Behind the curtain: A Look at the Timing of Android Lollipop 5.1

Screenshot_2015-07-15-10-13-25

What is a system software update?

“This just showed up on my screen and I have no idea what it is, where it came from, or what it took to get it to me…”

If you’ve been an Android user for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the variety of sweet flavors associated with it; from Jelly Bean to Lollipop.  But what you’re most likely not familiar with is how it goes from Google announcement to the screen above. This blog, in particular, aims to look at how Android Lollipop 5.1 came to be for Republic Wireless.

So, just what is a system software update or “MR?” Good question. A MR, or “maintenance release,” is commonly known as the release of a product or software that is not intended to add new content or features. Sometimes referred to as a “minor release,” these MRs generally include minor enhancements and bug fixes. However, we look at them, in our case, as “major releases.” These MRs include anything from bug fixes, security updates, app updates, regulation compliance, and of course operating system upgrades (e.g. KitKat to Lollipop). We tend to include these with new phone releases because it makes it easier to obtain certification from the carriers (we will get into that more later). We also use them as a way to update our existing base already in production (the Moto X 1st Generation and 2nd Generation, Moto G, and Moto E). Either way you cut it, these MRs don’t just appear overnight.

lollipop_FB

Android L (Lollipop)

Well that’s great, but why don’t I have Lollipop by now?

The whole process seems simple enough, really, so why is our entire phone portfolio not on Lollipop by now?  It’s a fair question, but I think going through the history of Lollipop and where we are today will help explain it.  Quick interesting aside before proceeding: As of June 2015, 39.2% of Android devices were still on KitKat version 4.4, 11.6% are on Lollipop version 5.0.2, and 0.8% are on Lollipop version 5.1.x.

Android L (now known as Lollipop) was unveiled to the world on June 25, 2014 at the Google I/O Conference (many of you witnessed the same type of unveiling for Android M this year). However, just because it was announced did not mean it was available for the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer (e.g. Motorola)) or carriers (Republic Wireless) for some time.

Lollipop 5.0.X

Lollipop, the namesake of Android L, first became available as 5.0.0 on November 3, 2014.  However, it wasn’t until December 19, 2014 that the first device specific (1st Gen Nexus 7) 5.0.2 version was released.  This would be the version of Lollipop first available to Republic Wireless for the Moto E (2nd Gen.) with 4G LTE.

We began development of the Moto E LTE in December using Lollipop version 5.0.2 as the OS.  Most OEMs and carriers enact a code freeze (no new development) at the end of December and through the New Year.  It makes it impossible to get device/software certification during this time.  We at Republic Wireless, however, kept hammering away at the device through the New Year to get this device and software to our members as quickly as possible.

Kill Switch Law

Everything was going swimmingly on the new device/software development until three things happened:  The “Kill Switch” law came about from the results of legislation in California and Minnesota at the end of 2014, as well as a voluntary commitment from the CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industries Association).  The goal of the “Kill Switch” was simple: reduce smartphone theft by preventing unauthorized reactivation of every device.  Any LTE devices manufactured or sold after July 1, 2015 would have to comply with California SB.962 Chapter 275, Minnesota SF 1740, Chapter 241, and the CTIA voluntary commitment (which Motorola signed).

OEMs and carriers would have to abide by this new regulation if they wanted to continue selling LTE devices in these states after July 1, 2015.  This obviously had an impact not only the Moto E LTE that we were currently developing, but also the Moto X (2nd Gen.).  We would need to spin up new builds for both devices if we were going to be compliant.  This new build would come to be known as Lollipop version 5.1.x (5.1.0 being the first).

Lollipop 5.1

Google introduced new security updates in 5.1.x that would be compliant with the new “Kill Switch” legislation mentioned above.  Google officially announced it on March 9, 2015. It wouldn’t be available to Republic Wireless until late March, early April.  Now we were going to have to have a MR for 2 devices at the same time! We had to act fast to be compliant by July 1 if we were going to be able to continue to deliver remarkable value to our members.

In order to ensure these MRs don’t break our devices it requires significant development, QA testing, internal acceptance testing, and eventually certification by Sprint before it can go public.  The lab certification process alone can take over four weeks!  This is a process required by any OEM or carrier before they can deliver a software or device to production and is completely out of the OEM or carriers hands.

Based on the below timeline you’ll see we were never more than a month behind the rest of the world (bearing in mind that the big carriers have agreements in place with Google that grants them first access).  We do, however, strive to ensure the highest quality products and services for our customers.  It takes time to produce this quality, but as you can see we also readily adapt ourselves to the many changes Android may face in a year.  I look forward to getting into our update development process the next time.

