Knowing Android Project Treble Technology

What is Project Treble in simple words that an Android newbie user can easily understand? What is it for? This article will aim to that direction. Just assume this basic terminology definition as a guide for newbie. You may also call it as Project Treble for dummies, despite does not mean who read this article are dummies. Our point is that everyone who read this article will get easy understanding on Project Treble. Of course, we are not going to make this article too advanced. Just a simple definition and what is the Treble for.

Let’s start with the background of why Project Treble exists?

Earlier before it existed, one of major problem and critique of Android OS in general was the update frequency that reached users’ end. Google releases updates and security patches regularly. However, OEM manufacturers (the brand produced smartphones) tend to implement and to push the update irregularly. Moreover, there was (or is) fragmentation. Manufacturers and Google’s update cycle are usually not in sync. They tend to to move not linearly. Actually, ever since Google purchased Android, the company has been responsible for pushing updates to the platform. However in fact, the realization is always hit and miss. In short, there are many different versions of Android currently in the wild, still in use on various types of hardware.

Knowing Android Project Treble Technology 1

Why such thing could happen? The reason behind why manufacturers have such a hard time pushing out prompt updates is because of all the work that has to go into getting the operating system to be able to communicate properly with the hardware.

Previously, the OS framework and low-level software were all part of the same code. So when the Android got updated by Google, this low-level software, which is also known as vendor implementation, also had to get updated. This sequence that lies behind the background of why the frequencies of updates rolled out by manufacturers are not as regular and not as often as OS update by Google.

Unfortunately, before an update can be pushed out to an Android 7.x (or earlier) device, not only does the Android OS code have to be updated, but so does the low-level hardware code because both reside within the same area (the system partition). Since that low-level hardware code is generally maintained by the chip maker, brand or manufacturer has to also wait for chip maker to release the update. For instance, if Xiaomi wants to push an update to one of its phones, it has to wait for the chip maker (Qualcomm, MediaTek, or whoever made the chip) to update its code to work with the new Xiaomi code.

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Enter Project Treble!

Project Treble separates the vendor implementation (device-specific, lower-level software written by silicon manufacturers) from the Android OS framework via a new vendor interface.

What does that mean? To put it simply, since Treble, the Android OS itself can now be updated without having to touch the vendor implementation. Cited from, Project Treble is a major re-architecture in the way Android works. Treble separates the Android OS, which in this case is the Android “framework”, from the vendor Hardware Abstraction Layers (HALs) that allow for the OS to work with the device’s hardware.

With Treble, the low-level hardware codes are moved to their own area (a vendor partition) and now communicate with the Android framework in a more standardized way. Since the core hardware code is separate from the OS code, device manufacturers will be free to update their software without having to wait for the silicon maker to also update its code. The merit of this is that it allows for manufacturer companies like Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, HTC, and others to work on modifying the stock Android framework while at the same time they wait for vendors such as Qualcomm to provide updated code.

With Treble, a new stable vendor interface provides access to the hardware-specific parts of Android, enabling device makers to deliver new Android releases simply by updating the Android OS framework—without any additional work required from the silicon manufacturers.

What does it mean for us? Theoretically, this should dramatically speed up the update process. Since Treble, updates should happen more quickly.

What about my device?

As a rule of thumb, Treble support on updated systems is still up to the manufacturers, but most-likely new Oreo devices will be required to support Treble moving forward. Hence, if you bought a phone already running Android 8.x.x Oreo from the beginning, that it should have be Treble-supported.

These references will help you understanding Treble compatibility on devices:

  • If your device never gets updated to Oreo, it will never get Project Treble.
  • If your device does get updated to Oreo, it does not necessarily to support Treble because that is up to the manufacturer.
  • If you buy a new phone that runs Android Oreo out of the box, it is required to support Treble out of the box.

Sounds cool? Wait! This can be even more cool if you know the benefit of Treble on third-party Android development communities. Since Treble, it is now possible to quickly boot functioning AOSP ROMs without the need for many hacks. It means now the development of custom Android ROM becomes more interesting.

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