Why do manufacturers take so long with Nougat updates?

Why do manufacturers take so long with Nougat updates?

Android Nougat had the longest beta phase period to date. Android Nougat was released earlier in the year than any other version before it. Release by many manufacturers is still dragging, and updates are constantly being pulled back. What is going on with the Android updates, and is Google shouldering responsibility for it?

Android users are probably wondering what is really going on with Google and the manufacturers: the update to Android Nougat is quite sluggish, and it almost seems to be moving forward more slowly than with previous platform updates. Android updates are already lampooned with parodies.

Android Nougat: a strong start

Everything had started very well with Nougat: the developer preview was released in March 2016, a longer beta period followed and the final release was on August 22nd – earlier in the year than any other (Jelly Bean 4.1 or 4.3, are the only others to come to mind). Otherwise, since Android 4.0 in 2011, release dates have typically come later, in October or November.

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Most of the top lineup from 2016 has by now received a Nougat update. / © NextPit

While the first smartphone with Nougat was presented shortly after the IFA – the LG V20 – it has remained strangely quiet since then. At least the top smartphones of 2016 have by now mostly received the update, as it has been five months since Nougat appeared. The following table summarizes the state of affairs for the important top phones from 2016:

Smartphone Nougat Release
Sony Xperia X Performance / XZ beginning of December
Lenovo Moto Z December 6, 2016
LG G5 December 7, 2016
HTC 10 January 25, 2017
Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge January 31, 2017
Huawei P9 Beta test since Janaury 5, 2017, official launch a week ago
ZTE Axon 7 not yet, planned for Q1 2017
Huawei Mate 9 Shipped with 7.0 Nougat
Google Pixel / Pixel XL Shipped with 7.1 Nougat

The list does not claim to be exhaustive and, when possible, takes into account the OTA release for all users. (Does the list lack an important top smartphone from 2016? Write to us in the comments. Thanks!)

Nougat updates with glitches…

Nevertheless, a surprisingly high number of manufacturers had problems with the update and had to quickly pull it back. Google itself let the Nexus 6 lag behind. Nvidia announced the Nougat update as an Experience Upgrade 5.0 for Shield TV (2015), but it was delivered a good week later – and instead as release 5.0.2. Apparently, it was necessary to quickly fix a bug.

With Sony, it also didn't go quite as planned: the Z5 series should have received the update, but Sony had to withdraw it at short notice, apparently because errors had occurred. These were updates that were intended for the predecessor generation of the 2016 series.

The same fate also hit HTC, whose Nougat update for the 10 should have already appeared in 2016. Just a few days ago, we were informed that it was really going to move forward. ZTE had to move the Axon 7 release once again because of the Nougat software, since they were not satisfied with the quality of the software.

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Something isn’t working well with Nougat updates. / © NextPit

…and Nougat updates limp along

Samsung did not get the Nougat update with the S7 any faster than they got the Marshmallow update with the Galaxy S6. And this happened even though the Nougat source code has actually been available longer for manufacturers. Because of this, Samsung Galaxy S7 owners were given some new features as a small consolation for the long wait.

HTC, on the other hand, has not been able to take advantage of the Nougat update for the HTC 10 within roughly the same timeframe as the Marshmallow update for the M9 a year earlier, and has needed two months longer for the Nougat update.

Nougat is a problematic update

The Nougat update has also not happened without snags. Sony is good example, but there are many other victims. For the Xperia Z3, Sony had even released the Developer Preview for Android Nougat. But the last Nougat beta did not appear. The puzzle’s solution: only shortly before the appearance date, Google added a demand for support for OpenGL 3.1, with which many older graphics chips can't handle well. Even a driver update is not sufficient, because it is about newer hardware. So Sony (and the entire industry) had to do without official updates for hardware with the Snapdragon 800/801 (plus many other chips are also affected). Another prominent victim is the OnePlus X, which could not get Nougat because of this particular Google decision, even though it was on the market for less than one year.

Through Custom ROM, Nougat is still possible for these smartphones, as the programmers can work around a problem – but in a way, that makes an official update impossible. Therefore, for many older Snapdragon 800 smartphones, there’s an update for Nougat, just not an official one. A good starting point for this was CyanogenMod, now Lineage OS. Curiously, the first nightly builds of Nougat with CyanogenMod were quite stable.