Timeline Recap

So if you have been following the dates the time line looks a little something like this:

  • November, 2014: Android Lollipop 5.0 available.
  • December, 2014: Android Lollipop 5.0.2 available.
  • December, 2014 – January, 2015: Android Lollipop 5.0.2 first available to Republic Wireless.
  • August, 2014 – January, 2015: “Kill Switch” legislation in California and Minnesota, along with a voluntary commitment signed by members of the CTIA forces an update to Lollipop 5.1.x
  • March, 2015: Android Lollipop 5.1 available to make devices compliant with legislation (Republic Wireless forced to halt production of 5.0.2 on the Moto E LTE to change to 5.1.0 as well as adding 5.1.0 to the Moto X (2nd Gen.) to be legally compliant).
  • Late April, 2015: Republic Wireless receives Android Lollipop 5.1.0 and starts work to upgrade the Moto E LTE and the Moto X (2nd Gen.).
  • May, 2015-June, 2015: To ensure highest quality for our members, Republic Wireless uses an in-depth process of development and quality assurance testing.  This also includes a 4 week cycle for certification before we can introduce the software/device into production.
  • July, 2015: Android Lollipop 5.1.0 begins rolling out to our Moto X (2nd Gen.) and Moto E LTE customers.
  • The rest of 2015: All remaining Republic phones (Moto X (1st Gen.), Moto G (1st Gen.), and Moto E (1st Gen.)) will be updated to Lollipop 5.1 and are actively being tested <<– Whoops, premature! Testing starts with Moto X (1st Gen) in August and will cascade through our other devices from there.

We worked diligently through these barriers to deliver Lollipop to you, and are excited to have it in production today for our new LTE devices.  We also look forward to bringing it to our entire base as soon as possible! Our devs are working round the clock to ensure we are in compliance and that we provide our members with an excellent smartphone experience (we all use Moto X (1st Gen.) phones too!).

Hopefully this helps answer your questions on how Android Lollipop came to be at Republic Wireless.  Keep checking our website, our Community, and of course our Blog to for more information as it becomes available!

-Mr. MR, Engineered to be different


Sources:

  1. Data collected from the Google Play Store app during a 7 day period ending on June 1, 2015. Android Developers. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  2. “When and where to get Android 5.0 Lollipop”. CNET. Dan Graziano. CBS Interactive. October 15, 2014.
  3. Android 5.0.2 LRX22G Factory Image for Nexus 7 (WiFi) Randomly Shows Up. Droid Life. Cory Gunther. December 19, 2014.
  4. MN Chapter 241, SF1740; CA SB.962, Chapter 275; CTIA Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment.
  5. “Google officially announces Android 5.1”. Ars Technica. Ron Amadeo. March 9, 2015.
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  • Brendan Quinn

    So is there a reason that the Moto E (1st Gen.) is not mentioned in this post?
    ***EDIT*** The post was edited to include Moto E (1st Gen.) after I made this comment.

    • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

      Nope! Just an oversight. Added!

  • Rickey Shortt

    Is there a 5.1 update for the 1st gen Moto G in the works as well?

    • John McAfee

      The Moto G (1st Gen.) is listed in the last bullet point , although it may have been added after your post.

      • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

        Not added after post. It’s there! 🙂

  • Rickey Shortt

    Is there a 5.1 update for the 1st gen Moto G in the works as well?

  • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

    Nope! Just an oversight. Added!

  • Mike | Homeless On Wheels

    And you couldn’t have told us any of this before now? You do realize that while the delay is certainly a point of some irritation, the majority of discontent among the members is the result of your refusal to share this kind of information (or, for that matter, ANY information) until after the fact. I think everyone would much prefer to read news than history.

    • Randy N. Gaston

      Yes, some kids just can’t wait for Christmas.

      • Mike | Homeless On Wheels

        Which could very well be when the last of the remaining devices actually receive the update.

        • Randy N. Gaston

          From above: “We tend to include these (OS upgrades) with new phone releases because it makes it easier to obtain certification from the carriers.”

          Going on this statement, I think we will get the update when the new Moto G comes out. Probably in two or three months if the timeline between phones going on sale and the new models appearing continues. (Moto G went on sale yesterday). But then again I could be horribly wrong.

          • Richard Johnson

            “We tend to include these (OS upgrades) with new phone releases because we want you to buy the new phone and pass your old one to someone else who will sign up for service further enriching our coffers.”

            I fixed it for them.

        • Richard Johnson

          They’ll be into the next flavor of Android before we’re all updated to Lollipop. Add to that their new pricing plan, Republic is on a downward path.

      • ICDogg

        For some of us, we’re waiting on bug fixes that can’t be completed until Lollipop is live. Bugs that keep our phones from working right.

