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Android updates and maturing technologies

Android is a Java based system running on a Linux Kernel. The inter-tangling between these parts is a conflict of the philosophies behind them and practical realities. That has meant that product evolution has been somewhat hampered and cell phones are static devices rather than living technology expressions. 

ArsTechnica has Android 8.0 Oreo, thoroughly reviewed — “We take a 20,000 word deep-dive on Android’s “foundational” upgrades” by Ron Amadeo. Here are some of the topics covered.

Project Treble gets the device and vendor specific code separated from the Android system code in order to facilitate Android updates. This way, Google can get out security and other necessary fixes promptly without having to depend upon a provider rebuilding their entire software suite.

Android’s Head of Engineering, Dave Burke, put it in his interview with Ars, “Today, it just costs too much to do an upgrade of Android. The amount of work and dependencies are too high.” The goal with Treble is to make it easier, faster, and—most importantly for OEMs—cheaper to pump out an Android update.
Google has a new set of tests, called the Vendor Test Suite (VTS), which ensures the Vendor Interface on a device is properly implemented and future proof. This is a hardware-focused analog to the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), which ensures the Android app APIs are properly implemented on a device.

Notifications is cited as a killer app and it gets on overhaul most of which is in appearance. This is really a command and control user presentation and gets into background user data synchronization. There are other appearance and user interface changes but it’s the underneath stuff of most interest here. Consider the bloat problem as users add more and more apps and many of these want to do things in the background. That brings us back to “The Great Background Processing Lockdown.”

Android has always been, uh, generous when it comes to allowing apps to do stuff in the background. This leads to some really powerful apps, but Android’s background free-for-all also leads to some apps accidentally (or greedily) sucking down background resources
The goal of locking down background processing is both to not only improve battery life, but also to better manage memory so the device runs more smoothly. He said the team wants Android to have “consistent device performance” over time, which was definitely not the case in the past.

The control over what the machine is doing not only allows for managing a smooth user experience that is consistent over time but also to manage power consumption which should improve battery life.

Limiting scans for location and Wi-Fi is another way to manage battery use. Security is also addressed with a number of updates. See the article for more about one big upgrade of Android.