back to article For all the excitement, Pie may be Android's most minimal makeover yet – thankfully

So little has changed in the latest annual update to Android, 9.0 Pie, you may be forgiven for thinking "8.2" is a far more appropriate release number. Even if Google wanted to do that, however, it's doubtful the OEMs would let it. The industry has to pretend there are huge leaps forward every year, even when there aren't. If …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't remember how long its been since tech offered any really 'Compelling Features'

    How do tech journos motivate themselves to test out this cesspit of slurp? It makes me want to slit wrists... From Silly 'con' Valley to South Korea, tech executives are deaf! Android-slurp, Win10-slurp, SmartTV-slurp, IoT-slurp, Car-slurp etc.... CES should really be renamed 'Surveillance-World'....

    "It's equally obsessive about location data. Google's approach is to collect first then beg for forgiveness later, offering you deletion if you are prepared to spend an hour or two on its data dashboard. So long as these data collection tools are all turned on by default, and turning them off is tedious or impossible, then that core Google business looks pretty safe to me."

  2. Ol'Peculier

    "the Pie upgrade can be performed in half an hour" - Certainly not in my experience, it took the best part of two hours. (Pixel XL Mk1)

    Rather worryingly after using Google Pay last night, it got alarmingly hot and just vibrated when I pressed the power button. Eventually, I managed to get the screen to display and turn it off for a bit to let it cool down. Hopefully just a coincidence?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

    That is utter nonsense. Google update Android system applications via Google Play store, Apple need you to flash your OS to update the mail client (for example).

    Bugs found in Google bundled applications can be deployed in days, bugs in Apple's bundled applications can take months to fix.

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge

      Re: can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

      "Android system applications"

      Actual applications that are part of open-source Android, or all the proprietary stuff that Google have tied to it to make it almost impossible for the average Joe to use Android without having their data harvested?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

        Actual applications that are part of open-source Android, or all the proprietary stuff that Google have tied to it to make it almost impossible for the average Joe to use Android without having their data harvested?

        Both.

        E.g. Webview (open - https://android.googlesource.com/platform/frameworks/base/+/android-9.0.0_r3/core/java/android/webkit/)

        play/gms (propretary)

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

          Nice to see I have some groupies!

          I'm mildly curious why I got 2 downvotes for answering a question.. Still, if it makes you happy, fire away!

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

            twats!

            1. sabroni Silver badge

              first rule of down votes

              Don't mention down votes!

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: first rule of down votes

                "Don't mention down votes!"

                :-)

                I knew it was inevitable, but my curiosity took the better of me, and I thought the commantards were better than the youtube comment trolls!

                All I did was answer a question. There was no opinion stated. If someone thought my answer was wrong, why not say so?

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: can't compete with a much more up-to-date platform, iOS

      It bugs me when people downvote without saying why.

      I'm not too sure about Ios, but you're right about android - some google apps are installed as user apps and are updated through the play store in the normal way - others, which may be preinstalled as system apps, can also update through the play store - the new version will be stored in "user" rather than "system" space, but will automatically be treated the same as the version it's updating. (the "system" copy will still exist, but will be ignored, until you delete the "user" update)

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Swipe up on home butt

    Does this require toilet paper or does the bare hand suffice ?

    1. Sir Gaz of Laz

      Re: Swipe up on home butt

      Yes, but you'll probably want a screen protector :-)

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Swipe up on home butt

      Careful otherwise you may interfere with the device's Pro State.

  5. James 51 Silver badge

    Swipe interface can actually be pretty good. It took a little getting use to on my playbook and Q10 but it was soon second nature and quicker than android to navigate around.

  6. Charles 9 Silver badge

    And is there any reason the Android system STILL doesn't have a local backup facility, to include application data, in case of problems? It would remove one reason I wish for a root but can't due to root-aware apps I use (that and Knox).

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      You have been able to backup most things via adb since android 4.0.

      Backup and restore commands Description

      backup [-f file] [-apk | -noapk] [-obb | -noobb] [-shared | -noshared] [-all] [-system | [-nosystem] package_names Write an archive of the device's data to file. If you do not specify a file name, the default file is backup.adb. The package list is optional when you specify the -all and -shared options. The following describes the usages for the other options:

      -apk | -noapk: Back up or do not back up .apk files. The default value is -noapk.

      -obb | -noobb: Back up or do not back up .obb files. The default value is -noobb.

      -shared | -noshared: Back up or do not back up shared storage. The default value is -noshared.

      -all: Back up all installed apps.

      -system | -nosystem: Include or do not include system apps when backing up all installed apps (-all). The default value is -system.

      restore file Restore the device contents from file.

