Most people familiar with the Nexus program know that each new Android update usually brings with it a new set of driver "blobs" for each supported phone and tablet in the product line. Even though these proprietary binaries are usually the latest versions when they come out, Google still occasionally receives updates to the drivers even when it's not a good time to issue an OTA. As we've just witnessed from the long lead time on the 4.4.3 release, it can take quite a while before an update is rolled out. However, it looks like Google is moving to combat this issue by adding a public channel for "Preview" versions of those binaries.


Source: Android Developer's site

In a recent modification to the Android Developer site, a brief description was added for the new Preview packages along with a link to the download page. There aren't many details, but the wording implies that updated binaries will be released in between official firmware updates and with higher frequency.

This may also be intended as a solution to a few previous incidents where changes to the master branch of AOSP resulted in incompatibilities between a driver and the latest source code. The updated code is usually based on these newer drivers, so it should serve to mitigate these inconsistencies.

Whatever inspired the plan to release these Preview drivers, it's certainly a good thing for anybody building custom kernels or compiling the absolute latest AOSP source code to run on a Nexus. Newer drivers more often - what else is there to say?

Thanks, Peter Kiddier.

Source: Android Developer Portal, Preview Binaries Download Page

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • Peter
    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      I had already fixed it. I realized I forgotten to link that as soon as I hit the button to push the article. Thanks though.

    • KelsQualeymit

      like Jacqueline implied I'm
      taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month on the computer . see
      post F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • https://google.com/+LateefAlabiOki Lateef Alabi-Oki

    Binary blobs, the bane of open source development.

    • Mike Reid


      OTOH, A necessary evil it seems. Google allows this to get manufacturers on board. At a minimum, they wouldn't release source for optimizations that Google and we users want. We all want "lag free". We all want high performance audio and BT and WiFi, etc, etc...

  • Pootis Man

    Funny. I still haven't received the ota update on my Nexus 5 yet.

    • mrribbits

      Just sideload it already. It literally takes 10 seconds.

      • Pootis Man

        No it doesn't take 10 seconds. I also have a very slow internet connection. You have to download the Android sdk right? Well the stupid isp I have only gives me 0.9mbs on the download and 0.3 upload. You tell me how long would it take to download all the things necessary to sideload with that type of internet connection?

        • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

          All you need is the platform-tools folder...

        • Christopher Mason

          If you're on Linux just install android-tools-adb if you're on windows just download adb.exe. Is it really that hard to just search for something?

          • h_f_m

            For most people, yes..

        • Rod

          Nope, you only need this: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1S0LCuXCnnmSWh6NGJmSE1BUWc/edit?usp=sharing

          And of course, the OTA zip file.

        • David Li

          You don't even need adb (which is but a few MB anyways). Copy to sd and rename to update.zip and flash it from recovery.

        • Serge Cebrian

          Leave everything downloading at night and use when completed 😀.. You will probably still be faster than the actual OTA ... (It takes less than an hour to download at 6mbps)
          Unless your connection is charged for MB like in mobile internet ... Then restrain as the update is quite lenghty. (Sdk+ update )

          You only need to download latest ADB/fastboot files to adb sideload... (The platform-tools folder from the sdk ) (dont get an old adb as they tend to seem like succeded but have undesired efects)

        • https://www.twitter.com/Darkaeluz Darkaeluz

          my internet conection goes to maximum of 50kbps and I alrady updated my nexus 5, so what's the problem?

      • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

        Call me overly cautious, but I always prefer to wait for the OTA in case there is a last-minute bug they didn't catch

        • saf1927

          They won't fix any bugs without releasing another version of Android. So it would probably become 4.4.4 in that case.

          That aside, they would probably update the factory images first anyway.

          • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

            True! Then just call it an exercise in patience ;)

          • Mkvarner

            There is a reason for that everbody doesn't get the OTA at the same time. It is so they can stop it before the masses get it and fix any critical bugs.

  • Daveon Jackson

    I'm not sure I understand this correctly can these binaries be used by someone like me at all (flashed via recovery/fastboot) or are these for someone cooking a ROM?

    • Starcube

      They're device drivers that allow Android to interact with the phone's hardware.

