What are seamless updates in Android 7.0 Nougat and how do they work?

Android 7.0 Nougat will receive a new feature that will effectively kill firmware updates as we know them. ‘Seamless updates’, as Android vice president of engineering Dave Burke explained at Google I/O, is a completely new approach to updating Android.

Slow update release cycles from manufacturers and telecom companies have resulted in fragmentation within the Android ecosystem. Effectively, that means Google’s latest software makes it to only a fraction of devices months, or even longer, after it rolls out. As such, recent figures from Google show that Marshmallow is running on around 7.5 percent of active devices. This scenario is not ideal for Google, nor is it ideal if you’re waiting for an update.

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At least if you own a Nexus device, updates could be rolling out even faster from Android 7.0 Nougat onward. With a non-Nexus device, you’d already be aware that there’s a trade off in the speed at which you receive updates. But the recent announcement about Seamless updates are a small modification to how new firmware versions will be released – but with significant long-term implications.

What are Seamless Updates?

Seamless updates borrows an update method from Chrome OS in which two system partitions live on the device at any one time. While one partition is in use by the phone at any one time, the other is free to be updated by the system, so an OS update can be downloaded and installed completely in the background, at which point the user reboots the device and the update will feel little slower than, say, a hard reboot.

google-io-keynote-2016-android-20-w782.pngSeamless forms part of new Android 7.0 Nougat features announced at I/O 2016. / © Google

This is a fashion similar to the one you may have experienced on Windows PCs as well where the updates are silently downloaded and then installed when you reboot.

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While it’s a bit disappointing that current devices won’t get it, the practicalities of the situation (i.e. the potential of someone inadvertently bricking a $500+ phone) are what they are, and it’s easy to see why Google wouldn’t go through the trouble – there’s really no good business reason for them to do so. But hey, it’s something to look forward to, just not on current devices.

Is this for your own good? This comes down to personal preference, of course. But one thing is clear: with the release of Nougat, Android will update seamlessly and without asking for permission. Whether this makes Android users feel more secure, or disconnected from updates, we’ll have to wait and see.

Are you interested in silent updates, or would you prefer to load them yourself? Let us know in the comments.

9 thoughts on “What are seamless updates in Android 7.0 Nougat and how do they work?

  1. Pingback: Android 7.0 Nougat : What we know so far, update schedules, release dates. | Verdict

  2. Make it work like Windows 10 does: Download the update(s), prepare the device for installation, and install within “Free Time” (Android version of Active Hours). Then reboot the device without the user ever even noticing. Now that android saves your app states on Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and up the user could continue using their phone after they finish the update features tutorial (if any are added) and still have their apps open.

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