Google is reportedly turning to smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers to help it ease the fragmentation that has plagued its Android operating system for years.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Google’s efforts are currently centered on convincing carriers and device makers to speed up the roll out of security updates. Once that process is in place, Google can push to have operating system updates deployed quicker as well, the report said.
Currently, only 7.5 percent of Android users are on the latest version of its operating system – known as Marshmallow – compared to 84 percent of Apple users running the latest version of iOS.
The report indicated carriers are the toughest nut to crack due to the extensive testing required to ensure the updates don’t disrupt their networks. However, Bloomberg said Google has already persuaded Verizon to trim several weeks off its months-long testing process. Sprint has similarly reduced its update approval process from 12 weeks to “a few weeks,” a Sprint representative told Bloomberg.
Google has also put pressure on Android handset makers – including LG, Samsung and HTC – to release monthly security patches. While LG and Samsung agreed the the timeline, they’ve faced difficulty in keeping up the pace for all their devices, the report said.
Smaller companies like HTC and Motorola have hitherto been unable to meet the monthly goal, with HTC executives deeming the schedule “unrealistic” and Motorola settling for a quarterly patch goal.
The report comes on the heels of news that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this month reached out to U.S. wireless carriers and device manufacturers about their procedures for reviewing and releasing security updates.
In its queries, the FCC sought specific information on the carrier response to the Android “Stagefright” security threat, which it said may affect nearly one billion devices globally.
Like Google, the FCC has recognized the slowness of security update rollouts and expressed concern that “consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered.”
“To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise,” the FCC said in its May 9 press release. “There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices—and older devices may never be patched.”
Carrier and manufacturer responses – including those from Google, Apple, Samsung, Verizon and Sprint – to the FCC and FTC are due by the end of June.