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Android OS Update for Major Carriers & Manufacturers

You’ve probably seen some of the fuss over Apple’s new release, and although it’s been quieter, you may have also noticed that Android Nougat 7.0 came out. If you haven’t even had a chance to experience Marshmallow yet, you might be wondering when your day will come, if ever. Updates can be a little elusive for some phones and some carriers, but we’ll review what news is to be found and discuss a little about the update process as well.

Past behaviors are sometimes our best and only predictor of future behaviors. We have reached a point where we are near the one-year mark since Marshmallow was released. We can analyze how carriers and manufacturers handled – or are handling – that rollout. Those track records may also lend a clue as to how the rollout of Nougat will be conducted. So let’s begin.


1. The Most Recent News

Android 7.0 Nougat was released by Google on August 22, 2016. Does that mean it’s available to you? Not necessarily. But it will be soon if you have a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, or Android One.

Soon to follow was the new launch of the LG V20, unveiled on September 6th, which will run Nougat out-of-the-box. If you own one of the devices listed in the previous paragraph, you will receive your update OTA (Over The Air) instead. Samsung has stated that it intends to release Nougat to many of its devices by the end of calendar year 2016, but given its recent history, we will see if that’s actually true. It is speculated that the company will start with the Galaxy Note 7, then begin rollout to its other devices in November or December.

Google already has the first update to Nougat in the works, and is planning on releasing regular updates. If you are also curious about Google’s pre-planned Nougat maintenance, a developer preview is slated to be available this fall. There is also talk that Google may start releasing its very own brand of smartphones soon. As of October, Google’s Nexus phones, still built by HTC, will no longer be called by that name—instead they will be known as Pixel phones.

HTC has announced its update schedule, which is addressed in the HTC section below. This will include HTC One A9, HTC One M9, and HTC 10. Google didn’t stall in announcing and releasing beta versions of Nougat, so hopefully manufacturers and app developers will be on top of the new release more than ever. The emphasis has been on security, performance, and productivity.

2. Nougat Features

Why should you care about Nougat? One reason is that it makes multi-tasking easier. You will be able to display and use two apps simultaneously on your screen. Native virtual reality support has been confirmed, and it is named Daydream. There are notification improvements, better UI features, and enhancements to Doze. Nougat apps are now finding their way to the Google Play Store.

Notifications can now be bundled instead of displaying news from similar apps only on an independent basis. You can now reply directly to a text or email from the notification itself. WhatsApp, Nova Launcher, Facebook, and Spotify are all being updated to accommodate and complement Nougat. The Doze app will now work even when your Android is not completely still, such as when it’s in your purse or pocket.

virtual reality

Nougat sports a new Vulkan graphics API, which is actually already present on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. There’s a new JIT (Just in Time) compiler that should result in a 75% increase in app install times. You can take advantage of a new Data Saver feature, which can prevent apps from using data in the background or when the screen is off.

Security improvements are arriving in the form of media framework hardening (emphasis on prevention and containment of bugs and malware), file-based encryption, and seamless updates (the updates will be downloaded in the background and run the next time you start your device).

3. How Does the Update Process Work?

Google comes out with a new Android version every year. Since Google owns Android, it makes sense that its own products receive updates first. Traditionally, this has been Nexus devices, and 2016 is no exception. At that point, most manufacturers that use the Android OS don’t have the software optimized quite yet.

New devices often take priority for various practical reasons: customer demand, sales, and newer hardware. Users sometimes wait quite a while for low-priority updates, and some never see them OTA. It is possible to manually update Android phones, provided the software is available, but this process is more work. Updates also vary by location and carrier.

4. Manufacturers’ Track Records

At this point, we are mostly having to rely on what manufacturers say they are going to do. However, that doesn’t always coincide with reality. We do know that Nexus consistently receives updates first.

And that for as big as Samsung is in the smartphone world, it really hasn’t been the greatest at doing updates in a timely manner—it took five months for Marshmallow to really start coming out.

android update

HTC really does pretty well when it comes to its updates reaching current and previous flagships, taking a little over a few months on average for both Lollipop and Marshmallow. Huawei was one of the first manufacturers to crank Marshmallow out, with only a one-month wait. LG is really trying this year, but it needs to better than it has in previous years at making the rollout reach more users faster. Blackberry has been slow; perhaps understandably since it has had to adjust to dealing with Android updates. And now we’ll get into the specifics of Android OS update by major carriers and manufacturers.

5. HTC

HTC has already been mentioned, and for good reason, it definitely plans on bring forth the update soon; but is less specific about when. In all likelihood, it will probably be close to the end of 2016 (we’re talking December) before it makes its debut. According to information provided by HTC, Google Play edition and developer or unlocked devices go through 3-4 fewer pit stops than those tied to a carrier. HTC has also indicated that the One M8 won’t receive the update.

htc 1m9

HTC is starting out with an advantage due to the company being selected to build 2016’s Nexus phones, which receive Nougat first. Surely this early exposure will lend itself to an earlier release date for its own exclusive phone. But don’t forget that there’s always many factors involved; for example, device components can vary by region. This can cause a delay for some models, and perhaps even rule out some models altogether in certain localities.

