Android 8.0 Streaming Updates won’t take over phones

Android OS updates can take ages. The last time I updated my (admittedly now vintage) Motorola Droid Turbo, the phone was unusable for nearly 45 minutes while it slowly shuffled around system files. For that and other reasons, Google created a feature in Android 7.0 called Seamless Updates. Soon, with Android 8.0, Google will be updating that feature to "Streaming Updates". Not only will it eliminate update downtime (as Seamless Updates can already do), it will also discard the user-area free space requirement.

Seamless Updates split the on-disk system partition into two separate spaces: one "online" space for the currently-running system, and one "offline" space for pending updates. The idea is that the phone could update critical system files while the machine is running without having to unmount them, allowing the user to continue working (or more likely, playing.) Once the update is done, the device can reboot, swapping the "online" and "offline" partitions and booting from the formerly-"offline" space. If there's a problem booting on the updated system, the device can simply drop back to the pre-update system and try again.

The Seamless Updates feature is pretty nice, but it doesn't tackle what is for some users the biggest hurdle to OS updates: free disk space. The update data still has to be downloaded to the user storage area, which means that the device will likely need 1GB or more of free space. That's not that big a deal for folks like you or I with devices packing 64GB of memory, but for cheaper devices with only 16, 8, or even 4GB of flash on-board, it can get irritating.

With Streaming Updates, Android 8 devices that make use of the feature will download updates directly to the "offline" system partition. Not only does this make updates faster—no more time spent shuffling system files—it also eliminates the free disk space requirement. Google says users will need around 100 KB of free space for metadata, and that's it. The company implies that removing this limitation will lead to more users performing updates, and thus less vulnerable devices hanging around.

Streaming Updates isn't a new idea. Google already uses the system in its ChromeOS. However, the only Android devices to have shipped so far with the Seamless Updates system are the Pixel and Pixel XL phones. Unfortunately, that means that as of right now, these are also the only Android devices which can support the new Streaming Updates. Hopefully when Android 8.0 devices hit the market they've taken advantage of this massive improvement in the Android update mechanism.

Comments closed
    • NoOne ButMe
    • 2 years ago

    Unless it’s a budget <$50 phone, that amount of flash is just silly.
    Sadly the race to the bottom will cause it.

    If all the phone makers just raised the price $10 to get to a minimum of 32GB of storage on everything over $50. Or made sure to have a microSD slot.

    • LostCat
    • 2 years ago

    I’d be happy if my 6.0 phone was actually capable of figuring out how to update in the first place.

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    ZERO free space required if the update doesn’t get pushed to your device in the first place!

    [add] Also ZERO downtime required for updates if they don’t get pushed to your device in the first place!

      • CuttinHobo
      • 2 years ago

      The way it’s meant to be played.

      – Nvidia

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        The way [b<]you're[/b<] meant to be played. - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile

          • CuttinHobo
          • 2 years ago

          Well… played. *Pinky to mouth*

    • Peldor
    • 2 years ago

    You know what would really lead to users installing more updates? Having updates available in the first place.

      • CuttinHobo
      • 2 years ago

      And remove one of the reasons people buy new phones every year? Off to the loony-bin with you!

      Edit: I’ll add that my phone that is otherwise still nice is stuck on Lollipop 5.1.1 until the end of time. Or until the risky and difficult-to-replace battery fails, whichever comes first. :/

        • MrDweezil
        • 2 years ago

        Between stuff like this and their Treble project, it seems like Google’s hope is that phone makers would provide more updates if updating was easier. Who knows if that’s actually the case though. As you point out, there are non-technical reasons for them to withhold updates.

      • psuedonymous
      • 2 years ago

      Go complain at your carrier (if you’re in the US who have some bizarre carriers-pretend-to-make-the-phones nonsense), and then at the device manufacturer. Manufacturers get the source for new version at or before it ends up on AOSP.

      • frenchy2k1
      • 2 years ago

      Android updates are a mess.
      They require so many layers and companies to work together that it’s almost a miracle we see a single one.
      It starts at the hardware makers. Those need to update their drivers and support new Android releases by updating their kernel drivers. This is for example why most Snapdragon S80X are stuck on Android 6 at the latest.
      Then you get the phone manufacturers, that usually add their layer of bloatware on top and need to update to the latest release. Those have obvious incentives to deprecate updates to push users to buy new phones.
      Finally you have the carriers, that often add their own twists on a manufacturer phone (some features, some bloat…).

      Until Android separates those customization from the core system, support will be dropped. Apple and Microsoft already do that, as much on their phones as their computers, but on a Linux based system, drivers need to be built in the kernel and this becomes a trade off between size (amount of drivers included), proprietary drivers (most manufacturers keep those secret) and customization.

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      I’m finally on Marshmallow, only two annual releases behind schedule on my two-year-old phone.

