Updates on Google’s Pixel phones are too slow. Before you get your forks, let us explain what we mean. One of the benefits of buying a phone like the Google Pixel 6a or Pixel 6 is getting updates before other OEM devices. However, their installation takes too much time. Seamless updates are heralded as the best thing that can happen to software upgrades, and phones lacking this feature are often mocked for the omission. But we’re glad Samsung and a few others refused to implement it.
What are Seamless Updates?
Seamless updates were introduced with the original Pixel in 2016. The device has two system partitions that allow it to install a software update when the phone is on. This means that the device only needs to perform a quick restart at the end of the process, which takes a maximum of thirty seconds, instead of being turned off and unusable for a few minutes. Another advantage of transparent updates is protection against incomplete installations, using a slot system.
When you get a new Pixel, it boots in slot A. When a software update is available, it is installed in slot B. When the update is complete, the phone will restart and go to newly updated location. If an error occurred during installation, or shortly thereafter, the Pixel may reboot into slot A, which still contains the non-updated software, until it can attempt again safe update.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Most of the time it is. Updates install automatically without the knowledge of the user, the phone can reboot itself to end when the owner sleeps, and you are protected from bad updates. For the majority of users, this is the best way to provide an over-the-air (OTA) update. These benefits are often talked about and praised, but there is one big downside that few mention: seamless updates take time.
Transparent updates have a problem
Although the phone does not need to be turned off for very long to complete the update, it still takes a long time to complete the setup when it is turned on. Because the Pixel tries to write a system upgrade to the correct partition, while keeping the rest of the operating system running and smooth for you to use, the process happens at a snail’s pace.
How long does it take exactly? Twitter friend Dalevon illustrated the topic last July. The update was just 34MB, tiny in the grand scheme of things. After an hour, we were only halfway through the installation. It was a simple security fix, full Android upgrades take even longer. Android 13 was a massive update that took over two hours to install on a Pixel 4 and 6a.
Why is this a problem? Many of us love the day when a new version of Android is released and want to play with it as soon as possible. Do we really want to watch a long movie to pass the time while our phone does the work?
By comparison, Samsung and other phones that don’t use seamless updates get things done faster, but at the expense of the device being unusable for longer. In June, the Galaxy S22 Ultra received an update that weighed in at 1.3GB, far more than the 34MB update that Dalevon’s Pixel 6 took over an hour to install. The S22 downloaded, installed and optimized this 1.3GB upgrade in less than six minutes. However, there’s no failed update protection here like you’d get with a Pixel, but we haven’t seen an update failure on a Samsung device in years, so this is not the case. so it’s not a big problem.
Pixel users can skip the wait if they want. Simply connect the phone to a PC and upload the OTA file to ADB, skipping the update process seamlessly and in a snap. It works well and is great to use when there’s a new Android beta or big update. But why should we use a PC to do something the phone should be able to do?
We’re not suggesting that Google remove Transparent Updates. This is a fantastic feature for most people most of the time, and the phone is only off for a few seconds, which is great. And many would say that waiting a few hours to install an update is nothing compared to waiting a few months to get the Android update. But as far as we’re concerned, seamless updates get in the way when you want to try out the latest version of Android as quickly as possible.
What we would like to see
Seamless updates are great for most people, and most of the time we’re in no rush to install the latest security patch. But for big updates adding an option on the device to skip the wait would be ideal, maybe a toggle in the developer options. At least this way, people wouldn’t have to wait hours and hours to get that desperately needed bug fix or Android upgrade they’ve been waiting for. We’d say that’s especially true for bug fix updates, given how important they have been to Pixel users over the past year.
We know this is just a pipe dream. Google is unlikely to commit resources to implement something that would benefit so few users, if something like this is even possible. But we can dream, and unless something like this is implemented, we’ll happily continue to enjoy the old-fashioned update process on our Samsung phones while we still can.
#Updates #Pixel #slow