A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

The XDA forums have been the central gathering of custom ROM development for years. It’s thanks to the hard work of developers on our forums that many older Android smartphones are kept alive by custom ROMS sometimes years after devices were abandoned by the device maker. Though most manufacturers release bootloader unlocking methods these days, frequent delays in kernel source releases has stifled custom ROM development on many smartphones. That may soon change, however, thanks to something called “Project Treble” which was announced near the release of Android Oreo. Thanks to Project Treble, the time it takes to port an AOSP ROM onto a device should no longer take weeks or months—instead it should take merely days.

For those of you who have followed the custom ROM scene for years, you might already be aware with how significant this news is. XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid called this revelation a “breakthrough” in custom AOSP ROM development. Thanks to Project Treble support, for example, I was able to boot a nearly fully functioning Android 8.0 Oreo ROM on the Huawei Mate 9—a device that until now hadn’t even seen a single AOSP Android Nougat ROM.

We may soon be seeing a revolution in custom ROM development thanks to the initial development efforts on this front by XDA Senior Member phhusson. After 20 hours of work researching, developing, and debugging with me, phhusson created a system image that can be booted on multiple devices from different manufacturers and with completely different SoCs. For example, the same system image that I booted on my own Huawei Mate 9 also boots on the Honor 8 Pro, Honor 9, Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, and the Essential Phone. That’s 3 different OEMs (Huawei/Honor, Sony, and Essential) and 2 different SoCs (HiSilicon Kirin 960 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835) where this single system image can successfully boot.

It’s possible that in the future, we could be seeing a single system image that can work on dozens of different Android smartphones, much like how Microsoft Windows can run on nearly any computer hardware. In order to encourage more development on this front, we’ve opened up a new forum dedicated to Project Treble enabled devices. The forum is geared towards developers at this moment, so please refrain from starting a new thread unless you are interested in contributing to development. If you wish to help test Treble-compatible system images, then feel free to leave comments on existing threads.

Join the Project Treble Development Forum

Given the significance of this development and the complexity of the topic, I thought I would approach this article a bit differently than the others. I’ll be running down a bullet point list explaining some common questions people might have as well as point out key facts regarding this latest development.


What is Project Treble?

Credits: Google

Project Treble is most commonly described as an attempt by Google to modularize the Android OS framework to separate vendor specific code. Let’s break things down a bit more:


Android Oreo on the Honor 8 Pro. Credits: XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid

What devices will get Project Treble support?


Why is Project Treble so important for AOSP ROMs?


How do I try out Android Oreo on my device now?

If you’re really adventurous and want to try out one of these Project Treble builds on your phone right now, phhusson has the system images you need to download over on his thread in our Project Treble forum. There are a few things you need to keep in mind, though:


Conclusion

Google wasn’t kidding when they said that Project Treble was perhaps one of the biggest changes ever to the way Android works. We can see for ourselves, right here and now, just how much of an impact it can have. Treble might be the push the development community needs to revitalize the custom ROM scene. It took less than 1 day to boot a nearly fully functioning AOSP ROM on the Huawei Mate 9. I’m excited to see the work that will be done for other Treble-enabled devices.

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