6. Nexus

We’ve already discussed Nexus because it is our superstar in this arena, but there are a few other things you should know. Nexus 5 will miss out on this update. If you have not yet received the Nougat update OTA on your device, don’t panic. The rollout can span several weeks, and if you just can’t wait factory images are available for manual installation.

nexus 6

7. Samsung

It’s probably going to be two or three months before Nougat reaches the Galaxy Note 7, but then there’s hope that the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will follow. Samsung always rolls out updates to Korea first.

galaxy note

Samsung took nearly six months before it gifted its previous-generation flagship with Marshmallow, and the many of the S5s still don’t have it. It wouldn’t be surprising if Nougat doesn’t hit Samsung devices until early 2017.

8. Blackberry

Blackberry’s Priv launched after Marshmallow was already released, yet the phone started out its life running Lollipop—the previous OS. That should tell you something about how updates have gone down before for Blackberry devices. An optimistic outlook for Nougat is early 2017, but in all likelihood it’s probably going to be quarter two of 2017 before it makes its appearance.

blackberry priv

It took Blackberry six months to update any of its devices to Marshmallow. Users can at least look forward to better security when the Nougat operating system does arrive. Who knows, maybe the manufacturer will surprise us and release the update before 2016 is over. But the key word to that statement is surprise.

9. LG

Although LG was technically one of the first manufacturers to use the Marshmallow update, it only did so for certain devices and certain users. The general consensus had to wait.

lg v20

LG V20 users don’t, but other Android users should probably anticipate a wait until the end of 2016 and possibly into 2017. The LG 4 and LG V10 might receive the update to Nougat, but that remains far less certain than the LG G5.

10. Sony

The Xperia Z3 will receive the developer’s edition, but strangely enough, will not receive the full upgrade. The Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z4 Tablet, Z5, Z5 Compact, Z5 Premium, Xperia X, Xperia XA, XA Ultra, and the Xperia X Performance will all get the full upgrade, but when is TBA. Sony has stated that it will roll out the update as quickly as we can, for what that is worth. Carrier testing is also always a consideration.

sony z3s

Best guess is around March 2017. Sony’s blog also reminds us that software rollouts are a phased process—timing and availability will vary by market and/or operator. Chipset manufacturers are another party who often has a role in things behind the scenes. And of course, Android OS updates depend on major carriers.

11. Huawei

Huawei was also one of the first companies to put Marshmallow out there. Perhaps it will do so in a similar fashion, and release the Mate 9 with Nougat around November. It’s also quite likely that P8 and P9 will receive the update by then end of 2016. In fact, a beta for the P9 has already been leaked.

mate 8

The Mate 8 that shipped with Marshmallow last year is surely going to receive the update soon. Carriers, of course, could have an impact. Carriers tend to insist on optimizing their own services and apps before the release.

12. Motorola/Lenovo

Motorola has not only stated that the G4 Plus will receive Nougat, but has also used its crystal ball to confirm that the device will receive Android O as well. The very minimal number of extras that Motorola puts on top of stock Android are conducive to faster update turnaround times. That is not to say that carrier bloatware will have no effect. If things go like they did last year, Nougat will reach Motorola Android devices around December.

moto g4

And it’s not just the Plus; the G4 will also see the update. Best case scenarios place the release as early as October. This time, however, Motorola isn’t making any promises. Evidently, the company learned from last year’s mistakes.


Conclusion

Meanwhile, Marshmallow’s adoption rate is still around 15-18%, so don’t feel bad if you are still on Lollipop.  Variations of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 Edge Plus are still rolling out. Also on the list are the HTC Desires, Xperia C5 Ultra, and the LG Magna and Spirit.

And if you own a Moto X Pure Edition, Moto G, Moto MAXX, the Moto or Droid Turbos, a Huawei in China, a One Plus X, or an Asus PadFone 5 and ZenFone Max; it is still reasonable to expect to receive Marshmallow sometime soon.

If you already have the Nougat update, what do you think of it so far? Which network providers do you think are the fastest with updates? Let us know in comments.

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7 Comments

  1. Google really should set a standard whereby every Android phone gets the update and you don’t have to depend on the manufacturer and/or service provider to roll out the update. This may seem like an impossible task but it really isn’t (windows updates are an example but far be it a perfect one).

    1. That would be so great if that ever happened one day, but unfortunately, you have to deal with manufacturers.

    1. Last time I checked the company was teasing, however, tweeting on 4 October to tell owners that it is working on the Nougat update for the OnePlus 3. Haven’t heard anything on the OnePlus One.

  2. I am not upgrading and don’t want to and the majority! Majority of android users prefer the kit kat as do I for its simplicity with vast features that modern phones don’t have. My s6 edge doesn’t even have hover features that my s4 has. It doesn’t even have Internet call service inbuilt yet kiktat has it. Most of the these “multitasking” already exist and if you do research and compare it with the it’s usage it’s very little. Multitasking on a mobile phone screen is a frustrating task.

    1. I completely understand what you’re saying and it’s true that upgrades besides bringing us new features, can also take away some that we love and hate to see go. The only downside to not upgrading is that you may want to use a certain app but it only works for Android 5.0 and above.

  3. Hello Judy,

    i wanted to say that you make a really good job here, beeing anything like a community assistant i guess ….or something else that way.
    Your replies are always nice to read and good to understand. I think there might be some hard times answering all those … “hard” questions. Keep going and thumbs up.

    Regards

    Andreas

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