Android updates to improve with "Google Unified Push". Developers worried over Android 9 becoming a more restrictive OS

Android has always been synonymous with two things: a very open, highly customizable operating system, which often gets molded in whatever way device manufacturers or developers and users deem fit; and slow updates. However, both of these things might shift a bit in the opposite direction — we might be getting a bit more of a locked-down OS and faster updates once Android 9 P rolls out. According to a couple of reports, at least.

Google Unified Push to improve updates

The first one comes from Android-centric tech blog GoAndroid. It talks of a so-called "Google Unified Push", which would be an initiative that aims to speed up Android updates globally.

Since Android 8 Oreo hit the market, we were introduced to Project Treble — a new way of interaction between the core Android software and the manufacturer-built user interface on top. Now, the two are split like different entities, which should supposedly speed up updates — it will be much easier for phone makers to push the new update when they don't need to rewrite most of their UI to accommodate it.

As you may know, implementing Treble when updating a phone to Android 8 Oreo was not a mandatory move. So, a lot of manufacturers chose to forgo Treble when pushing Oreo to their devices, citing technical constraints as the main reason to do so. Well, with Android 9 P, they won't have much of a choice — Google will be making Treble an essential and required part of the Android build. So, if a phone maker hopes to update their Android 8-carrying flagships to the next build, they will have to do so with Treble in mind.

This mandatory Treble-fication of all Android phones, which will probably happen over the next couple of years, will be followed by a so-called “Google Unified Push”, which should basically mean the newest version of Android will be pushed to absolutely all eligible phones as soon as possible.

Now that all sounds great for sure, but it also sounds quite a bit perplexing. With the smorgasbord of different phones, hardware, user interfaces, apps, so on and so forth, it's a bit hard to believe that Google can just force a “Unified Push” and have it all be smooth sailing, right?

Some fear the rise of iAndroidOS

Some are already speculating that the software giant intends to close off parts of Android — maybe not make it iOS-levels of being locked down, but definitely limit some of the developers' and even users' freedoms.

Members of the XDA Developers community have dug up a few commits (lines of code), which suggest that Android will restrict apps from using hidden or uncertified APIs (Application Programming Interface). Since some developers do use those to bring some extra bling, flair, and functionality to their apps, this means they will be getting a virtual slap on the wrist and, unless they update their apps to function without said APIs, they will crash.

This is not a huge, huge deal since hidden APIs were not meant to be used by 3rd party developers in the first place. It's just that some people out there are cunning enough to have found them. Now, Google is just enforcing the idea of “No touchy!”.

Google is no stranger to closed off software

There's the big picture — Google's Pixel phones are a bit more locked down, with a locked bootloader and a squeeze feature that can't be remapped away from the Google Assistant without going into 3rd party .apk installs; the Android Wear platform is pretty much completely locked down to the point that every Android Wear watch looks the same (software-wise); Project Treble is being forced on manufacturers who want to have Android 9 P on their phones; Google was cracking down on apps that use Accessibility Services just a couple of months ago, looking to ban any app that wasn't actually meant for users with disabilities.

It does look like Google is no stranger to the idea of restricting some things and enforcing some rules in order to finally be able to guarantee a more stable ecosystem and eliminate the “fragmentation” punchline. While locking away some of the hidden APIs is not that much of a big deal, developers are a bit concerned over what this all means for the future and how much of a nightmare their work will become over the next year or two.

However, we are far from the idea that Android will suddenly become as conservative and as restricting as iOS. Google's current decisions only affect a small number of unofficial developers — the ones that like to tinker with unlisted API for the challenge of it, mostly. So, no reason to panic yet.

sources: GoAndroid; XDA Developers (1, 2)



1. theunspoken

Posts: 310; Member since: Jul 06, 2017

When equipment manufacturer's fail to embrace it, it needs to be forced upon them, will benefit the customers tho.

11. bucknassty

Posts: 1395; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

for years... this site condemned Google for fragmentation ... now that they are so called "forcing" OEMs to comply to eliminate this so considered "issue" they want to complain about google "forcing".... wow Bring on the easier core replacements, it almost sounds like the a bundled Gapps you can install on a pure android device

2. darkkjedii

Posts: 31761; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Just please Google, and I'm begging. Do not turn android into an iOS like locked down, limited bore. We love our killer features, skins, resizable free placed widgets, customization, themes, etc.

6. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

This rumor about locked Android around since 2 years ago and it seems to be true heard that even google working in other OS to replace Android!.

17. mrochester

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Well iOS is the best OS on the market so Google making Android more like it can only be a good thing.

22. darkkjedii

Posts: 31761; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yeah...on the markets clearance rack.