    • Peter

      For someone cooking a ROM using the 'master' AOSP code branch.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      These drivers are generally used when compiling a kernel. The kernel can be built in combination with a full system ROM or by itself. This package also includes some of the system-level configurations (e.g. setting device-specific details).

      In other words, if you aren't building your own kernel/ROM, then you won't be using this directly. Just know that this will explain why custom kernels and ROMs may get a few more updates.

      • Will Tisdale

        'These drivers are generally used when compiling a kernel.' - No they are not.
        They aren't 'drivers' - that word has been misused to describe the binaries for many years.
        They are proprietary libraries and firmware which allow Android to interface with various proprietary parts of the device, such as the WiFi chip, the GPU, DSPs etc. For example, the WiFi blobs are firmware, which is loaded into and executed on the WiFi chip when you enable WiFi. The other DSP blobs (audio processor, camera etc) are similar.
        The GPU blobs are libraries which sit in /vendor, and interface with the kernel mode driver and the Android graphics shims to provide full access to the GPU.

        So yeah, not drivers, and nothing to do with compiling a kernel.

        • Björn Lundén

          Will Tisdale is correct. This is kind of similar to how Qualcomm posts updated adreno blobs on QDev.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          The term 'driver' is not incorrect usage, it's just less specific. In cases like this, precise terms are more confusing and likely to be misunderstood by a wider audience. For the average reader, this makes the news parseable without forcing them to learn terminology they don't need to know. For the much smaller group that already knows and understands how it all works, these are generalizations that should be very easily overlooked.

          • Will Tisdale

            I see you've edited your incorrect information about using them whilst compiling kernels.
            In my opinion, less misinformation put out by 'bloggers' who don't understand what they are talking about, the better.
            Using incorrect terms and confusing people is not good - using the term 'proprietary binaries' is fine, because they aren't 'drivers' in the slightest.

        • Sergii Pylypenko

          The kernel and those binary blobs must be in sync to work properly - try using Nexus 7 video drivers from 4.2 on 4.4 Android build, and it will not boot.

          • Will Tisdale

            Indeed, especially with PVR GPU kernel / userspace components where the version number on each must match otherwise it will tell you to go away.
            But it still doesn't make them drivers. :)

  • Ian Monroe

    I need clarification
    I can fastboot flash the new build and drivers on to my N7 2013 before the OTA
    Will this delete my apps/data?
    Because I'd rather wait a few days for the OTA than have to backup and restore everything today.

    • yochanan

      Sure...let me know how extracting a tarball, making an SH file executable, accepting a license agreement in order to extract it, then using makefile's goes in fastboot.

      Translation: Read the article & comments above yours. ;)

  • Konstantinos Pap

    Can I flash it via fastboot? Or it's not recommended. I don't mind the "previews" :)

    • Thomas Cai Jinzhan

      these are binaries...not factory images. Binaries are more for kernel and Rom cooks...

      • Konstantinos Pap

        Doesn't matter. The problem is, how do I take advantage of those binaries?

        • sweenish

          You don't flash these. Try comprehending what you're reading.

          You take advantage by flashing something that someone else built that uses these.

  • Hrishikesh Bisen

    What is cryptography driver in Nexus 4????

  • mmark g

    Just need a canary and dev channel for nexus factory images and we are good to go.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      This is an argument I've been making for a couple of years, ever since the 1012 Nexus 7 started getting family oriented commercials. If random people start buying Nexus devices, they shouldn't be getting the same bleeding edge, minimally tested software that is meant for developers.

      • p3ngwin

        ah yes, 1012 was a terrible year for Christians when Pope Pietro Crescentii died :(

  • Ashhar Ahmar Khan

    can anyone plzz xplain me what is this ?

  • arunkohli123

    Google lunch a own manufacturer product blobs, that is high performance audio and BT and wifi etc

  • Come on, Son!

    Still can't believe my M8 (HTC One) has 4.4.3 before my Nexus 7 TE.

    WTF, El Goog??


    • ThomasMoneyhon

      sideload or quiet down. Its literally laziness because it is TOO EASY to sideload and flash.

  • Matthew Fry

    This would have been nice back when Mali updated the crashing Nexus 10 driver but Google didn't release an updated image for months. I fully support this change.