Google is Why You Won’t Get Android 7.0 Nougat on Your Old Flagship Phones

Now that Android 7.0 Nougat has been officially made available, smartphone manufacturers are announcing the models that will get the latest version of Android.

Most OEMs have already announced which phones will be getting Android Nougat. HTC has said that HTC 10, HTC One M9 and the A9 will be getting the update. Sony has announced that Xperia Z3+, the Z5 range and the Xperia X and XA series will get the Android N update.

Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy flagships and LG G4 and G5 will be getting the upgrade.

While on other hand, Google has released Nougat for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6 and Nexus 6P. General Mobile 4G has also been upgraded.

Read More: An In-Depth Analysis of Android 7.0 Nougat Features and Issues

Popular Phones Left Out

Some OEMs, known for upgrading older flagships like HTC, Sony and LG, recently said that their 2014 crop of flagships won’t be getting the upgrade. Popular phones such as the HTC One M8, Xperia Z3 and Z2, LG G2 and G3, and the Nexus 5 were not mentioned by their respective OEMs in the final list of phones getting the upgrade.

All of them have either Snapdragon 800/801 and they’re at least 2 years old.

Why were they left out? Is there some limitation is the hardware or is there someone else at fault? Lets find out.

The OEM Dilemma

As an example, developer preview for Android N was available on the Xperia Z3 up until Developer Preview 4. Right before the final upgrade Sony pulled out so why the sudden change?

Google is The Culprit Behind Older Phones Not Getting Upgrades to Android 7.0

If the OS runs fine on the phone there seems to be no technical/performance limitation in the Snapdragon 801 (SD 801) at least. Why was the next developer preview or the full version not released? There are also phones like the General Mobile 4G with a mere Snapdragon 410 processor and an Adreno 306 GPU running Android N just fine.

Ola Olsson from Sony Mobile Communications said:

Yeah, this is sad but we don’t want to play the blame game which means that we can’t say more about the technical limitations.

Even if we really wanted to give you N on the Z3(c), we wouldn’t [have] been able to do it. Not if we wanted to pass the Google’s Compatibility Test Suite (CTS).

Google’s Stubborn Decision

The statement from Sony clearly confirms it that they are facing issues from some other corporation or partner that they can’t directly blame.

The real culprit here is Google. Its reasoning is that it wants to eliminate software encryption. Perhaps that might as well be the case, or it just wanted to refocus all its strengths on newer phones.

Google has come up with a CTS criteria which limits the OEMs to either upgrade and uncertify the device or forget about the update and follow Google’s footsteps.

Google’s End

So what is Google CTS? Google CTS stands for the Compatibility Test Suite. Each smartphone manufacturer that wants to use a version of Android on its phones need to get approval from Google to use it. They need to pass the CTS to be able to officially sell a phone running any version of Android.

Google releases the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) which lists the requirements that a phone must fulfill on the hardware and software side to get to use that particular version of Android. For now a CDD hasn’t been released so we can’t say for sure what these phones with SD 801 lack.

So if there are no problems on the software side (as the developer preview worked fine) and the hardware side (even low end phones can run it Android N) then what is the issue?

Probable Cause

If phones with 32-bit processors like the Nexus 6 (Snapdragon 805) are getting Android N, we can also rule out the possibility of a 32-bit/64-bit conflict.

What did Qualcomm change from 801 going to the 805? The difference lies in the addition of an extra instruction set for performing hardware encryption. Only 805 comes with it, while the older generation of Qualcomm processors lack this.

AES Encryption

Earlier when Android Marshmallow was released it required devices to be able to encrypt the file system while having a “Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) crypto performance above 50MiB/sec.”.

There were however some exceptions which allowed older devices to be able to run Android 6.0 officially, certified via CTS.

Android N added a new file based encryption system allowing for encryption of individual files rather than the whole system. Currently, a CDD isn’t available for Android Nougat but there will be a guaranteed crypto performance limit specified in it when it does come out.

The new addition to the Snapdragon 805 was “full disk encryption and cryptographic functions for Android applications”. Qualcomm implemented special hardware to perform cryptographic functions in the 805 due to the newer ARMv8 architecture which specified its use.

This seems to be the reason why Nexus 5, Sony Xperia Z3, HTC One M8 will not be getting the new OS while Nexus 6 and others are getting it.

