Google is working to reduce the time it takes for Pixel software updates to install

In the past, updating a Pixel through over-the-air required at least ten to fifteen minutes of downtime since the device would need to enter recovery mode and restart many times. That changed with Android 7.0 Nougat’s introduction of Seamless Updates, and Google has been fine-tuning the update method ever since. These (as-yet-unmandated) enhancements allow your Pixel to install software updates in the background on a secondary virtual system disc and switch to it with a reboot, cutting down the entire downtime to just a few minutes. However, the fact that an installation may take up to 20 minutes is still a major obstacle. Google apparently intends to fix this, as seen by a recent series of fixes sent to the Android Open Source Project gerrit.

Mishaal Rahman discovered that Google is working on a way to improve the speed with which devices with support for virtual A/B partitions and a compression method may receive updates over-the-air. The enhancements can shave as much as 10 minutes off the duration of a complete OTA installation.

The fixes shortened the time it took to install a 2.2GB complete OTA on a Pixel 6 Pro from 23 minutes to about 13 minutes. The same was true with an over-the-air (376 MB) incremental update, which took 16 minutes instead of the initial 22. With the first patch, you may do copy-on-write (COW) operations in batches on a cluster, and with the second, you can use two threads to compress snapshots more quickly. That last change alone can cut installation times by around six minutes.

In Android 13, Google introduced a number of enhancements to virtual A/B partitions that decreased snapshot sizes by 25% to 40% and merging times by as much as 40%. These changes are made to facilitate a quicker OTA installation.

Seamless Updates has been around for a while, and it has many advantages, but most Android manufacturers still haven’t started using it. There have been rumblings that Google may mandate that OEMs roll out Seamless Updates for devices that debut with Android 13, but this has not been confirmed.