Google’s working to speed up Pixel software update install times

Back in the day, installing an OTA update on a Pixel meant downtime of at least 10 to 15 minutes as the device would boot into recovery mode and restart a couple of times during the process. The introduction of Seamless Updates with Android 7.0 Nougat changed that, and Google has been tweaking the update mechanism ever since. Thanks to these (yet-to-be-officially-mandated) improvements, your Pixel now installs a software update in the background on a secondary virtual system partition and switches to it with a reboot, reducing the total downtime to just a few minutes. But the fact that an install can take as long as 20 minutes still remains the biggest hurdle to tackle. A new set of patches submitted to the Android Open Source Project gerrit indicates that Google wants to change that.


As spotted by Mishaal Rahman, Google is working on speeding up the installation of OTA updates on devices that support virtual A/B partitions with a compression mechanism. The improvements can reduce a full OTA install time by as much as 10 minutes.

On a Pixel 6 Pro, the patches helped reduce the install time of a 2.2GB full OTA from 23 minutes to around 13 minutes. Similarly, a 376MB incremental OTA took 16 minutes vs. 22 minutes originally. The first patch enables batch COW (copy-on-write) operations in a cluster, while the second patch enables the use of two threads for faster snapshot compression. That latter fix alone helps reduce install times by around six minutes.

Google made several improvements to virtual A/B partitions in Android 13 that reduced the snapshot size by 25% to 40% and merge times by as much as 40%. These improvements to the process aim to speed up OTA installations even further.

Despite the benefits of Seamless Updates being around for years, most Android manufacturers have yet to adopt it. There have been signs that Google has taken steps to require OEMs to distribute Seamless Updates to devices launching with Android 13, but nothing’s official just yet.

That said, Pixel owners should soon be able to enjoy faster update installs overall.

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