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Lineage OS is the legitimate successor to CyanogenMod / © NextPit

What’s so problematic about Nougat?

It remains unclear why the Nougat update caused so many problems. There are actually not many visible changes, so the responsibility must lie elsewhere. In the depths of the system, there are some changes that may pose problems for manufacturers. In particular, with regard to memory management, Google has made significant adjustments and new security guidelines around system libraries that may be responsible for delays. However, this has not been conclusively clarified.

Despite more stringent security measures, however, manufacturers should have the necessary structures to enable rapid development of the software. Google itself even spoke of a specific recognized problem with the Nexus 6 – a delay for the Nougat 7.1.1 update that took almost a month.

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The Nexus 6 still received Android Nougat. / © NextPit

Google is part of the problem

The versioning of Android, which now follows the schema x.y.z. (for example, 7.1.2) with Nougat, seems downright absurd: on the one hand, we have the main version, x, from Android, which is currently the 7 – Google wants to release a new main version once per year. There is the subversion, y, the newest of which was released in November and is the 1 – and a mini-feature upgrade is supposed to happen roughly quarterly. And there are other maintenance versions, currently it's the 1, but the 2 is already in the beta phase. Thus, the current Android is 7.1.1. Additionally, there still are, of course, the security patches, which will be offered in certain months – but the exact date is up in the air. Four features in total, therefore, describe whether the Android software is up-to-date or not, if you include the security patches. After all, there are security patches for all relevant Android versions since Android 4.4 – so they can be implemented independently of the version number.

If you want to have it exactly correct, you can also use the API level, which is always increased by one when a new (sub) version appears. Android 7.0 has the number 24, Android 7.1 has 25. The API level is mainly intended for app developers, because there’s not much interest in the bug fix releases (the z in x.y.z above).

Even further fragmentation: Google has reserved the 7.1.2 update for the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9 – it should actually be only a bug fix release, and so it won’t bring any new features. So, even within a subversion some fragmentation is possible – here, however, it’s caused by Google’s own limited update guarantee.

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The Pixel is still getting updates quickly. / © NextPit

How current is a new Android, really?

Speaking of the Galaxy S7, which recently received Android 7.0, it can be said that it’s up-to-date, but not totally: the main version is current, but not the subversion. The security patch is indicated as January 2017, but it will soon be replaced by February’s. Is this completely confusing? The same calculation can be found on almost all current smartphones, be it from Sony, HTC, or elsewhere: only Google’s Pixel and Nexus smartphones are under optimal conditions to get the most up-to-date version possible – in the sense of the four-part Android version.

Actually, it’s a nuisance that Google is not happy with the version fragmentation of Android and is looking for ways to improve the situation – even a public complaints list was already mentioned. Looking at the new release in practice, however, it’s hard to believe that. The Nougat code came too late to equip the XZ with Nougat this time, Sony told us. Apparently, the August release was a rather last-minute decision, which caught some manufacturers at a bad time.

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Nougat, everywhere only Nougat... / © NextPit

Many manufacturers have been faced with the problem that while they were in mid-development of 7.0 updates, Android 7.1 suddenly appeared.

It seems laudable that Google offers more feature updates for Android; however, together with the security patches, this approach makes it more difficult to quickly develop Android updates. If you’d like to put out a system update, you then must drop it when a new release happens simultaneously, because the new is not so new and is now outdated.

With Nougat, Google has disturbed the update plans of the manufacturers

Google is not responsible for the slow software development of the manufacturers. However, the company could create an environment that actually enables rapid updates. With Android 7.0 Nougat, Google has just shown how to get the whole industry in a mess. Even core Nougat features (like seamless updates) are no longer part of the first release, but are part of the feature upgrades in 7.1. The premature Nougat release has mainly caused problems and solved none.

If Google really wants to implement fast Android updates, the variety has to be reduced during the year. Why not a main release, as has been the tradition since 2011, as well as the monthly security updates and quarterly bugfix releases without big new features – that would be simple enough for vendors, and would probably provide for more stringent update development and faster release cycles. New features for the launcher, Google search, and whatever other systems should be distributed across the Play Store and thus be removed from the typical release cycle.

