Fairphone suggests Qualcomm is the biggest barrier to long-term Android support

Enlarge / The Fairphone 2 and its many modules.

Fairphone—the sustainable, modular smartphone firm—continues to be delivery updates to the 5-year-old Fairphone 2. The corporate will not win any awards for velocity, however the cellphone—which launched in 2015 with Android 5—is now being updated to Android 9.0. Probably the most fascinating a part of this information is a video from Fairphone detailing the replace course of the corporate went via, which gives extra transparency than we usually get from a smartphone producer. To listen to Fairphone inform the story of Android updates, the most important barrier to longer-term help is—shock!—Qualcomm.

Fairphone desires customers to maintain their telephones for longer, creating much less e-waste and carbon emissions through modular alternative elements which can be simply upgradeable and repairable. A giant problem for designing a long-lasting cellphone like that is software program help. Even when Fairphone wished to help a cellphone perpetually, Android software program updates don’t work that method, and main OS updates usually depend on a relay race of firms that every one have to hand-off a construct of Android earlier than it reaches your cellphone.

We have gone over this earlier than, however let’s do a fast recap of how Android makes it to your smartphone. First, Google releases builds of AOSP (the Android Open Supply Undertaking) to everybody. This does not run on a cellphone but, although. First, your SoC (System on a Chip) producer (often Qualcomm) has to pay money for it and customise Android for a selected SoC, including drivers and different {hardware} help. Then, that construct goes to your cellphone producer (Fairphone, on this case) which provides help for the remainder of the {hardware}—issues like cameras, the show, and another equipment—together with built-in apps and any customized Android pores and skin work that the corporate desires to do.

How an Android update gets from a repository to your phone. First, Google releases code, then Qualcomm adds SoC support, then Fairphone adds hardware support, Google apps, and other customizations, then the update must pass Google's tests.
Enlarge / How an Android replace will get from a repository to your cellphone. First, Google releases code, then Qualcomm provides SoC help, then Fairphone provides {hardware} help, Google apps, and different customizations, then the replace should cross Google’s assessments.


As a 5-year-old cellphone, the Fairphone 2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, which is a significant downside if you happen to’re attempting to do long-term help. Fairphone software program engineer Karsten Tausche defined within the video, “Qualcomm stopped supporting the chipset already, after Android 6, and that made the replace to Android 7 far more troublesome than, for instance, the replace to Android 6.” Fairphone says it labored across the lack of Qualcomm help due to LineageOS, the Android group’s greatest customized ROM undertaking. Identical to how your SoC and {hardware} producer would formally get AOSP builds prepared for a tool, Lineage additionally builds device-specific, ready-to-boot variations of Android from the supply and releases them to everybody as an aftermarket ROM. Qualcomm is the one firm with full entry to Qualcomm’s proprietary code blobs and {hardware} documentation, so an unofficial, hacked-together construct often will not attain the extent of polish you get from an official launch with each {hardware} firm’s help. Lineage usually lives within the realm of aftermarket cellphone tinkerers, in order that’s fantastic.

Fairphone is a Google app licensee, although, and that is an official launch, so there is a larger bar for high quality. Lineage has to cross Google’s approval course of, aka the “Compatibility Take a look at Suite,” a battery of assessments that ensures producers have constructed Android appropriately. The software program will not have any main compatibility issues with apps, and it’ll adhere to all of Google’s mandated insurance policies for Android. Fairphone virtually appears vital of Google’s compatibility course of, too, saying it “is getting increasingly more advanced” with every new Android launch, and the Android 9 options “480,000” assessments. Fairphone wasn’t certain it might ship an official construct of Android 9 till it got here up with options for all of Google’s check necessities.

As for the corporate’s present telephones, the Fairphone 3 and three+, the corporate says it is planning an Android 11 replace within the second half of this 12 months. Fairphone says Qualcomm is planning to kill help for the Snapdragon 632 chip that underpins these telephones in July 2021. Fairphone desires to ship “at the very least yet another main Android replace” after Android 11, however that can imply doing one other replace with out Qualcomm’s help.

As at all times with Android, issues will get higher sooner or later. The Fairphone 3, as an Android 10 launch cellphone, helps Undertaking Treble, a significant re-architecting of Android that separates the OS from the {hardware} help. Treble was constructed to precisely clear up the issue the older Fairphone 2 is having—the separation means an organization might theoretically replace Android while not having help from its chipset vendor.

As we speak, Qualcomm guarantees three years of chipset help for main updates, which was pitched as an enormous enchancment over the 2 years it used to provide. That’s nonetheless nowhere close to so long as Apple, which gives round 5 years of help for an iPhone. Qualcomm previously explained to Ars that “The size of time a chipset is supported… is decided in collaboration with our prospects,” however this is a buyer asking for extra help—and it isn’t occurring.

Tausche closed the video saying that, though the work was troublesome, Fairphone wished to set an instance. Tausche mentioned, “We’re proud to point out the trade that, even with our small workforce, it is doable to help your telephones longer.”

Source link

Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart