If you cast your mind back to December 2011, the guys at Sony Mobile Developer World did a very thorough job of explaining the upgrade process to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The piece highlighted all that is entailed and the many steps involved before us end-users get to enjoy a major new Android update. Well they have updated that piece in reference to Android 4.3 and detailed what has changed since that time.
It is a very interesting read, with Sony talking about the efficiencies achieved in the upgrading process, the closer collaboration with Qualcomm and Google and ultimately what this means in the future with regards to upgrade timelines. There is also acknowledgement of the criticism the company has received in relation to slow updates and how it hopes for much faster turnaround times in the future. Click through for some of the key highlights and make sure you click the source link for the full read.
Sony’s Android 4.3 upgrade process – Key Highlights
Two main phases to software upgrade process
1) Bring up phase - Ensure the core Android operating system (boot, kernel, all hardware components) is running and stable. Also will integrate new and existing Sony features in the new software.
2) Test, certification and approval phase – Ensure all the software and hardware parts comply with technology standards (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi etc). Also need to ensure that everything updated follows the necessary legal requirements, such as Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). For a global, worldwide product, Sony needs local certifications in up to 80 countries.
Closer cooperation with Google and Qualcomm
Makes the Bring up phase much more efficient, as Sony can use a lot of the work that Qualcomm does on its reference design for Sony’s integration.
Platform Development Kit (PDK) distributed a few weeks before new Android announcement
“Even though we haven’t seen the new Android 4.3 source code until it’s publicly released, we now get some information from Google about what areas will be updated. The PDK (a collection of source files and software binaries) was introduced by Google to help us and other manufacturers speed up the upgrade process. This means that we can plan our software upgrade projects more in advance, as we know roughly what parts of the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) we need to update.”
How having Xperia devices running AOSP helps the update process
“By getting access to the PDK before the Android source code is available, we can start the initial phase of bring up earlier. And by having Xperia™ devices running AOSP, the feature upgrade work can start immediately when the Android source code is available. The fact that we now have AOSP running on our devices (through the work with AOSP for Xperia) makes it easier for us to contribute our fixes and patches back to Android, which in the long run will mean that we will have fewer patches to integrate the next time Android is updated.”
Unique Sony features added to vanilla Android
Most time consuming phase = Test, certification and approval phase
“Since our last post for ICS, I’ve seen comments on the News blog and on Developer World that we have been late with software upgrades due to slow software development. But actually, we have very knowledgeable and experienced developers who all work really hard to get the software upgrades out. But contrary to what people may think, it is not the Bring up phase, but the Test, certification and approval phase that is the most time consuming process when it comes to getting a new software release out on our phones.”
Improved upgrade process should lead to faster firmware updates
“Large companies can sometimes be less agile than we wish to be, but we now have reshaped how we work and have an improved upgrade process in place. With each improvement we make, our software is delivered quicker and to a higher standard. Sometimes decisions can be complex with several products and projects involved and we have to divide our efforts and resource between new products on the way to market and upgrades of several existing products which use different platforms and software versions. However, this is something we have worked hard to improve over the last year, and we are constantly working on optimising it even further. Obviously everyone will now wonder how much faster the upgrades will come, and that we cannot exactly say right now since we are just getting started. But what we can say, is that we now have improvements in place and it should have a significant effect on the lead times.”