These SD 800/801 devices don’t have hardware encryption support but when it comes to software encryption, these devices are more than capable of matching or outperforming the likes of SD 410 even without hardware encryption. The reason being the additional performance benefit that these flagship 800/801 devices carry.

Conclusion

For those that skipped the details and went straight to the conclusion, there is one simple explanation for this issue. There is no performance/software/technical issue with phones which aren’t getting the update.

Google simply opted to favor phones with hardware-based encryption feature leaving the phones that featured only software-based encryption.

In real-time use, most users would never even know the difference since the first encryption happens during system file installation. Xperia Z3 has proven that Android 7.0 runs great on SD 801 and that too without hardware-based encryption.

Google requires high speed file encryption which the Snapdragon 800/801 (and essentially any processor based on ARMv7) don’t have. They will thus not be able to pass the CTS and will not get official update for Android 7.0 Nougat.

So, there’s only one route that you can go (if you have the technical expertise) to get the upgrade, root and get the latest custom ROM available for your device.

A techie, Overwatch and Street Fighter enthusiast, and Editor at ProPakistani.


  • Plain BS. Already running Nougat on my G3 for the past two weeks. It’s nothing that great however, and I’m actually thinking of downgrading back to Marshmallow, or even Lollipop, which I think was the best Android version ever. There are hardly any features in nougat you can’t live without and the only reason I see you’d want to stick to the latest version of android is for the security updates.

    • The article isn’t completely BS, just missing a lot of vital information.

      Just cause some developer cooked up an N based ROM doesn’t mean LG will hire him and push out the update for that phone. The drivers weren’t released, so they weren’t released. Let’s stop moaning about it.

      • That’s the point. Me running Android 7.0 (and no it’s not N based) proves that the driver point is complete BS. And ROM building is not exactly rocket science, so why would LG need to hire anyone? Also, calm your tits, no one’s moaning. Just stating facts.

      • That’s the point. Me running Android 7.0 (and no it’s not N based) proves that the driver point is complete BS. And ROM building is not exactly rocket science, so why would LG need to hire anyone? Also, calm your t|ts, no one’s moaning. Just stating facts.

          • Are you actually that dense or being on purpose? Well, let me spell it out so even you can understand. Hopefully.

            Android N = pre release version. Android 7.0 aka Nougat = final signed version from Google. Really hope that got through.

            • Did you think you were being funny or witty with your sarcasm filled comment?

              You must think you’re really smart for knowing the difference between developer builds and public releases. When I said Android N, I was referring to none other than what you call Android Nougat. Android N, Android 7.0, Android Nougat, they’re all the same thing.
              If you thought by ‘N based’ that I meant the developer had compiled his ROM using the sources from a Developer Preview, well then you must be a really special kind of stupid. Besides, who on earth would be dumb enough to compile a custom ROM for a Non Nexus device to run on an OS that hasn’t been released to the public yet? Just take that in for a second.

              Go back to playing clash of clans. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

              • No, I’m honestly curious. And every follow up from you is only leading me to believe I’ve hit the nail on the head: you really are that thick.

                No I don’t think I’m smart. In fact, there’s a lot I don’t know. But if there’s one thing I’m damn sure of, is that I know a lot more than you. Which isn’t saying a lot, but oh well.

                Case in point:

                “Android Nougat. Android N, Android 7.0, Android Nougat, they’re all the same thing.”

                F. A. C. E. P. A. L. M.

                “compile a custom ROM for a Non Nexus device to run on an OS ”

                Uh… oo-kay. TIL Roms run on an OS. I would’ve asked if you’ve ever heard of this thing called AOSP or nightly builds, but I feel like that would be akin to banging my head on a wall.

                And this, kids, is what happens if you flap your bird all day and night. Literally vegetable.

                For your own sake, just… stop. Don’t embarrass yourself any further. I’m starting to feel bad now, like I’m bullying the neighborhood “special” kid.

                Sorry if that hits a little close to home.

                • You know, I thought you’d reply back with something other than 2nd grade insults, but what did I expect.
                  Go ask Naruto to explain how Android works and then come back and spread your never-ending knowledge here.

    • Just viewed the comment but couldn’t resist to respond.
      The above article is on how official updates and you are on about rooted devices. Even those companies which wanted to update the devices were stopped due to Google’s shitty policies

  • Oh God. Okay. A few things:

    – hardware encryption may be the reason. I don’t know. I’m reading it here for the first time. But the Nexus 5 and other older phones, at best, could do software encryption, and that used to bog it down performance-wise. That’s why they were never encrypted. Google’s stance on the Nexus 5x/6p was that software encryption was possible because of drivers made available by Qualcomm.

