OnePlus has managed to update its phones faster than the average purveyor of Android smartphones, but fans were disappointed to learn the company would not bring Google’s update-friendly Project Treble to its 2017 flagships, the OnePlus 5 and 5T. However, OnePlus had a change of heart and now says Treble support will arrive after all. The feature is being tested in the latest open beta update, coming soon to all devices.
Google announced Project Treble in advance of launching 8.0 Oreo last year. This is a modular approach to Android software that uses a separate vendor partition for all the drivers and closed source binaries that make a phone’s hardware work. The Android software with which we interact lives in a different partition that “plugs into” the vendor layer.
The upshot of Treble is that OEMs don’t have to get updated code from their hardware partners for each Android update — the vendor partition is forward compatible. That means faster updates longer into the future. All phones that launch with Android 8.0 or later need to have Treble support, but older phones only get Treble in an update if the company wants to deal with the hassle. The OP5 and 5T both launched with Android Nougat.
OnePlus originally said it wouldn’t add Treble support to the OnePlus 5 and 5T because creating the partition for vendor binaries in an update adds a risk of bricking the phone. However, it turns out that the OP5 and 5T actually have a suitable partition already. Prior to Oreo, these phones had an empty partition that OnePlus will repurpose for Treble.
Treble support is live in the latest Open Beta 13 (OP5) and Open Beta 11 (OP5T). Anyone is welcome to install the beta builds to get a look at the latest features. In addition to Treble support, you get more accent colors, an updated weather app, a tweaked system UI, and more.
OnePlus open betas are usually quite stable, and it’s less of a major commitment than beta software on other devices. You don’t need to unlock your phone’s bootloader. Just download the beta, transfer it to your phone, reboot into the recovery UI, and install the update. You’ll get OTA updates to future builds. You can also install the non-beta version at any time to get back on the regular update channel, but that requires a factory reset of the phone. As always, back up your data before you start flashing beta software to your phone. It’s just common sense.