Will my Pixel phone continue to receive project mainline updates in 2022?


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Of late the gripe with the smartphone biz seems to be the lack of updates. With each generation of smartphones supplanting their predecessors, many find themselves in the predicament of having to replace their devices earlier than usual. However, Google’s Pixel series seems to have a silver lining. While some of the regular maintenance routines like security patches are no longer available for the Pixel 2 or Pixel 3 series, they continue to receive Project Mainline updates, a subject further discussed in the article below.

Which Pixel Series will continue to receive project mainline updates?

As mentioned earlier, many of the more substantial updates allotted to the later generation of devices have been excluded. Recently Google announced their plans to push out another (at least one) monthly update to the Pixel 3 series in Q1 2022.

Although the Pixel 3 is slated to receive Android 12(not with much success) there remains the question of whether it will continue to receive updates later into the future. This is where Project mainline comes into the picture.

Many of the core system components are no longer released in major version updates but independent modules get updated with the passage of time. In other words, the Pixel might miss flashy new features that are specific to a new OS version. But it’ll still be eligible for smaller, support or security features.

Do keep in mind that Google doesn’t extend actual project Mainline support to the original Pixel. It was the Pixel 2 that started receiving updates in some modules. Only the Pixel 3 and later can properly support the project mainline updates.

Pixel Series Project Mainline Updates

According to some of the posts on Reddit, the modularity feature is more prominent from the Pixel 2 onward. Devices that have had Android 10 in the past with scalability to Android 11 and 12 have access to the modules. Both ART runtime and Device Scheduling have been announced to be part of the Android 12 project mainline.

How to access Project Mainline Updates?

To access them we’ve included a set of instructions down below.

  1. Open the Settings option of your device
  2. Scroll down to the “About Phone/Device” option in the menu
  3. Select “Android Version”. The “Google Play System Update” will be indicated.
  4. Select the option, the update will commence

Mainline updates are likely to be expected every month, so keep an eye out for any possible releases. Each update will also be marked so you can keep track of your updates. They work similarly to the monthly security patches. There is no longer the need for an OEM manufacturer to roll out their own individual version each time another patch is introduced.

What are Project Mainline Updates?

One of Google’s massive contributions to better efficiency in smartphone retention would be the inclusion of Project mainline in their Android 10 update. With each OS update, there would be a collection of project mainline updates as well.

Project Mainline or “Google Play Systems” are Google’s efforts at making Android’s core system components more modular. They used a proprietary filetype dubbed “APEX” as the apk update that could be accessed via the PlayStore. To put it simply, core updates could be sent directly to the user instead of a roundabout route that involves the board manufacturer.

APK files were originally meant for third party app usage which detailed several security restrictions. Consequentially, APEX files which bypassed these restrictions carried data of immense value such as the boot-up components or the app run-time processes.

Mainline requires Google to negotiate with device manufacturers to agree on using the same string of code thus creating a single ecosystem. Modules were offered with each OS update which led to Google maintaining a registry of all the utilized modules. The website link is here.

In the meantime continue to enjoy your Pixel smartphone, and keep on hitting Settings –> Security –> Google Play system update every so often. If you are still emotionally attached to your older pixel phones, with this announcement you can keep with you until it dies even if it gets partially updated.

That’s pretty much all there is to the future updates for Pixel or any other OEM that accepts Google’s trade-offs. Sounds complicated but it’s definitely easier on both the developers and the users. Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments down below. For more similar content, visit us here.

Achyuth Nambiar
Achyuth Nambiar
Being a tech enthusiast and someone who loves to read, I try to combine the two into my latest attempt... blogging. A gaming PC though a Far Cry (pun intended) remains a distant dream.


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