A revised Android TV upgrade policy recently came to light. The revision permits device makers to provide two platform upgrades instead of three.
However, that's not the whole story. Device makers will not be allowed to simply release two consecutive yearly OS upgrades as the only two upgrades.
The revised Android TV upgrade policy requires the second upgrade is at least three versions higher than the version the device launched with.
Android TV platform updates are changing
Previously, device makers were required to release a minimum of three major OS upgrades. Following the change, that has now been changed to two.
Android Headlines has seen documentation regarding the policy change and the two upgrades cannot just be the next two Android versions. This effectively means there's no change between before and after the policy change. At least, not in terms of the last upgrade.
If a new device is released in 2020 running Android 10. The device maker cannot simply provide Android 11 and Android 12 upgrades, as previously reported. The policy still requires a guarantee that one of those upgrades is for Android 13, at least.
How the device maker gets from Android 10 to Android 13 is their choice. The policy change simply requires the last upgrade be at least three versions above the launch version.
Android TV becoming more confusing?
The easiest way for a device maker to this is to simply release three version upgrades. This was the previous rule and sticking with the rule is the easiest solution going forward.
Where it becomes complicated is when a device maker only wants to release two major upgrades during a product's lifespan. Using the previous Android 10 example, the device maker would need to either skip Android 11 or Android 12.
Alternatively, the device maker could just as easily opt to skip Android 11 and Android 13 and only provide Android 12 and Android 14 upgrades. The Android 13 in the example is simply the minimum.
Skipping Android TV OS updates
There's nothing that prevented device makers from skipping Android TV versions in the past. However, with the minimum number having now been lowered, it appears that Google is encouraging device makers to consider skipping releases more often.
While the lesser guarantee of the next major OS upgrade is likely to be frustrating for users, Google is making this change to allow device makers more time to prepare. Specifically, Google wants device makers to focus on more high-quality upgrades in general.
What Google is attempting to avoid is device makers rushing to get an upgrades out the door. Instead, Google would rather the device maker skips the upgrade.
This change could affect Android 10 upgrades for some
It's worth noting the change has already taken effect. What's more, it applies to existing Android TV devices.
In other words, a device maker might intentionally skip Android 10 and wait for Android 11. Arguably, this applies to all devices released on Android 9 Pie as they are still required to provide an Android 12 upgrade at a minimum.
What is more likely for those new Android 9 Pie devices is the device maker spends longer before rolling out the first major platform upgrade. For example, working on a more stable Android 10 release and rolling it out much later than many might expect. Then skipping Android 11.
Again, these scenarios are all based on the suggestion a device maker only wants to release two major OS upgrades. There's other variables in play here as well, including the SoC. An Android 10 Android TV device could only skip Android 11 and 13 and move to Android 14 if the SoC was compatible with Android 14.
The main takeaway here is Google is attempting to make it easier for device makers to upgrade, in a bid to ensure that they do actually provide an upgrade and a high-quality one.
Especially considering that hasn't always been the case with all Android TV device makers in the past.