      More:

      command line: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/40202829/adb-backup-unknown-backup-flag

      https://9to5google.com/2017/11/04/how-to-backup-restore-android-device-data-android-basics/

      gui front end: https://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=36499906#post36499906

      Improvements to ADB in android 8: https://www.xda-developers.com/android-oreo-adb-backup-better/

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        I've been told the ADB backup system is not that reliable, not compatible with many devices, and hard to determine if the backup actually worked. Holo Backup has been abandoned on those grounds (couldn't trust the underlying system, no alternatives).

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          "I've been told the ADB backup system is not that reliable, not compatible with many devices, "

          Fair enough - it's not something I've used much.

          Incidentally, I don't know why you got the downvotes - especially as no-one posted their reasons...

          cheers

      2. fuzzie

        I have tried and failed. Some apps, I'd used Kik as experiment, have local user data that doesn't get backed up by the usual culprits. I used adb to make as complete a backup and the various flags enticed me to. On restore all I got back was the installed up, it's account was no longer and neither was its user data. Perhaps adb works differently on a rooted phone, but it did buggerall for me.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          "I've been told the ADB backup system is not that reliable"

          I have recent experience of trying to take/make full backups in order to clone company phones ( 24 of them). I can confirm that after several hours of trying many variations of ADB parameters and switches that none of them successfully managed to make a complete backup. It definitely creates backup files but it never seems to fully restore everything on the new device.

          It might depend on specific needs but I certainly couldn't get ADB to make me a backup of what I wanted on an un-rooted phone. We ended up just doing everything manually, a la Production Chain...

          Personally I would not trust it without having 100% managed a full backup / restore on different devices ( same model of telephone).. It might work on the exact same device on which the backup was made , but I don't know as that wasn't useful for our needs.

      3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        "You have been able to backup most things via adb since android 4.0."

        <command line instructions redacted>

        That doesn't seem like a backup solution for the average joe, who wants to know how to back up their phone, and not how to run a load of command line nonsense that most of us thought we'd lost 30 years ago with DOS. Seriously, there's a time and a place for command line stuff, and if this is how you're meant to back up an android phone locally, forget it!

      4. Gio Ciampa

        You have been able to backup most things via adb since android 4.0.

        "Most" being the operative word - given that there is a flag that apps can set which will block the ADB backup process from happening (for that app)

        That said - there are apps out there that will (without root being needed) perform ADB backups on a per-app basis (rather than a monolithic single file) - Helium by Clockworkmod being the first one that comes to mind (it was the one that informed me about the no-backup flag too, as it happens)

    2. JeevesMkII

      This. This is the biggest, worst oversight in Android.

      This past weekend I spent a very long time grappling with a family android device that had what I presume is a software fault causing the wifi not to work very well.

      I wanted to backup everything, do a factory reset, check it worked in its vanilla condition then restore everything. What a fucking nightmare.

      In addition to having no native way to do a full backup to an SD card or to a local computer, none of the apps that purport to do this actual work worth a damn and most of them are usability nightmares. It's absolutely inexcusable that the only native backup facility android has is to backup user data to google's cloud services. Backup to SD full app data (APK plus created files) should be a no-brainer, but it'd be really nice if Google at least had some sort of Chrome extension that stored backups on a local computer via USB.

  7. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    can you get updates only yet?

    I'm still on my first Android phone which is a galaxy note 3 running Android 4.4 (I refuse to let it upgrade to 5), before that I was on webos. I have a note 4(android 5) as well(and another note 3 on android 5) which I'm typing this on (wifi only).

    My Q is can you opt for JUST security updates in modern android. No feature upgrades. I see the July 2018 security bulletin still supports android 6, do the patches are there for older OSs. I haven't noticed a single headline feature addition to android since 5 came out (including 5) that looked interesting to me only annoying UI changes. The most frustrating of which other than the material design is the removal of the mute option from the pop up menu from pressing the power button which happened in android 5. I use this feature constantly, would be even better if there was a physical switch to mute like I had on webos, or the ability to mute the ring tone instantly by a quick tap of the power button.

    I'm assuming not, but curious anyway.

    1. Argh

      Re: can you get updates only yet?

      There are Android phones with physical mute switches -- e.g. the OnePlus range (from 2-6).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: can you get updates only yet?

      Historically they release stock updates for the last two-ish versions (or about two years). I expect Marshmallow is soon for the chop.

    3. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: can you get updates only yet?

      "...or the ability to mute the ring tone instantly by a quick tap of the power button..."

      I can do that on my S7.

  8. Simon Ward

    "Powered by AI"

    That in itself would be enough to make me turn in the opposite direction and walk away very quickly.

  9. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Only option to stay sane...

    Seems to be to ignore the data slurp - give in to it...

