It’s a fact, Android updates are a mess, always have been and probably will be for a long, long time. The mobiles they take a long time to update to the latest version, and that’s when it happensbut it may not be as serious as it seems.
We all like to be up to date, but the truth is that it is less and less important to have the latest version of Android, Well, Google has been working for years on decoupling the news so that they are not part of the elusive OTA. The news reaches our mobiles today not by a single front, the OTAs, but by many.
It’s okay if you don’t have the latest Android
We all like to be up to date, that’s a fact. Every time there is a new version of Android we read that it is better, safer, more private and generally adds one or two extra things that we have been waiting for a long time, and we want them now. But the normal thing is that we have to wait months until the update reaches our mobiles, and that is when it arrives.
When the update finally arrives, sometimes we are left disappointed because everything looks basically the same. If our mobile has a layer -which is usual- it is relatively common for it to overlook some of the new features of the new version of Android and we have to search and search to find any difference, beyond the internal changes, the number and easter egg on duty.
Android updates are overrated. If they arrive, they are welcome. If not, nothing happens either.
Not only that, but sometimes system updates produce regressions that make life more complicated for users of certain types of applications. For example, starting with Android 9 call recording apps stopped working properly. Luckily, this is not usually the case, and we must not forget that many of these changes happen to protect the privacy of users.
We do not mean that updating to the latest version of Android is unnecessary, but that it is not as important today as it was a few years ago. The main reason for this is that news reaches our mobiles through many different frontsin addition to the actual system updates.
All the ways your mobile is updated
The news is good, but the key point is that it has been a long time since they stopped arriving exclusively through Android updates. Google has been working on it for ten years, since it began separating Android components so they could be updated more easily, starting with Google Play services.
Google hasn’t updated the Android version distribution data for us since last year, so we can’t estimate how many terminals are up to date, although with total certainty it will be a ridiculous number if we compare it with the adoption rate of the latest version. iOS version. Google doesn’t seem to care too much about it. Unlike iOS, Android phones can update many of its parts independently of the system version.
We do not need a complete OTA of the system to have security improvements or new functions: they are coming to us from more and more fronts
There are so many different ways by which news arrives on our Android mobiles, that it is easy to forget some of them. Honestly, it would be easier for everyone if all Android phones that have a certain version had exactly the same features and functions, as it happens in iOS, but that is one of the virtues and complications of Android. Instead, we have changes coming all around us, sometimes without us even knowing it.
We begin our review of the types of updates that reach our mobiles with the most classic of all: the system update, commonly known as OTA. That is, the update that installs you a completely new version of android on mobile and you usually have to wait longer than you’d like for it to show up as available.
This is the most classic type of update and has been on Android since time immemorial. Basically, the firmware is downloaded and later installed, for which it is necessary to restart the mobile and, sometimes, wait a long time. However, Google has recently developed some innovations to speed up the process, such as secondary partitions or background installation.
being a completely new firmware, OTAs can change everything from the new version of Android to all the installed apps. The negative part is that the process from when there is a new version until it is available to reach users is long, as there are many intermediate steps. Therefore, minor changes come by other means. It is necessary to emphasize, yes, that we will also receive small updates of this style with specific corrections and/or optimizations.
The technology is the same – and Google calls them “Android Updates”, even though they are security updates
It is not necessary to have the latest version of Android to be up to date on security. Updates of this type arrive through security patches with the latest fixes. Security updates are monthlyalthough it is up to manufacturers whether they want to collect and send them to each model every month, once a quarter, quarterly, or never.
Security updates do not add any features -unless the same update is used to update something else- but they take care of fix security issues of the system, the applications of the system or any of the components of the mobile. By going separately from Android updates, it is faster for them to reach a much larger number of mobiles, much sooner.
Google Play system updates
Starting with Android 10, Google started undock certain modules from the system of the operating system itself, so that they could be updated separately, from Google Play. It started as an experiment under the code name of Project Mainline and the idea came to fruition, as each new version of Android since then has added new modules, thus making it easier to update separately from system updates.
Updates for these modules arrive as Google Play system updates, which also come with a monthly version (although this does not mean that you will receive one every month). They are accessible from the security menu of the mobile, and one of the main advantages is being able to update the components of a module in a simple way when there is a security problem.
The advantage over the security patches of a lifetime is that when they arrive through Google Play, they will continue to update critical system components even if the mobiles no longer receive security updates. There are all kinds of modulesand we probably get more with each new version of Android, so it is possible that at some point the changes that come to us through these updates will go beyond security.
Google Play Services updates
One of Google’s first attempts to modularize the system was the creation of Google Play Services, in 2012. Instead of having to include the same libraries in each of its apps, the services unify in one place common tasks that today nowadays they have become essential, like the messaging, maps, location and a long, long etcetera.
Many apps and Android itself -at least the version with Google apps- depend directly on Google services, which are updated directly from Google Play. This is one of the most effective ways that Google has found to extend the life of old mobiles: there are many examples of functions of new versions of Android that also reach older versions through Google Play services.
For example, one of the novelties of Android 11 is that it can automatically revoke the permissions of the applications that you have not used for a long time. In order not to leave anyone behind, the function is also present on mobiles with older versions through Google Play Services and within Google Play.
A way to receive news on our mobiles that everyone is familiar with is simply with application updates through Google Play. Of course, you will need to have a recent version of WhatsApp or Telegram to access their respective news, but the system is even more relevant when we talk about pre-installed apps.
It is becoming more and more common for manufacturers list the apps that come on the mobile in Google Playso that they can be updated to refresh or fix bugs much more quickly and efficiently than if a full system update or security patch is involved.
It is precisely through Google app updates as many new features come to our mobiles, without having to have the latest version of Android. Especially relevant are the updates to the Google app and to Google Play itself.
Fixel Feature Drop (on Google Pixels)
As an additional incentive for you to get hold of their mobiles, Google took out the Pixel Feature Drop sleeve, new packages with exclusive features for Google Pixelat least temporarily.
Pixel Feature Drops arrive when they arrive and include a potpourri of news ranging from new wallpapers to accident detection, improvements to exclusive apps like the recorder or “It’s Playing” and anything else possible.
From time to time Google surprises us by announcing a pack of news that will arrive on our phones soon. These novelties can be of all kinds and, although they tend to focus on Google’s own applications, after all, they are the ones that we end up using the most on our mobiles. Sometimes the news is thematic, for example, Android Auto.
In most cases these news end up reaching us through updates to Google applications and/or Google Servicesa few weeks or months later and regardless of whether we have the latest version of Android or not.
Being up to date is fine, but…
We repeat once more: if your mobile has the latest version of Android or is about to receive it, Congratulations. Having the most recent version of Android means having access to the latest features, privacy and security, as well as ensuring that the phone will continue to be supported for many years to come (support for Jelly Bean ended last year).
If you don’t have the latest version of Android, nothing happens. You’ll still be able to receive security updates, new features, and miscellaneous changes through other means, and the vast majority of apps and games will likely remain compatible with your version for a long time to come. Relax.