With regards to Android Nougat, this would mean that Android 7.1 is actually the standard that Android Nougat should have had from the beginning. But it first appeared as an update to Android 7.0 instead.

What do you think of the current situation with Android? Does the versioning scheme work for you, or should Google go with a simple "1, 2, 3" pattern (as with iOS)? Or are you completely happy with the fast delivery of updates? Discuss it with us in the comments!


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  • Andrew Burgin Feb 10, 2017 Link to comment

    phonearena.com now showing the news that the Galaxy S7 Models have 10% less batterylife with Nougat,hope Samsung can solve this problem out before Nougat is Fully made available

  • BJ Hafez Feb 10, 2017 Link to comment

    That's why I gave up on Android phones altogether. What a crappy combo google and the manufacturers.!!!!

  • Vetón Feb 10, 2017 Link to comment

    Sometimes is necessary to risk a little. In my case, with an old Sony Xperia Z, I have installed Android 7.1.1 (Lineage) two months ago, and it goes smooth and nice for a typical and daily use, since Sony decided to discontinue the updates for this device long time ago.

  • Reg Joo Feb 10, 2017 Link to comment

    I give my phone 6 months into it's warranty. If no update comes by then, I put on twrp, root, then rom to a version that the phone should have on by then. Of course, before I buy the phone, I visit the android communities, research which ones will be easy to rom update, if the mfg is too slow. I use aicp rom on a phone that at first was supposed to get nougat, then they changed their minds. I have nougat now, and can't understand why it wasn't officially updated, it runs smoother, faster, uses less battery than the stock marshmallow rom. If developers can make roms that run silky smooth, in less than 4 months, what's up with mfg"s?

  • Gary Hicks Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

    I have an S7 Edge (SM-G935F) from Three Ireland.

    Samsung released Android 7 to BTU devices and dispatched the new OS to service providers last month. Thus far, Three Ireland do not seem to have any idea at all when/if they'll push the new OS out. I contacted their Chat "Support" thing and asked when Android 7 would be released by Three Ireland. The person I was chatting with first thought I was asking about purchasing a new Samsung handset with Android 7 and then, after I'd restated the question, said they didn't know if Android 7 had been released by Google - this was a couple of weeks ago...

    So there is no clear idea when (or if) Three Ireland will release Android 7, and I see online that Google have now started the Beta program for Android 7.1.2. If I do get Andoird 7 now from Three Ireland, my phone will be already out of date. Although not as out of date as it currently is, there have been NO OS updates, beyond security updates, since I got the phone in March last year. It is still on Android 6.0.1.

    Just finished a Chat session with someone in Three.ie support. The information that the support staff have is that there are bugs in the OS... And that it was phased to suggest that it is the manufacturer's responsibility to update the handsets. I called them on this, as Samsung halted the rollout of Android 7 last month to BTU devices for about 8 hours. They fixed the bugs and them continued the rollout and released that updated OS to carriers.

    Therefore the bugs that are holding up the carrier rollout of Android 7 have been introduced by the carrier, in this case Three.ie, with the addition to the OS of their "special feature" bloat-ware. If Google release a new OS to manufacturers, who customize that OS for their specific hardware; why is a service provider who has a vague grasp on the OS itself and hardware specifically screwing around with the manufacturer customized OS.

    Surely, it is better to release the manufacturer OS and provide links to download that "special feature" bloat-ware. That way the carriers would be able to better keep on-track with OS releases and not annoy customers who find the "special feature" bloat-ware little more than bloody annoying as it is consumes storage space and cannot be removed...

  • Àlex B Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

    I've not received Nougat on my S7 Edge(SM-G935F) yet...

  • Dwarfer66 Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

    Do you guys work/get paid by CyanogenMod/Lineage OS, because they are the ONLY custom roms you talk about, even though there are great custom touchwiz roms for Galaxy phones/Tabs as well, I have mentioned some in the past also.

  • itprolonden Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

    So make them push it out by a certain time whether it's ready or not, right? I'll keep my iPhone 6s plus.

    • Dean L. Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

      Yeah, agree. At the moment I'm using an iPhone 5s on iOS 10.2.1. My daughter has a Pixel and I'll admit I envy her. Guess it's that "ooh it's new and shiny" syndrome.

