Intel Reference Design Program for Android Promises Devices with Firmware Updates Tracking AOSP for 2 Years

If you’ve ever bought a low cost Chinese smartphone or tablet, you must know you can’t really expect firmware updates, especially with a different Android version. For example, if you’ve purchased an Android 4.1 phone or tablet a couple of years ago, more likely than not, it’s still stuck to the same version. Intel intends to change all that by launching the Intel Reference Design Program for Android.

Intel_Reference_Design_for_AndroidYes, Intel has provided reference designs in the past, but this program goes further, especially with regards to Android support, and firmware updates.

This is the way it all works:

  1. Manufacturers can choose a set of pre-qualified components to build their Android device.
  2. Intel will provide a single Android image that works with the drivers to support all components.
  3. Intel will take care of GMS (Google Mobile Service), and CTS (pre-)certification for their customers.
  4. Intel has committed to provide updates within 2 weeks of an AOSP update, for 2-year post-device launch.

So if you buy a new tablet part of Intel Reference Design Program for Android, you won’t have to worry about firmware upgrades, and you should get an image based on the latest AOSP release on your device within 2 weeks of a release.

Usually “reference design” refers to a single hardware design that manufacturers can copy, but in this case, I understand Intel solution will allow for more flexibility in the design, as they’ll support several touchscreen panels, displays, sensors, etc…, and it will be up to the OEM/ODM to select the ones they want in their design.

Details of the program do not seem to be available online, and they’ll probably need to find a way to indicate which Intel tablets are compliant with the program, so that consumers know which devices are actually supported.

Via Liliputing

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8 Replies to “Intel Reference Design Program for Android Promises Devices with Firmware Updates Tracking AOSP for 2 Years”

  1. “Intel has committed to provide updates within 2 weeks of an AOSP update, for 2-year post-*device* launch.”

    This is Intel’s device? So if a tablet launches 3 months after a chip’s released, and you buy it 6m later, you get support for 15m? Seems hardly worth it…

  2. @onebir
    I’m not quite sure. However, I think the Nexus program currently has an 18-month update windows, so it may not be that bad.
    If they’ll also provide updates for minor releases like 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 4.4.3…, it’s pretty interesting.
    Now I have two mobile devices stuck to Android 4.1 and 4.2.1, that have never received a single firmware upgrade.

  3. @onebir
    Not quite true. I’ve bought a tablet for my dad, Asus Phonepad 7 which runs on an older Atom ( the Z types ) and it received and update from 4.2 or 4.3 to 4.4.
    Besides if it has Intel hardware it’s much easier to upgrade and maybe even some DYI could work, especially with the newer Atoms with open source Intel graphics. I imagine there would be some drivers missing or something but there’s Android on x86 images out there and it just might work without too much effort.
    With ARM though you’re in for some nasty surprises and it’s a great feat to even get it to boot. There’s also those proprietary GPU drivers and so on.
    I like ARM more than Intel but they need to get their act together and hopefully with ARM64 they will approach x86 in this respect.

  4. I’m wondering: who provides the firmware upgrade to the Android itself … the device manufactuer or Intel? Because if still the manufacter has to do that, I won’t hold my breath.

    BTW: It’s not only the “low cost Chinese smartphone or tablet” manufacterers that are horrible in (not) providing firmware updates, but also mainstream brands like Samsung and HTC. The German C’t had an excellent article on this two months ago. Only Nexus-devices were uptodate and kept receiving updates.

  5. @Sander
    It’s a single image for multiple hardware, so it’s probably released by Intel, and hopefully they can even managed to have it done over the network…

    I thought branded phones/tablets would be better at firmware upgrades… I was wrong then.

  6. FWIW: The article “Schneckentempo” (meaning: “snail speed”, or “crawl”) on benchmarking manufacterers on their Android behaviour is on Alas it’s behind a paywall.

    First lines of the article:

    Achim Barczok, Alexander Spier


    Android-Smartphones und -Tablets im Update-Check

    Die schlechte Update-Versorgung bleibt bei Android der größte Schwachpunkt. Der c’t-Update-Check 2014 zeigt, welche Hersteller sich beim Aktualisieren ihrer Geräte am meisten Mühe geben – und bei welchen man gar nicht erst mit Updates rechnen sollte.

  7. I had been wondering for a while why Intel wasn’t pushing that very strategy aggressively. THIS is how they win over the enthusiast world…

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