Google is reportedly mandating virtual A/B support for GMS licensing on devices launching with Android 13. Thanks to this, Android 13 launch devices from manufacturers like Samsung and Oppo could finally feature support for Seamless Updates, after several years of trailing behind the competition.
For the unaware, Google introduced an A/B partition scheme with Android 7.0 Nougat to speed up software updates. The company added support for duplicating certain partitions into an “A” partition and a “B” partition. Your active partition is the partition that you’re currently using, and the inactive partition can be updated in the background and then switched to with a quick reboot.
This implementation makes software updates significantly faster on Android devices. However, some OEMs are yet to adopt this approach. Samsung devices, for instance, don’t feature A/B partitions and take much longer to apply software updates, making the devices unusable for several minutes. Google now aims to change that by making virtual A/B support mandatory for GMS licensing on devices launching with Android 13.
Google previously attempted mandating virtual A/B support on all devices launching with Android 11. However, the company backtracked on the requirement and updated the Android 11 Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) to recommend, but not enforce, support for A/B system updates . Due to this, some Android OEMs are yet to implement virtual A/B support and, by extension, support for Seamless Updates on their devices.
While the Android 13 CDD still doesn’t require OEMs to offer virtual A/B support, a new report from Esper reveals that Google is now mandating it for GMS licensing on Android 13 launch devices. To that end, the company has added new tests to the Vendor Test Suite (VTS) that make virtual A/B support mandatory for Android 13 launch devices.
The report notes that although these tests were merged ahead of the Android 13 launch, they “remain in place even after its launch, in contrast to what happened during Android 11’s development.” This means that all devices launching with Android 13 will have to pass these tests to get GMS certification.
In effect, Google will require OEMs launching devices with Android 13 to offer virtual A/B support if they wish to provide Google Mobile Services. The only exception, as Esper notes, is “Android 13 launch devices shipping with older vendor software, thanks to the carve outs in the VTS test as a result of the Google Requirements Freeze (GRF) program.”
With virtual A/B support becoming a requirement on Android 13 launch devices with GMS, Seamless Updates should finally become available on devices from all OEMs. For more information on virtual A/B and how it speeds up software updates, check out the Esper blog linked below.