3. Fellwalker

Posts: 545; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

As exploits become more widespread, it becomes apparent that there has to be a faster way of pushing security fixes to all phones. Phone manufacturers are woefully poor at that, abandoning flagship phones after only a couple of years.

5. ph00ny

Posts: 2074; Member since: May 26, 2011

Security updates are pushed out at decent pace even for mid rangers on carrier branded devices since Android version update and security updates are separate. I'm however fearful what sort of issues we may run into with this move where Google is the one pushing out updates to one of many differently spec'd devices

9. duckofdeath unregistered

Security updates are made available, they're not pushed out by Google. Even Samsung devices which are relatively swiftly patched are often painfully slow, as there is that last block being the network providers having to "ok" any minor update.

21. makatijules

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

That is false. The Galaxy S5 still gets security updates from Samsung. In September 2017, all major US carriers pushed security updates to the Galaxy S5 which is now a 4+ year old device. So that debunks your claim. Maybe you should actually use an Android device, before you say stuff you know nothign about.

7. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

I don't mind they are making it more closed, as long as it benefits the user (like project treble). When they push it too far (the ban on apps that use the Accessibility Services), users/developers need to push back as they did with that ban.

10. Podrick

Posts: 1285; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

And its becoming a bigger pain to root, install xposed, mods etc. Some apps don't work on rooted device, we have to keep doing workarounds all the time. There has been less and less reason to root with each Android versions but adblocking still isn't very good on non root phones, you can't use adblocking and vpn at the same time. Some VPNs have workarounds but some don't.

13. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

I wonder if Treble will make rooting easier again, since for instance custom ROMming is made a lot easier with Treble. I agree rooting is becoming less and less necessary, a lot of things can be solved with ADB or just build in functionality. I would miss it though, especially for host file based ad blocking.

8. WAusJackBauer

Posts: 456; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Hope this doesn't turn out negative. I've never understood the fuss about wanting updates so much on Android. If you own any phone made by anyone other than Google, chances are the software already has the features that the next version of stock android will have. And security? Honestly raise your hand if you've had a virus on your phone before...

14. nhtechguy

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

I'm honestly on board with this because the problem is now or days Google comes out with an update then the manufacturer's take their time then pass it along to the carriers and they take their sweet time. With Android there's just too much of Middleman involved with updates and that needs to stop. I had apple for 6 years and got sick of the layout. I love Android now and I think Google's just getting on board with taking marketshare. I bought a pixel and dumped my note 8 just to avoid the update crawl. I'm sure there's a way where Google can come out with this but still give developers all their options.

15. nhtechguy

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

Plus this also might help with all the commotion surrounding planned obsolescence with phones right now.

16. tokuzumi

Posts: 1999; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Google's main objective, other than earning ad revenue from Android, is OS security. Now that Android is on more devices than just about any other operating system, hackers are catering more and more of their attacks to Android. It's the prize for being the top dog. Rooting is not going to go away, but it's a fringe group, so money must go to appeal to the masses. If it means more timely OS software updates, I'm all for this. But something tells me this won't go as smoothly as Google has planned. I think Google has been saying "Faster updates" since Kit Kat.

18. Brewski

Posts: 736; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

What does "Nowever" mean...?

27. paul.k

Posts: 305; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

It's either Now or whenever ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Thanks

19. makatijules

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

The issue with Android updates has nothing to do with Google or Android itself. It has to do with OEM's who use customized versions that can't be directly updated by Google. This would be a bad move. If Google ever does this, then I will permanently switch to IOS because Android won't be the same. What these OEM's should do is lauch their skins like a Launcher on Google Paly,w ith all its features in it. That way a user can choose to use Android skinned or unskinned. When the when a new Android comes out, we simply uninstall the skin, install the Android update and them reinstall the updated skin. We don't need Android to be restrictive and convoluted like IOS. If Google does this, its gonna be a big mistake. We don't need updates every week. We don't have problems. Your device doesn't stop working like it should, just because a new firmware comes out. If you just want updates for no good reason other than issues, then go to IOS.

23. p51d007

Posts: 705; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

The "new" OS isn't as a concern for me, as security patches to plug holes. Most manufacturers and carriers, for obvious business reasons DO NOT want to update their devices, and (in the USA anyway) why should they spend the time, when (apple) all they have to do is push the update out, and have it slow the phone down. People just line up like robots to fork over more money for a new phone. The replacement rate of phones is what, 24 months? Why spend the time rewriting the software, when it is just as easy to talk the sheep into a new phone? I'm more concerned about security patches, than a new OS, which really doesn't add much than the old one did.

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