    – Nougat requires updated GPU drivers. Google needs OEMs to pass the CTS by updating their GPU drivers, since it also makes use of the Vulkan API. Those OEMs who can update their drivers have announced Android 7. The drivers are made by Qualcomm (since most phones come with Snapdragon chipsets), and Qualcomm refuses to support older chips (e.g. the SD 800/801) as they’re not issuing drivers for those phones.

    Yes, our phones have drivers for them, which are a part of the software update.

    Combine these two things, the amount of phones that could currently support Android 7 (officially) would be restricted. And these are the reasons.

    You could always fire up a custom ROM made by a developer/developers and run that, but the thing with custom ROMs is that they’re not perfect, since things are reverse-engineered. But OEMs won’t follow the same strategy because they’re OEMs.

    In short, you can’t point fingers at Google alone – Qualcomm has an equal hand in this.

    • The graphics drivers issue is in my opinion not actually an issue. Z3 went up to Developer preview 4

      on Nougat so it doesnt make sense that it suddenly does not work with Vulkan API. The release version is not very different from the Developer preview 4 so i dont think its the graphics drivers.

      • They also stopped developing the preview – which meant there must’ve been some dead end they hit. I don’t own it, nor am I a developer – but this would make sense that they didn’t have the drivers. There was a major difference in the last two developers (from what I read).

        I largely skipped the developer previews because of the battery drain issues and other glitches that didn’t make it a daily driver for me.

    • Sony Xperia Z3 was getting developer previews for Android N despite having Snapdragon 801 chipset. As mentioned in the article, Xperia Z3 received updates upto developer preview 4 (second last) which did not have any major differences from developer preview 5 after which the full version of Android N was released.

      Xperia Z3 worked fine uptil developer preview 4, if the drivers were at fault it wouldn’t have worked with the developer preview either.

      • That doesn’t prove a single damn thing man. My Nexus 4 is on a Nougat Rom!

        Sony made the developer preview work with the old drivers. A lot of work would have gone into that, but it would never be 100% without the drivers being updated to support the operating system. Qualcomm decided not to update those drivers. OEMs aren’t going to update devices on old drivers when there’s even the slightest chance it could ruin people’s phones.

        Also, and I can’t stress this enough, that’s the android life span mate. Two updates and you’re out.

      • The Z3 didn’t get DP5 because Google finalized the Vulkan API in DP5 and Qualcomm had to provide drivers for the SD800/801 chipsets, which they didn’t. Hence the Z3 was unable to go ahead with DP5 and get an official release of N.

        Did any of you talking about the Z3 actually use the N builds on it? They sucked ass. They were buggy as f*ck and the battery life was terrible. Wasn’t half as stable as the Developer builds for Nexus devices.

  • I don’t understand why everyone is being so butthurt about this.

    Most devices using Snapdragon 800/801 were released in 2014 (with the exception of the OnePlus X and ZUK Z1), the Galaxy S5, One M8, Xperia Z2/Z3, OnePlus One and others were released 2 years ago.
    Please tell me, when has any non-Nexus device received MAJOR official software updates for more than 2 years?
    S5 went from KK > LP > MM, so did the M8, Z2, Z3 and OPO.
    Why is it such a big surprise this time? HTC, Samsung and OnePlus had announced way before all this Vulkan API bullshit that the One M8, OPO and GS5 would NOT get N.
    Even if you take an older device as an example, the GS4 started from JB > KK > LP. Never got Marshmallow officially. The Note 4 regardless of having an SD805/Exynos5433 will probably not get N since it started with KK, got LP and will stop at Marshmallow.

    Yes we all know the Snapdragon 801 is a very capable chipset, you can’t force a company to release drivers for a 2 year old chipset so you can all keep using your ancient phones. If everyone did this, no one would buy new phones and Qualcomm would lose loads of money on R&D for their new chipsets if you all are still using phones from 2 years ago and no one buys new ones.

    • Sony, HTC, Xiaomi and LG update at least their flagships for over 2 years. Sony and Xiaomi have been very dedicated towards updating older devices and tend to upgrade even 30 month old devices.
      You missed the real issue, that Google forced OEMs to skip this update by only certifying devices with hardware encryption.

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