Google is making seamless updates mandatory for all Android 11 phones. Google first introduced the A/B partition system with Android 7.0 Nougat. The setup involves use of separate read-only partitions to install updates, thus speeding up the process.

During seamless updates, consumers can keep using their phones and then apply the update with a simple reboot.

How do seamless updates work?

Devices without A/B partition apply updates in recovery and users can’t use their phones for several minutes till the update process is done with. Even after the update is installed, it can take several minutes for apps to optimize for the new version.

A/B partitions are a set of duplicate read-only partitions. A system update is applied to the inactive partition and users can keep using the active partition while it patches. After the update, device reboot makes inactive partition (where the update was installed) active and the erstwhile active partition preserves previous software in an inactive state.

Related: Android 11 Features

Why seamless updates are important?

The A/B partition system makes it easier for users to roll back to the previous version.

New version updates, more often than not, break more than they fix. Time and again we see users vehemently demanding new Android version and then pleading for an option to switch to the previous version, once the update does finally arrive.

With seamless updates, the phone retains the previous software version and it is simpler to switch back in case of a critical update flaw. As XDAdevelopers points out, the first Android 10 update for Mi A2 Lite was botched up and users were able to switch to the inactive partition by using a simple Fastboot command.

Why manufacturers don’t opt-in for seamless updates?

The option has been there for a couple of years but most manufacturers are yet to opt-in. This is because implementing A/B partition blocks several GBs of space, especially on phones that have more pre-installed software.

Also, they’d have to spare cost and effort and ditch what works fine in order to keep up with Google’s partition changes.

Google can, however, make the A/B partition work with minimal storage penalty

How to check if your phone supports seamless updates or A/B partitions?

As we stated above, Seamless updates have been around for a while and there is a simple method to check if your phone already has A/B partition enabled.

  1. Download and Install Treble Check app from Play Store

    The app checks treble support but also tells about A/B partitions.

  2. Check seamless updates support

    On the home page, the app will show whether seamless updates, or updates via A/B partitions, are supported or not.

So, hopefully, once Android 11 is a norm, it would be a lot easier for people to roll back faulty updates.


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