        • Christopher A Anthony

          My wife who really liked RW when we signed up. Is now talking about leaving before the 2.0 grandfather ends if the dialer issue isn’t resolved. Didn’t have the issue until 4.4.4 the longer I wait for lollipop to fix it the more annoying it gets. I wasn’t happy that the original announcement was fairly generic making one think they where pushing the soak test for all the phones that where to get it. To find out a week later it was only for the Moto X 2nd gen. Sounds like a bad PR move and I think that’s why the blog post.

          • ICDogg

            It’s like we’re always a couple of months off from being a couple of months off.

    • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

      Aren’t you the guy on our Google Plus page all the time? Pretty sure there’s been tons of info there whenever anyone asks – here’s a more recent comment from July 13th:

      “Lollipop 5.1 was released by Moto in May after pulling 5.0 for being
      buggy. We’ve been actively testing it. But! Every time we find a bug –
      like one that breaks the home button – we have to fix it and resubmit it
      to several companies’ certification processes. For this reason, we
      cannot ever communicate out firm dates when it comes to something a
      third party company creates. But! We have rolled it out for Moto X (2nd
      Gen) in full and are now looking at rollout window timing for all other
      devices except the DEFY XT. Basically everyone who works here also uses a
      Moto X (1st Gen) so rest assured. It is being worked on. ;) ”

      This blog post basically reiterates that, but in much deeper detail since it’s coming from a project manager. Matt did a bang up job with this post. Thanks Matt!

      • Mike | Homeless On Wheels

        Yes, I certainly appreciate the detail; don’t get me wrong. And it is true that the occasional detail is released from time to time in response to enough asking. But again, as thorough as this write up was (and I agree with your “bang-up job” assesment) it is still HISTORY rather than NEWS. The only indication we’ve been given as to the status of the remaining devices is “The rest of 2015: All remaining Republic phones … will be updated to Lollipop 5.1” — so you’ve given us a five-month window. It could be tomorrow, next week, next month, or maybe not ’til Christmas.

        • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

          Indeed and I can appreciate where you’re coming from. Hopefully you can understand equally where we’re coming from too due to the level of process detailed in this post. It is ever so difficult for us to communicate launch windows around products / features other companies create and hand to us. We say: “Next week!” with every intent of making that happen. But then some crazy FCC thing comes out of nowhere and suddenly we have to pull all of our work and start over, which, this time, is exactly what happened. Or, another company slips for one of a thousand reasons during their own unique certification process after we hand it back to them.

          • Daniel Pentecost

            So why don’t you guys create a “Milestone Tracker” with each of the phones listed, the current stage, and the next milestone? Sure you can’t tell us the dates but you CAN tell us the milestones that still await completion.

            The biggest annoyance, which OP is getting at, is the information vacuum we experience as customers. We get very little actionable information when it comes to your hardware timeline and software updates.

            So create a grid w/ the 5 or so phones listed down the left on the y axis and all the major milestones listed out to the right on the x axis. Then use a color code to denote what’s been done, what’s currently being worked on and what hasn’t been started yet.

          • Darrien Glasser

            HTC does this, and T-Mobile too. It’s really nice.

          • Christopher A Anthony

            I would also like to see this.

          • Lt.Dan .

            this is a great idea

  • Mike | Homeless On Wheels

    And you couldn’t have told us any of this before now? You do realize that while the delay is certainly a point of some irritation, the majority of discontent among the members is the result of your refusal to share this kind of information (or, for that matter, ANY information) until after the fact. I think everyone would much prefer to read news than history.

    • Daniel Pentecost

      So why don’t you guys create a “Milestone Tracker” with each of the phones listed, the current stage, and the next milestone? Sure you can’t tell us the dates but you CAN tell us the milestones that still await completion.

      The biggest annoyance, which OP is getting at, is the information vacuum we experience as customers. We get very little actionable information when it comes to your hardware timeline and software updates.

      So create a grid w/ the 5 or so phones listed down the left on the y axis and all the major milestones listed out to the right on the x axis. Then use a color code to denote what’s been done, what’s currently being worked on and what hasn’t been started yet.

      • mx3

        HTC does this, and T-Mobile too. It’s really nice.

      • getraf

        Great idea!

  • Rumple70

    Wow, this tells me…well…exactly what I knew before. The only thing new was the image designed to mislead. http://pwk.republicwireless.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/lollipop_FB.jpg

  • wrkerr

    Thanks for the informative post, Republic. I’m sure looking forward to getting 5.1 on my 2013 Moto X as soon as it’s ready.

    I also hope the turn around time from when Motorola announces a new phone until it is available for purchase from Republic can be shortened. I’d love to see Republic selling the upcoming 2015 Moto G sometime this year.

    • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

      Thanks for reading and for the feedback!

  • Jeb Hoge

    This was as good of an explanation of the OS update & rollout process as any I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been using Android devices since Verizon’s LG Ally was new running 2.1. I am continually impressed at how well Republic Wireless communicates with customers. You’ve got a great team!

