Waiting for the Android 5.1 update on your Nexus device? You’re not alone, here’s how Google manages updates

Waiting for the Android 5.1 update on your Nexus device? You’re not alone, here’s how Google manages updates
If you keep hitting “check for updates” on your Nexus device, you are just wasting your time, and stressing your fingers. We know, we don’t like to wait for the OTA update either.

Having your device constantly check for updates is about as effective as repeatedly hitting a floor button on an elevator – it’s not. As it happens, clearing Google Service Framework data doesn’t help either, in fact, it will actually hurt your chances of getting an update in a timely manner.

We dug through the interwebs to find some information about how Google manages Android updates, et voila, we found an explanation by Google’s own Dan Morrill, an Android Engineer, on Reddit. He shared these pearls of wisdom a little over a year ago when Android 4.4 KitKat started rolling out, but let’s rehash these things as they touch on both tactics for trying to get Android updates, and explain perfectly why they don’t work.

Taking the latter issue first, if you clear the Google Service Framework data, Google’s servers see this as factory reset, changing the primary ID for your device. Doesn’t sound like a big deal right? The problem is that it invalidates all the app tokens which, in turn, wreaks havoc over notifications. In short, you won’t brick your device, but you are not getting it to the front of the line trying to grab the newest OS update.

As for continuously “checking for updates,” it is not unlike knocking at the door when no one is home. The updates are pushed out in phases. The first phase lasts 24-48 hours, and will reach about 1% of devices initially. The engineers then examine error reports and how the devices are checking in.

If all is going well, then the second phase will push out to about 25% of the install base. Assuming there are no further problems (if any), then the following phase will reach 50%, and so-on over the next couple of weeks.

How does that translate to you the user? Well, if you hit “check for updates” during the first phase, basically you have a 1% chance of getting the update. If your device is not randomly selected to receive the “offer,” then you are on the sidelines until the next phase starts. In Morrill’s own words, “Once your device checks in and gets turned down, that’s it until the next batch. Mashing on the ‘check for updates’ button just causes yourdevice to check in again, and get automatically turned down again. Think about how that makes your device feel! WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE PHONES?”

As you may expect, the next phase gives your device another shot at hitting pay dirt for the update, but again, once the device checks in, that is it for a given 24-hour period usually.

If it’s any consolation, the “offers” are random, updates are not handled on a first-come, first-served basis. While that means there is no “race” to get the update first, we kind of wish it was sometimes.

source: Dan Morill (1, 2) via Reddit



1. checkmymike

Posts: 220; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

Do phones have feelings too?

2. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

I think there should a toggle in the developer options to get the updates first...it would be better than sideloading every ota update.

4. vincelongman

Posts: 5723; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

No need, developers/power users can flash the factory image or the OTA zip The flashing OTA zip is literally the same as if you receive an OTA

7. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

I know that, I sideload every major ota update...it's really easy but I think there should be an option for it.

19. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Not everyone is a developer or power user

8. kaikuheadhunterz

Posts: 1157; Member since: Jul 18, 2013

That's actually a good idea. It should allow Google to push the update to those who deserve the update, rather than to those who don't care if their phone is still stuck in Gingerbread.

10. Awalker

Posts: 1981; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I think most people who have a Nexus device care about updates.

14. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

Yes they do, but I think many of them wouldn't mind waiting for a week or two and allow the enthusiasts to check if everything is all right.

30. Tuxedo

Posts: 356; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

Right, and those who care, will push the darn "check for update" button. Unfortunately, the way the button works is retarded. Anyone who dare push the button should be allowed to update as long as an update is available. Anyone who does not care about updates, will not bother pushing the button.

15. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

Exactly...if we want it first,we should get it first, it's also good for the others because if something goes wrong, they can avoid the update.

28. tmagerl2010

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 15, 2015

Yeah, for real that's a pretty good idea. I guess the better way to put it would be "for those who would actually be helpful to Google". How much data and/or feedback does Google get back when they push an OTA to grandma who wouldn't know the difference if her android was swapped for an iPhone when she was asleep. More than likely if you're a Nexus user, you serve as a voice to the Google/Android community. We could provide them with the "Real World" feedback they're looking for and we get the OTA without needing to go through the steps of flashing manually.

9. Awalker

Posts: 1981; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

After the initial phase and everything checks out I don't understand why Google doesn't release the update to everyone.

17. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

Maybe that's because the first phase doesn't cover all regions/carriers.

20. Awalker

Posts: 1981; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I don't know how region and carrier comes into play when the article states that devices are picked randomly.

25. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

And maybe that's the reason why all the carriers are not covered in the initial phase...last year android 4.4.4 was re released for some carriers in India and Australia because the original one didn't work properly.

3. ciprian.ruse

Posts: 320; Member since: May 13, 2014

I wonder when non nexus device like Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 will get 5.1 because I'm tired of 5.0 memory leaks...

5. vincelongman

Posts: 5723; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I'm surprised there's no info on that yet And HTC's Mo Versi hasn't said anything yet But does the Galaxy S5's or One M8's version 5.0 have the memory leak? I know Motorola patched the memory leaks for their 5.0 builds I assumed the other OEMs would have also fix the memory leaks on their builds too

11. Hatshipuh

Posts: 163; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

Wasn't there a report even here on PA that Samsung and HTC already fixed that leak in their builds?

23. ciprian.ruse

Posts: 320; Member since: May 13, 2014

It's not fixed

27. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It was fixed in TW.

31. Tuxedo

Posts: 356; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

How can you be so certain? It just seems weird that Samsung would just go a fix a bug that involves core Android functionality. It seems like they could end up with two different fixes that could potentially end up being in conflict with each other... causing even more problems.

6. Predator1701

Posts: 130; Member since: Oct 28, 2014

Yep just flash that Factory image as soon as possible.

13. mike2959

Posts: 696; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

Can someone explain to me why carrier branded are getting updated quicker than nexus device's and play edition device's?

18. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

What non nexus devices have 5.1? I understand that the Moto X has beaten the Nexus series twice now, but other than that one (and not all of them beat the Nexus devices, just certain models on certain carriers) the Nexus series is still the best bet for quick updates. The problem is everyone is slow on this LP rollout.

21. Awalker

Posts: 1981; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

T-Mobile or Sprint announced that the 5.1 update was imminent so he's under the impression that it was only coming to that carrier. I'm assuming that's what he meant.

24. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

The problem there is, since these companies have already made changes to the core of Android with their use of a software layer like TW or Sense, the issues that Google is seeing with LP may not apply in their situation, or they may decide to release it anyway and patch bugs as they show themselves. I've heard rumblings on the forums that these updates to the M8 and S5 aren't without their share of issues. It's not about getting the updates out first just to be first, it's about trying to get the updates out with as few bugs as possible, as quickly as possible. The difference here is, this version of Android has more of it's share of issues than any previous one. People look at LP and think it's all about the design language, but there are a lot of changes under the hood that are the reason for these bugs. In the past, Google's Android releases went a certain way. One version might be cosmetic changes, the next had a lot of unseen changes for better performance, then next was cosmetic, and so one. This is one of the first that brought a lot of both cosmetic and non cosmetic changes in the same update, so obviously the more changes you make in an update, the more chances for issues to arise.

22. blackberry_Boy

Posts: 213; Member since: May 27, 2014

F that what about my Verizon note 3

26. rocksy

Posts: 67; Member since: May 06, 2014

29. Tuxedo

Posts: 356; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

I gave up and decided to sideload 5.1 "OTA" last night. So far 5.1 seems to be a big improvement over 5.01.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.