      FU, stupid network providers. Motorola released Nougat for my phone 8 months ago and you only just moved me off a 2015 version last week?!

      I miss my Nexus. Android fragmentation [b<]will[/b<] be its downfall.

        • Prestige Worldwide
        • 2 years ago

        Same. I got an HTC One M8 when I inadvertently destroyed my Nexus 5, and my carrier took forever to update to Marshmallow. And when it did, it was a nightmare of bloated trash.

        I ended up rooting my phone and converting it to the Google Play Edition and it is much better. I’ve dabbled with LineageOS 14.1 but it seems Nougat gets crashes and bootloop issues on Canadian HTC One M8 models so I feel pretty stuck at this point. I don’t want to update my phone until it runs its course, but a better camera and speedier hardware are starting to sound good to me now.

        Unfortunately there are no longer Nexus phones and the Pixel is expensive AF so there’s nothing I’m excited about upgrading to. I would much rather spend money on a coffee lake i7 than a smartphone.

          • CuttinHobo
          • 2 years ago

          [quote<]Unfortunately there are no longer Nexus phones and the Pixel is expensive AF so there's nothing I'm excited about upgrading to. I would much rather spend money on a coffee lake i7 than a smartphone.[/quote<] Oh you mean you don't want to spend $850 on an new phone - and [u<]still[/u<] not get everything you want? The hit-and-miss nature of Android phones really gets me. Think of the top-5 features you want and pick 3, because you're not likely to get more. Updates, quality hardware, SD card, no bloat, reasonable price? There aren't a lot of compelling options after you exclude the mass of phones that are either too big or too small. =/

            • Chrispy_
            • 2 years ago

            Yeah it’s not funny.

            Common-sense features appear on $150 phones – things like water-resistance, expandable storage, headphone jacks, a plastic bezel that can survive more than one trip to the floor before you shatter the screen, Hell, even removable/expandable/replaceable batteries are still a thing at the entry level.

            If you spend an [i<]extra[/i<] $700 you get more screen DPI than you get a better screen, better camera and an extra 112GB of flash, but they'll take away at least one or two of the common-sense essentials.

          • Voldenuit
          • 2 years ago

          OnePlus 5?

          It’s the smartphone that has my attention, but my experia Z3 is still more than sufficient for my modest needs, so I’m happy to spend money on PC gear instead.

      • Prestige Worldwide
      • 2 years ago

      <3

      • Kougar
      • 2 years ago

      Then buy a stock or near-stock Android phone? I get OS updates several times a month, and was updated to Nougat >6 months before Samsung rolled it out.

        • CuttinHobo
        • 2 years ago

        Multiple updates per month? Which phone is that?

        Edit: If your answer is “Pixel”, I kindly direct you to my other post in this thread: [url<]https://techreport.com/news/32361/android-8-0-streaming-updates-wont-take-over-phones?post=1047533[/url<] 🙂

          • Kougar
          • 2 years ago

          HTC 10. Received three Android updates last month. Generally it’s around two. If there’s a small security update they seem to get pushed immediately.

            • CuttinHobo
            • 2 years ago

            Cool, that earns HTC a spot on my short list of candidates. Thanks!

            • Kougar
            • 2 years ago

            I can’t speak for their prices or the newer models, but the ISS camera had great performance , I like the dual slots, and the HTC power app is pretty darn good at preserving battery life. If you can secure a good discount buying an unlocked phone direct from their website I’d recommend it, they had a $200 off promo on an unlocked HTC 10 when I got mine.

    • MrDweezil
    • 2 years ago

    Won’t adding the offline partition permanently hide a bunch of storage space from the user?

      • Shobai
      • 2 years ago

      That’s Seamless; that’s what Streaming is intended to fix

        • Flying Fox
        • 2 years ago

        May be he meant overall usable space? Say the phone’s internal storage is 16 gigs, of which 3 is used by the base OS, meaning usable space is 13 gigs. Now, a permanent “staging partition” will eat into another 3, meaning usable space is down to 10 gigs.

        Basically, newer phones need to not skimp on internal storage to make this work.

          • RAGEPRO
          • 2 years ago

          Google says A/B style updates don’t need the /recovery or /cache directories, and they halved the size of the /system directory itself. It ends up being just 320MB of overhead versus a non A/B machine.

          They managed to halve the size of the system directory (was 4GB, now 2GB) by moving the .odex files for the OS from /system to /data, which lives in the user partition. Google claims this actually doesn’t use much more space on the phone since those .odex files were on /data already anyway.

            • Flying Fox
            • 2 years ago

            Regardless, 8 and 16 gigs internal storage is just bad.

            • NoOne ButMe
            • 2 years ago

            yup. :/

            Even Apple ditched it (far to late). That’s how you know it’s really not enough base storage.

            256GB is nice thou 😀 Mi Mix~
            246.68*

            • LostCat
            • 2 years ago

            I got nothing against 8 if the SD card is actually usable.

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