    As far as updates go, I’ve got a 1st generation Moto X Dev Edition (not on RW, but carrier unlocked) and I only just got 5.1 a few weeks ago. That’s with only Motorola in the release chain. This isn’t easy stuff.

    • http://www.republicwireless.com ajmaphone

      Ohhhhh you rock. Thanks so much for the great comment. 🙂

  • Nate

    Any idea how long the wait will be for Moto X (1st Gen)? Are we talking days, weeks, months, etc? Thanks!

  • http://wpblog.ohpinion.com S.W. Anderson

    When I signed on with Republic at the beginning of April 2014, I got a top-quality smartphone (Moto G 1st gen.) at a fair price. I also got flexible, reliable and remarkably affordable phone service, along with great customer service in the rare instances when I needed that. I look on the impending update to Android 5.1 as icing on the cake.

    Having been involved in personal computing since 1982, I, along with millions of others, have suffered through many generations of anemic, sometimes flawed hardware running buggy software — both highly fault intolerant of each other and of any false move on my part. I also know the pain and suffering that a flawed update can bring to a user whose system had been running well. Trust me when I say it’s better for Republic’s tech wizards to get it right than it is for them to rush something out to users that’s not ready for prime time.

    Reliability is especially important in a mini computer dedicated to phone communication. Imagine being out in a bad place, in inclement weather, maybe late at night, with a car that quit, or was just in an accident. At such a moment the latest bells and whistles don’t matter one bit. Getting a call for help through without a hitch does matter, big time.

    Take your time and get it right the first time, RW. In the meantime, I have a phone that does plenty and does it all very well. I can live comfortably with that until Lollipop comes along.

  • http://wpblog.ohpinion.com S.W. Anderson

    When I signed on with Republic at the beginning of April 2014, I got a top-quality smartphone (Moto G 1st gen.) at a fair price. I also got flexible, reliable and remarkably affordable phone service, along with great customer service in the rare instances when I needed that. I look on the impending update to Android 5.1 as icing on the cake.

    Having been involved in personal computing since 1982, I, along with millions of others, have suffered through many generations of anemic, sometimes flawed hardware running buggy software — both highly fault intolerant of each other and of any false move on my part. I also know the pain and suffering that a flawed update can bring to a user whose system had been running well. Trust me when I say it’s better for Republic’s tech wizards to get it right than it is for them to rush something out to users that’s not ready for prime time.

    Reliability is especially important in a mini computer dedicated to phone communication. Imagine being out in a bad place, in inclement weather, maybe late at night, with a car that quit, or was just in an accident. At such a moment the latest bells and whistles don’t matter one bit. Getting a call for help through without a hitch does matter, big time.

    Take your time and get it right the first time, RW. In the meantime, I have a phone that does plenty and does it all very well. I can live comfortably with that until Lollipop comes along.

  • Jack Waggoner

    The problem is that since 4.4.2 some of us have had a dialer issue which makes our phones extremely unreliable and for 7 months we are told to wait for the Lollipop update so our phones can work reliably like they did when we purchased them, but our place on your list of priorities keeps getting pushed back. This isn’t what we signed up for.

  • David Deolloz

    What about a Moto G 2nd gen purchased from Motorola but activated on RW? Does 5.1 update come from Motorola or RW ? thx

  • Mxx

    How much of RW’s “secret sauce” is duplicated in Google’s Project Fi? It sounds like they also do CellWifi handover with Sprint and Tmo. Could RW take advantage of that to minimize in-house development time?

    • Dejan Jancevski

      You do realize that Republic Wireless has been doing the whole WiFi Cellular for the past several years, right?

      • Mxx

        You do realize that RW’s implementation is very phone and is specific. That’s why their apps are not available for every phone but only the one RW has. Every time a new OS is released RW has to start from the beginning. If they were to utilize the same system as Fi they could cut down their development effort.

  • Doug McGraw
  • Ben Milford

    It seems the Moto X 1st gen still hasn’t gotten an update.

  • James Randolph

    This is why I love RW (aside from my ridiculously low bill). Good luck even getting yes and no answers let alone a full blown explanation from other carriers. The transparency is a wonderful thing. Thank you Republic Wireless! I plan to move my wife over to your service as well.

  • JAGUAR6CY

    I haven’t read all the comments here but something about this thread bothers me. Everyone knows that RW updates are late, delayed by months even. Yet Fi has no such backlogs or delays. The added work load this dumps on yourself and the RW engineering staff has to be very labor intensive, time consuming and wasteful. All assets which would be much better employed improving the product and the service. Isn’t it well past time to develop an RW App rather than constantly trying to cut, paste, patch. force and manipulate on OS into accepting unique RW integrated software?