Thanks to Project Treble, Android Oreo could usher in a new re for custom Android ROMs. The difficulty of reverse engineering will no longer be a hindrance to the operation of the camera, the fingerprint sensor and other components: the smartphones equipped with Android Oreo will allow these components to be used optimally in the context of customized ROMs, which can even be compatible with several devices at a time.
Many owners of smartphones are eager to choose the software they install on their smartphone. Some manufacturer interfaces such as the Samsung Experience or Huawei's EMU offer tense possibilities, but some users would like to take advantage of other features that are not included, or remove the ones they do not use.
So far, the main answer to this problem was to look for a smartphone for which many third party developers had developed a custom ROM, ie an alternative operating system that came with the smartphone.
But this alternative requires a considerable effort on the part of the developers. In fact, the freely accessible Android source code must be used together with components that are not open-source. Camera, Fingerprint Sensor, NFC Many features require advanced reverse engineering to be made functional as part of a custom ROM.
This is the Project Treble issue: no need for reverse engineering to make the components work with a single standard for Android 8.0 Oreo devices. Devices that violate the standard will simply not be able to use Google Play Store services. But how does this system work?
Smartphone manufacturers will need to implement the Project Treble standard for their hardware so that Android can now use them using the common language HIDL (HAL Interface Definition Language). If one had to make an analogy with the world of the automobile, as Mishaal Rahman of XDA-Developers does, it would be the following one:
Imagine if the car manufacturers were putting completely different brakes and steering wheels on each new vehicle model. By moving into a new car, the driver would be lost each time. Thanks to the existing standards, the steering wheels and brakes of almost all car models are similar, which allows us to use them immediately. We learn how to use it as a driving school. These standards for cars correspond to the Treble project, and the driving school is the HIDL.
For modders, Project Treble is the solution
The new rules of the game, imposed by the manufacturer of Google smartphones, are eagerly awaited by the community of modders. The standards will begin by eliminating many problems of material incompatibility. It will also mean that the CRs MODs will be interchangeable and compatible with many smartphones. The organization itself of the XDA developers forum is already reflecting this new trend: instead of the sub-forums dedicated to smartphone models (Google Pixel, Honor 8 Pro, Essential Phone or Sony Xperia XZ1), the development of ROMs is already in place. Common sub-forum for Treble-enabled devices.
Multi-ROMs become a reality. Developers who previously worked on a single device can now collaborate more effectively with developers on other devices. A boon for the quality of ROMs produced by community developers!
It remains a little work
Of course, Treble does not solve the problem of locked bootloaders and the loss of warranty that often accompanies their unlocking. It is not yet tomorrow that we will be able to choose in all simplicity and without any restriction the operating system of our smartphone. But manufacturers such as Sony, OnePlus, LG or HTC have already shown us that the unlocking (at least partial) of the bootloader could be a reality, to the great benefit of the users.
Treble does not arrive by daylight
Devices with Android 8.0 output must support Project Treble and HIDL. But those who get Android 8.0 Oreo as update do not have this obligation. Since Project Treble requires a new partitioning of flash memory, it is likely that many manufacturers will not update it on existing devices. Huawei, however, provided us with a nice counter-example with the Mate 9. The hardware drivers and the new partition are Project Treble compliant. This is one of the first devices to have been successfully tested for the installation of Treble custom ROMs.
Are Android smartphones free now?
Project Treble is not an Android libration in the sense of free software. Of course, the degree of freedom is greater than with other mobile operating systems. But many features remain locked in the new vendor partition, and the control of users and modders is far from absolute.
If you want a completely free smartphone, you will have to wait for the Purism Librem 5, a completely free smartphone with public documentation and material characteristics favoring changes.
It is however clear that for Android, the Project Treble is the most liberating measure of the last years!
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