than it has before.
Obviously, there will still be the case of companies leaving phones behind so that their hot, new product seems all the more appealing, but I’m hopeful that this will be minimized now with Treble.
New Android software tends to spark a sense of excitement in the community, but it’s not without those who dread that they’ll be excluded from the fun.
If Google’s latest promise can be trusted, Project Treble is going to bring the fun to far more people around the globe.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.