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Android 7.1 feature spotlight: A closer look at seamless updates, partition changes, and new fastboot commands

During the I/O 2016 Keynote presentation, and again at the October 4th Pixel announcement, Google made brief references to newly added support for seamless updates in Nougat. To make this work, many changes had to be made to the structure of Android and its assorted system partitions. As a result, there have also been some changes to the fastboot utility many of us use when new factory images become available. This post covers a few of the technical details and also demonstrates some of the ways to use the new features.

How it works

Seamless updates are accomplished by creating a second set of logical partitions in device storage.

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Android platform distribution, November 2016: Nougat shows up, Marshmallow surges to 24%

Android platform distributions for the first week of November are up, and Nougat has appeared... with 0.3% of the pie. But it's there! The only other really noteworthy change came from Marshmallow, which surged 5.3 points to 24% of total devices. As such, it seems likely that Marshmallow will unseat KitKat as the most common version of the Android platform next month, at least if we're counting by API level. If you're counting by whole-digit version, Lollipop is in the lead, and has been for some time.

But KitKat has held this position of dominance for, well, a really long time (probably around two years).

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Google announces new subscription promo ability and refund identification API for developers

Google has brought Playtime, its developer education event, back to San Francisco with some news for those that help to make Android awesome. If you missed the event or the video highlights, there is a handy blog post with a summary of the information announced. The most interesting points from it are that Google is now giving developers the ability to run subscription promotional prices and to see which users have requested refunds. Fun stuff, right? 

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Google officially ends support for Eclipse Android Developer Tools in favor of Android Studio

Long ago in days of yore, Google provided a plugin for the popular Eclipse integrated development environment, the better for aspiring mobile devs to work with their favorite IDE while making new apps. Months after the release of the stand-alone Android Studio version 2.2, Google is officially getting rid of support for the older IDE in favor of its own internal project. To be clear, Eclipse is still very much alive and in active development (it's not a Google program), it's just the plugin that's no longer supported.

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Chainfire releases a systemless root method for the Pixel and Pixel XL

The Google Pixel phones' development has had a big week; just a few days ago, the Verizon and EE variants had their bootloaders unlocked. Now, Chainfire, the famed developer of SuperSU and FlashFire, has debuted a systemless root method for the Pixels.

Due to the Pixels' odd partition structure (two system, two boot, two vendor, zero recovery, and zero cache partitions), Chainfire's root method required a bit of re-engineering. It's pretty impressive how quickly he was able to do this, but we'd expect no less from him.

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Unlock the bootloader on Pixel phones from Verizon and EE with dePixel8 by beaups and jcase [Hurry]

For years, Google's Nexus line could be counted on for one thing, an unlockable bootloader. While carriers have occasionally had limited freedom to defile customize certain models sold through their service, owners were at least free to either modify the stock software or completely replace it with custom builds.

It goes without saying people were more than a little disheartened to learn Google's second attempt to team up with US carrier Verizon lead to yet another disappointing result: the Google Pixels sold through VZW have non-unlockable bootloaders. In fact, there are at least two carriers selling non-unlockable Pixels. The other is EE Limited (formerly Everything Everywhere) in the UK.

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Motorola posts kernel source for the Moto Z Play

The unlocked Moto Z Play (code name Addison) recently hit virtual shelves after the Verizon version appeared a few weeks back, and now there's some kernel source to go with it. Motorola tends to be pretty quick with these releases, but it's been a little slower this year. Oh well, developer types can grab the open source files on Motorola's GitHub page right now.

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AOSP changelogs posted for the Pixel versions of Android 7.1 Nougat

Android 7.1 is upon us – at least it is if you count the oddball mix-and-match of having an "official" version of 7.1 on Pixel phones and a "developer preview" for a few other Nexus devices. Now that the Pixels are out, source code has also been released for Android 7.1.0 on AOSP. It comes as little surprise that we don't have an official release of the 7.1.1 source code that went out to Nexus devices since they are still considered developer previews, but they're probably not terribly different. So now it's time to dig through for some interesting and unusual hints about what unusual changes have been made in this version that we didn't already know about.

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InBrief
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Google Play services v9.8 update brings Goals API for Fit, auto-fill support for phone numbers, and more

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Google posts initial factory images, OTAs, and driver binaries for Pixel and Pixel XL

Google has posted the first set of factory images for the Pixel (sailfish) and Pixel XL (marlin) on its developer site, along with driver binaries for the devices. Three image versions are available: NDE63H, NDE63L, and NDE63P. The third one began rolling out to Verizon devices today as an OTA update. The full OTA images are available here, as well.

That NDE63P update supposedly brings Wi-Fi fixes, so if you're on an earlier build and having trouble, this OTA may resolve it (I personally am still having 2.4/5GHz switching issues even on the 63P build).

You can download the factory images and the driver binaries at the links below which, yes, still contain 'Nexus' in the page title.

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