      • Andria D. Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

        I think it's exactly that. I dunno about y'all, but I'd rather keep a Marshmallow that actually works, than get a buggy "new and shiny" OS. I remember Windows ME all too well. Blue screen of death, anyone??? That's what happens with a buggy operating system, though with Android I daresay it would be more like "(Important process you need) has stopped. Don't bother contacting your carrier, because they won't have a clue either."

  • Andrew Burgin Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    O.k you want to keep your for up-to-date,but when your waiting for the update way to long,your then thinking is it worth waiting to get the update after people start complaining about the change in the batterylife,gsmarena showed a table the other day of the difference in the batterylife of the Galaxy S7 Edge with Nougat on it,and it showed that the batterylife was now alot shorter,Why can"t a set date be made so every Android phone gets the Update offered,i bet Samsung will be delaying the Full Nougat update till the Galaxy S8 models are released,that what Samsung as got to Improve its Software section but they never seem to be any better

  • Dick Bailey Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    Axon 7 Nougat OTA released on 2/7.

  • Dean L. Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    Thanks Google. For making fragmentation worse instead of better. But maybe now you're showing us your mo. Buy a Google device to reduce the impact of fragmentation.

    Deactivated AccountDeactivated Account

  • storm Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    There's no money in updates. These are hardware companies, not software companies. The only measurable value of the programmers is in making the new products desirable, not supporting past sales. If you can't or don't measure the value, no effort goes towards it.

    I'd love to see a divorce between the software and hardware as in the PC world. let the hardware vendors release the driver support and the programmers release the software. We'd get much better updates and flexibility in the product.

  • Miguel Mayol Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    Zuk Z2 (a brand from Lenovo) with the same SoC than the Pixel has several ROMs, even the official one ZUI 2.5 with Nougat

    Search "chinese_zuk_z2_and_z2_pro_owners_to_get_zui_25_update-news-22873"

    This phone is growing inside the "developer" world as it has public drivers, and almost the same amount of ROMs than the Pixel, for prices around $200 and less in flash sales.

  • Parvind Chahal Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    for example we take samsung mid range phones or lower mid range phones....these phone wont get latest software bcos company will launch new devices with latest software in this price segment and will promote these saying with latest software.

  • Simon Mouer Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    Axon 7 Nougat update is now out -- no issues (knock on wood) updating my kids two Axon 7's.

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    Deactivated Account Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    The LG V20 has been left out of the list I would say the only device released with Nougat from the start. Yes I agree I think it was not a good idea that Google didn't inform the manufacturers of their plans to release Nougat in August and that updates would be released soon after. But one can't completely ignore the fact that some/most manufacturers take too long with firmware in general, and have the last 4 or more months not sent out security updates either. The problem is they are dead quite about what is going on and if there's a problem with the development of nougat on their platforms/devices. We don't live in the 1960's anymore and people want to know what is going on, due to their silence it seems to the informed public that they are hiding something or sitting and playing with their toes or who knows what due to the slow release of the update. And as I have said on other threads on AndroidPit, the different UI's of the manufacturers don't help either and delays the process and releases, and do they really make that much of a difference from stock? Then you get a delay from carriers with their bloatware delaying the release(s) even more. The version numbers don't bother me it's cool having a 2 or 3 digit version number and you can see there have been updates and development on the firmware. Thus the informed public can see there have been changes and fixes done and you aren't left with one version and yes there's patches/fixes but is it really fixing something? I know it doesn't mean if the number changes there was fixes, but at least someone did something to change the number if you want to argue about that. I would say before Google releases a new version of O/S, iow Android O, they should go sit around a table and rethink Android and get the manufacturers in and do something about this mess as it seems it's getting worse every year and nobody does anything they just go with the flow. They are messing up Android but I get the feeling they have a attitude of they just don't care.

    Deactivated AccountDean L.

    • Rakesh C. Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

      Hello, Jacques Labuschagne, it's best your answer I am suggesting your answer

      Deactivated Account

  • CJ Brown Feb 8, 2017 Link to comment

    ZTE Axon 7 - Android Authority confirmed an Android OS Nougat 7.1 update, while I think a new Android OS every other year ought to solve a consistent problem / offer more time to improve an existing OS (maybe this would guarantee a smartphone being compliant for at least 2 years?). 👍

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