    Trying to lock everything down just makes you go crazy, paranoid and stressed at the same time, and the only way to stop it seems to be to become Amish.

    I'm not comfortable with my phone screen scraping everything I look at - as boring as it is. But what can you do to stop it?

    The only viable option would be to go to another system, but the only viable one would be an iPhone, but there are other reasons why I don't want to go there either.

    Most recently being my iPhone using sister with a video to send to me, resorting to sending via an online service because the iPhone doesn't support point to point file transfers over bluetooth. I mean, how hard is it?

    Google are just after your data, Apple want to lock you down too much. I really, really want a third option.

    Ubuntu touch and sailfish seem like good ways to go, but neither support my phone right now, and are not quite viable for day to day use yet, but I really want them to be!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only option to stay sane...

      Ubuntu touch and sailfish seem like good ways to go, but neither support my phone right now, and are not quite viable for day to day use yet, but I really want them to be!

      With Apple, users pay for the OS and then also for the apps. With Android people don't pay for the OS, for the handset maker's customisation and installation and generally don't pay for apps, so slurping and advertising are used to make it viable. FOSS has been tried and clearly doesn't work for the mass market. Which means that the question is, what of the two successful business models, or what variant of them would you be choosing? Assuming that Google's poison is too much to stomach, you're looking for a paid, but non-integrated model.

      In that case, you're talking about paying (say) £50 up front for the OS, a further £30 to persuade the handset maker to install it and offer a couple of years support, and having apps that are mostly purchased. And you've still got to convince handset makers, developers, and buyers that your business model stacks up, that it will achieve some credible market share, and you're going to be around for the long term, when companies worth billions have curled up and died in this very market. Say you've got ten apps at £5 a piece, that's £130 on software over the price of a Googleslurpphone. In all honesty, what proportion of people would you expect to incur that ADDITIONAL cost for a handset that most will keep for two-three years?

      1. Thoguht Silver badge

        Re: Only option to stay sane...

        With Android people don't pay for the OS, for the handset maker's customisation and installation and generally don't pay for apps

        There's no such thing as a free anything. Handset manufacturers using Android pay licensing fees to Microsoft so you paid up front for this and for future customisation and installation when you bought or leased the handset, and of course you pay for "free" apps through advertising revenue or other means (like providing personal data).

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Only option to stay sane...

      Yes, this is the threshold that I've hit, and is why I'm abandoning Android entirely.

      "I'm not comfortable with my phone screen scraping everything I look at - as boring as it is. But what can you do to stop it?"

      Well, what I do is root and remove the Google components (or, easier, install a ROM that has already done this), and install a real firewall which blocks all incoming and outgoing communications by default. But that's getting to be a harder solution to tolerate, which is why I'm giving up on Android.

      What I will never do is to accept the spying.

  10. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    Clipboard

    'Slices, is a kind of IPC which allows one app to inject content into another'

    Ummm can't you already do that with, share button, clipboard then paste into other application ?

    Clippy can bite my shiny metal arse though.

    1. JeevesMkII

      Re: Clipboard

      Hey, Symbian had that feature in its UI framework albeit for slightly smaller screens whereby you could embed views from random other apps in to your own app's workflow. I'm pretty sure it's one of the things directly inherited from Psion too.

      So they're only about 20 years behind on this one.

      1. stephanh Silver badge

        Re: Clipboard

        I recall doing something similar with OLE on Windows 3.1, embedding a widget from another app in your program.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    so an OTA update that gives the user "a whole new phone" may make them less likely to buy a new one

    Not so sure about that. Firstly, I don't think the majority of phone users really care about OS updates. On IOS they don't really have a choice and Android they rarely see them or do anything about them — based at least from what I've seen. But, there is a potential for brands that do promise to provide regular security updates, which is a signal that at least some of the market might respond positively to: "Brand X promises to provide security updates…" This might affect the decision of the next phone to buy but is not a reason for buying a new phone. As soon as getting a new phone is decoupled from contract renewal, as it is for an increasing number of people: which phone to get becomes whether to get a new phone at all. When it is time to get a new phone other factors such will feature, for example, even bigger screen or services bundled (Netflix of Sky for a year, etc.)

  12. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    It's a Wonderful Life

    Within a few hours I found that Bluetooth was erratic, and the Samsung Gear app, for example, crashes on startup. But that's to be expected with a new platform release...

    The great thing about writing software is that customers actually expect trouble and will even blame themselves when it goes wrong. Maybe some day we'll have to produce the quality expected of the automobile industry, but let's make hay while there's sun.

    Within a few hours I found the steering was erratic, and the engine, for example, crashes on startup. But that's to be expected with a new platform release...

