Software updates on your device

This support article will give you key information about updating the software on your device. From time to time device manufacturers release new software versions to add new features, make improvements and fix bugs.

How to update the software on your device.

You can find out how to update the software on your device by using our device guides.

Do software update downloads use my data?

If you download software updates over the Vodafone network, it will use your plan's included data. When downloading updates, we recommend connecting to WiFi if available.

Will the latest Android software update be made available for my device?

As Android is an open source mobile operating system that’s used by many different manufacturers on devices with varying hardware specifications and software customisations, there are a number of factors that affect when and if an Android update will be made available for your device.

Android update process.

Here are details about the Android update process from announcement to release.

1. The release by Google.

Google's Android Team is responsible for developing updates to Android; these updates contain new features, bug fixes and enhancements at the core to the platform.

Once completed, the Android team make these updates available to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

Think of these releases as a blueprint or reference diagram, although the software exists, it's not in a usable state.

It is designed to help manufacturers build the new features of Android into their devices, not to be run on a device directly.

If this update is a major upgrade (such as Android 6.0 to 7.0) Google will select a handset manufacturer to partner with and work together to develop a demonstration device.

It's important to note that this work has been ongoing for many months prior to Google making the announcement, which gives that particular device a significant head-start on the journey that other devices must catch up.

Other device manufacturers then take this blueprint for the new release and decide whether or not the devices they have in the market have suitable hardware and technical specifications to work with the new Android update.

For those devices that meet the minimum requirements, the update continues to the next stage of the journey – manufacturer development.

2. Manufacturer development.

The manufacturing partners of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) use this reference diagram to begin the hard work of customising the update for their devices.

The chips, displays, processors and antennas all differ between each device and manufacturer, and these components may need additional or new software to be written in order to work with the new Android version.

If you’ve ever installed Windows on a laptop without any drivers, you might be familiar with the kind of experience you can expect - certain things simply won't work until you get the software necessary for your specific computer's configuration.

Each software update released by the Android team has to be hand-coded by Manufacturers to ensure that it will interact in a positive way with the plethora of hardware combinations that exist throughout Android devices.

This complicated process takes a significant amount of work by manufacturers, with multiple revisions and quality-assurance tests taking place at each stage.

After what is often months of work, the update is finally developed into a workable state for the various hardware variants, and to progress to Stage 3 - manufacturer customisation.

3. Manufacturer customisation.

After they have developed the update into a workable platform for their devices, some manufacturers choose to customise the Android experience with their own proprietary overlays or enhancements.

If you’re familiar with HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz – these are examples of Manufacturer Customisation.

These overlays bring added usability and features to the device as well as making some Android features more accessible for a wider variety of users. It can also introduce new features that are not present in stock Android (such as built-in iTunes synchronisation or WiFi tethering prior to the introduction of Android 2.2).

While this process can take time, it is significantly less than is necessary for development back in stage two. Once this process is complete, the update is ready for the last stage of development – carrier customisation.

4. Carrier customisation.

In the final stage of the Android assembly process, manufacturers ask carriers for input on customisation.

This process includes the manufacturer installing a carrier’s configuration profile into the update. As a result, end-users don’t need manually enter internet, MMS, voicemail and other network-specific settings each time they update their device.

Carrier customisation also offers an opportunity to install or remove applications from the update. While some carriers may ask for features or apps to be removed, Vodafone will never request a manufacturer take something out during carrier customisation.

While these changes are made at the request of the carrier, it is the manufacturer who does the work to code them into the update. Vodafone don’t make these changes ourselves and still don’t see the update until the process is complete.

It’s important to note that manufacturers may also pre-install applications onto your device, including applications that we request such as the My Vodafone App.

Once customisation is complete, a manufacturer finally has a “Release Candidate”. They believe the update is ready for release and then make the build available to carriers like Vodafone for quality assurance testing and regulatory certification.

Now, we begin working closely with manufacturers to ensure the update meets Australian regulations and our own expectations of an excellent user experience for our customers – the next stage is testing.

5. The testing process.

Once a manufacturer has made a software update available to Vodafone for testing, we will let you know in our Software Update Weekly Wrap by stating that we have received the update and will schedule testing soon.

There are many parties involved in the release of software updates:

  • Google
  • A manufacturer’s local and global development team
  • Vodafone’s local and global devices teams

With so many stakeholders involved, sometimes the schedules on software updates can shift and change. For this reason, we’ll only let you know about an update once it’s been completed by the manufacturer and sent to Vodafone for testing.

Why do we need to do test software updates?
There are two primary reasons we test software updates for your tablets and smartphones:

  • To ensure the best possible customer experience, and;
  • To ensure that we remain on-side with ACMA regulations for telecommunications devices.

These regulations govern how a telecommunications device should operate under certain circumstances and are enshrined in law. Here at Vodafone we need to ensure that all devices and software updates approve comply with these regulations.

What do you do during “testing”?

Testing software updates to existing devices is a rigorous process. When we say an update is in testing, it’s not as simple as loading the update onto a phone for a week and seeing how it feels. It’s quite a scientific process with reports of outcomes running to nearly 100 pages.

Our testing teams carry out thousands of individual testing procedures and scenarios ranging from the ability to place an emergency call under unique or unlikely circumstances, to loading a song via Bluetooth and the ability to immediately play that song back, to conducting a physical drive-test through a variety of network conditions to monitor the antenna performance.

If a device or update fails any of these tests, we notify the manufacturer of our concerns and return the update to them as rejected.

It is then the responsibility of the manufacturer to deliver an entirely new build of software that addresses the shortcomings. As far as the Android journey is concerned, the build must return back to the Manufacturer Development stage for this bug-fixing to take place.

Bug-fixing is sometimes a lengthy process, and the software update may have to be ripped to pieces to find out where and what has gone wrong. It’s important to note that every software build for every carrier is subtly different.

This means that a bug that’s holding back the Vodafone release may not be present in other builds, and while it can be frustrating to wait while these issues are ironed out we have a responsibility to address them before release.

What bug could be so terrible that it stops the entire release?

Here are two examples of what we call “blocking issues” – circumstances where we have rejected an update. One is for regulatory reasons, the other is for a detrimental customer experience:

  • Device unable to make emergency calls when a SIM-PIN is enabled
  • Settings are not pre-populated after factory reset is performed

How long does testing take?

Although this is one of our most frequently asked questions, it’s next to impossible to give a true estimate on how long “testing” will take.

Sometimes an update is delivered to Vodafone in a perfect state – it passes all tests and is almost immediately made available for download by users.

However sometimes an update isn’t so lucky, requiring multiple cycles of testing and bug-fixing to bring it up to a condition that meets requirements and is suitable for release.

We’ll only know how long it takes for an update to be approved once that update is approved, so as much as we’d love to give you an estimate – our estimates would simply not be reliable.

6. Release to users.

Once an update has successfully passed testing, we notify the manufacturer who then schedules the roll-out of the update.

In most cases you’ll simply receive a notification on your device when the update is ready for download, although we'll also update the Software Update Weekly Wrap once we know details of the manufacturer’s release schedule.

If you’re interested in the technical details of the software update, search for your device’s support page on the Vodafone website and navigate to the Software Version section. 

 

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