Google will require new Android devices to run Android 10 if approved after January 31, 2020
Earlier today, we first reported on Google’s new Game Device Certification program and Digital Wellbeing requirements. We obtained information on both thanks to the latest version of Google’s GMS Requirements for OEMs/ODMs. This document also outlines the deadlines in which OEMs/ODMs can submit software builds to Google to get approval for GMS distribution. Notably, the document confirms that January 31, 2020 is the last date that Google will approve smartphones running Android 9 Pie. After that date, Google will only approve new devices running the latest Android version, Android 10.
GMS stands for Google Mobile Services, and it’s a suite of Google apps, services, and libraries that companies must license to preinstall on Android devices. The suite is most notable for containing apps like the Google Play Store and Google Play Services, the lack of which has soured the recent launch of the Huawei Mate 30. In order to be approved to preload GMS, OEMs must submit the software builds for each device they make to Google for approval. The approval process involves meeting the requirements in the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) and the GMS Requirements document, and also passing automated test suites like the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), Vendor Test Suite (VTS), and Google Test Suite (GTS). It’s a complex process and there are a lot of requirements to meet, so OEMs apply for GMS approval weeks or months in advance. However, Google wants OEMs to ship newer versions of Android on their devices, so after a while, they stop approving GMS distributions on devices that launch with older Android versions.
As you can see in the chart below, Google will stop approving new devices that run Android 9 Pie after January 31, 2020. Android 9 Pie was released to the public on August 6, 2018, so that means OEMs will have had nearly a year and a half to release devices running Android 9. Just because the approval window closes on January 31st doesn’t mean we’ll completely stop seeing Android 9 devices after the date, though, since OEMs can seek approval for their upcoming devices before the approval window closes. However, knowing that January 31, 2020, is the cutoff date for Android 9 means we can expect to see a flood of new devices running Android 10 in the weeks after.
For devices that won’t get an official update to Android 10, Google will still approve new software builds based on Android 9 Pie for a few more months. Google will stop approving Android 9 Pie-based software updates after the launch of Android 11, which will likely happen in August of 2020. After the Android 11 launch, Google will no longer approve Android updates except for security patch updates. Interestingly, if Android 11 launches in August as expected, then that means Google is cutting short the software build approval window when compared to how long they used to approve software updates for older Android versions.
Another interesting piece of information from this table is the extended approval window for Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition). New Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition) devices will still be approved until October 31, 2019, 10 months after the approval window closed for the standard Android 8.1 Oreo release. According to Flame Group, a company that specializes in helping OEMs pass Google’s GMS Certification, Google extended Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition)’s approval window due to performance regressions found in Android 9 Pie (Go Edition).
Android’s overall update situation still isn’t great, but requirements like these have forced OEMs to keep up with new Android releases. We can see what things might be like without such requirements, as Amazon just launched a new tablet today with Android Oreo onboard. Thanks to initiatives like Project Mainline in Android 10, Google is making it easier for system components to get updates, easing the burden of manufacturers to keep up with all the changes in each Android release. Android updates are definitely getting better, and we’re slowly seeing the update situation improve each year.