Google has been working continuously to reduce the time required for OTA updates of the Android operating system, and new efforts appear to reduce the time required to install a full update by up to 10 minutes.
If you have used Android 6 or earlier, do you remember it took quite a while to update the Android OS? The device was unavailable for 10 to 15 minutes due to work such as installation and rebooting.
That changed with the introduction of seamless updates in Android 7.0 Nougat. It now installs software updates in the background on a secondary virtual system partition and switches to it on reboot, reducing the actual device downtime to just a few minutes. But the fact remains that the installation itself takes 20 minutes. However, a new set of patches submitted to the Android Open-Source Project suggests that may change.
According to journalist Mishaal Rahman, Google is working to speed up the installation of OTA updates on devices that support virtual A/B partitions with compression mechanisms. This improvement can reduce the OTA full installation time by up to 10 minutes.
On the Pixel 6 Pro, the patch reportedly reduced the installation time for a 2.2 GB full OTA from 23 minutes to around 13 minutes. Similarly, a 376MB incremental OTA now takes 16 instead of 22 minutes. The first patch enables batch COW (copy-on-write) operations in the cluster, and the second patch enables using two threads to speed up snapshot compression. The latter fix alone cuts installation time by about six minutes.
Google has made some improvements to virtual A/B partitions in Android 13, reducing snapshot sizes by 25% to 40% and reducing merge times by up to 40%. These process improvements are aimed at making OTA installations even faster.
Despite the benefits of seamless updates that have been around for years, most Android makers haven’t embraced them yet. Google appears to have taken steps to require OEMs to distribute seamless updates to devices running Android 13, but there’s no official word yet on what’s going on. But at least Pixel smartphone owners should soon experience faster OS updates across the board.