Why Android updates take a while to roll out in South Africa

Unlike Apple’s iOS updates, new versions of Android are rolled out to multiple devices created by various manufacturers.

This means manufacturers need to implement their versions of Android and engineer updates into their platform.

As a result, updates for Android do not roll out to all Android devices at the same time – with the first devices to receive new updates Google’s Pixel smartphones.

To find out how this affects the rollout of Android in South Africa, MyBroadband spoke to Google Director of Android Platform Partnerships for Google in Africa, Mahir Sahin.

Operator-led market

It is important to note that while Google releases platform and security updates to manufacturers, it is up to the manufacturers to implement those and send them to their devices.

Sahin said South Africa is also an operator-led market, which means many smartphones are sold through mobile operators.

The country is, however, one of the first to receive updates for Android, he said.

“South Africa is an operator-lead market, which gives a level of quality on the devices,” said Sahin.

“From my point of view, the rollout of updates on operator devices is well-handled. I wouldn’t say there is a notable delay between international updates and those in South Africa,” he said.

He added that South Africa is one of the regions which may receive new devices before other markets.

“South Africa is one of the first markets globally where new smartphones become available,” said Sahin.

“For example, the Huawei Y3 2018 has not been launched in many other markets, but it has now launched in South Africa through Vodacom.”

Testing delays

Sahin said a lot of testing at various levels is required to implement an Android update on devices like Samsung and Huawei flagship smartphones.

“There is testing on our side, then testing and configuration on the OEM side, and then if it is an operator device, there are customisations and testing happening at the operator level as well,” he said.

Each step in this process can delay the rollout of Android updates to devices, but are necessary to ensure that bugs in the software are eliminated.

“It is a good thing that the software is rigorously tested, and if it is delayed by a certain time the manufacturer or operator usually has its reasons,” he said.

With the launch of the Android One programme, though, users who own supported devices will receive major OS and security updates shortly after they are launched by Google.

“I expect that Android One devices will receive the Android P update shortly after it rolls out to the Pixel,” said Sahin.

“I do not expect it to roll out at the same time as the Pixel, because all manufacturers need to work on their customisations, or if its an operator version of the device there are customisations the operator needs to implement.”

He added that the fact Android One devices run an almost-stock version of Android make updates easier and quicker for manufacturers to implement.

“I am not familiar with exactly how the scheduling will work, but I would say that they would be one of the first set of devices to follow the official update.”

Android One devices also ship with a guarantee from manufacturers that they will receive platform updates and security updates as they are released.

It is a Google-led programme, with manufacturer guarantees that they will provide Android “letter” upgrades for up to two years.

Multiple new Nokia and Xiaomi smartphones are currently part of the Android One programme.

Now read: Apple reveals iOS 12 – The big upgrades

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Why Android updates take a while to roll out in South Africa