    1. Only me!
      Facepalm

      Re: It's a Wonderful Life

      Bluetooth...ok very bad at the start, but has been around now for years.....so.....

      Why do some devices manage to work quickly and flawlessly with loads of devices, yet others fail? Simple poor design, hardware short cuts or software being crap! Simple as.

      By now it should work, quickly, flawlessly and well....across all devices...if your company ties to over do it with its own complications then stuff you.......a LOT of companies are making things harder to work together now than in the 1980's......is it just because they can? But our headphones they work "better" with out device? for example......all of a sudden it works!

    2. paulll Bronze badge

      Re: It's a Wonderful Life

      That's still the level of quality expected of and delivered by the American automobile industry ...

  13. IGnatius T Foobar !

    GOMF

    I, for one, do NOT welcome more and more of Google's intrusive AI into my world. On my Android mobe I've had to switch the launcher to Evie, the browser to Firefox, the search engine to DuckDuckGo, and disable most of the Google apps (or disable notifications if not allowed to do that) just to get the "ok google" AI to stop disrupting my life every five minutes.

    Even without this latest upgrade, Google has gotten to be worse than Clippy. Thanks for making the connection in this article -- it really is an apt one. "I see you still have your smartphone. Would you like to feed Google more of your life?"

    1. Tom 64
      Facepalm

      Re: GOMF

      Buy an iPhone?

  14. JohnFen Silver badge

    Fragmentation

    Personally, as a user, I don't think fragmentation is a real problem at all, and how often my phone gets updated is of no importance to me. What do I care if my phone lacks the latest nonsense that Google wants to toss in there?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: How often my phone gets updated is of no importance to me

      What do I care if a website can hijack my device because I haven't updated the webview component?

      This is exactly what MS are doing with Windows 10, if you want security updates you have to also accept them "updating" applications you're using however they see fit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How often my phone gets updated is of no importance to me

        "What do I care if a website can hijack my device because I haven't updated the webview component?"

        They can pwn your device, steal whatever information's in it, and even if you use it a burner, they can use it as part of a botnet or other for more nefarious purposes, draining your battery all the while.

  15. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Who's at fault?

    Is Google complaining that everybody uses old versions of Android? It should definitely talk to the mobile companies who sell the phones. I am not able to upgrade to Oreo even with a quite recent phone. Maybe I should not complain as I at lest receive security updates.

    1. arctic_haze Silver badge

      Re: Who's at fault?

      Wonder of wonders. One minute after I posted the above complain, I checked on my phone if there is an upgrade. 99% of time there is nothing. This time an upgrade to Oreo awaited.

      Thank you The Reg. You acted really quick!

      1. ItsMeDammit

        Re: Who's at fault?

        Here's an idea that will probably get me nailed to a tree, but here goes anyway.

        If you're a phone manufacturer and you decide to stop issuing updates (I'll be generous and limit that to security updates), then the last one you push should unlock the boot-loader (or make it available to download and apply to the phone via a cable connection if you're worried about the non-techie general public messing up their phones or complaining about some USP that you came up with no longer works).

        I would quite happily live without all the bloat that some manufacturers insist on installing in favour of being able to easily apply stock Android or a custom ROM. Lets be honest, if your phone is older than 18 months then it's probably not going to be replaced "free" under contract or there's another reason why you haven't rushed out and bought the latest model, perhaps due to being burnt by built in obsolescence or not being prepared to spend a grand on a phone. Likewise you're probably not worried about that must have vendor specific hardware not working any more considering that many "features" that the manufacturers push are either duplicated by existing apps elsewhere or being handled perfectly well by the developer community.

        Surely one way to beat the Android fragmentation issue is to encourage the manufacturers to allow their phones to become a vanilla Android phone if required once they determine it as having reached EOL. The consumer still enjoys the hardware they paid for without the guff that the manufacturer massaged into the cost at the point of sale and forced upon them for the life of the product. If the user wasn't going to buy a new phone anyway, what has the manufacturer lost by doing the right thing ?

        Oh look, I managed to get all through that without banging on about Google moving the damn clo... oh.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Who's at fault?

          But the software may complain. More and more apps won't work without a "pristine" environment (sort of like the "Warranty VOID if removed" sticker), and that usually also includes the bootloader.

  16. Anonymous Cowtard

    Oreo update on a £100 phone.

    Wileyfox Swift 2, 2 years old.

    Ok, I lost my ringtones and default SMS returned to bloody Truecaller.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Oreo update on a £100 phone.

      In the best Apple and Microsith tradition, they feel they know what you want better than you do!

  17. MarkElmes

    Gestures

    All that complaining about the size of the pill button yet you can swipe up from anywhere in the navy bar to go to your recents

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