Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why Google won’t fix that Android bug

So, there is a bug in Android that affects 60% of Android phones and Google won’t fix it. Why? Short answer: because they can’t.

The bug is present in WebView. This is what apps use to load a webpage inside the app, for sign-in purposes for example. But also some browsers, mostly the ones from phone manufacturers, use WebView. Before Android 5.0 WebView was part of the OS. The only way to update it is to perform a system update. Google now broke WebView out of the OS, like they did with most of their apps, in order to be able to provide more frequent updates.

The bug we’re talking about is found in Android Jelly Bean 4.3 and older versions. Most phones that run these versions are not supported by the manufacturer anymore and haven’t received any new updates for a while. In order to fix the bug, a system update is required.

So why doesn’t google just release a fix for this? Phones that aren’t Nexus or Google Play devices are not updated by Google, but by their manufacturers. They use the code Google releases with every new Android version and often modify it to build skins on top of it, like HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz. Because of that modification it takes a lot of work to make a new Android version for their devices. Also, most manufacturers have a lot of phones and not enough people to keep supporting all of them.

Stating that Google doesn’t want to fix this bug is wrong. The OEMs are to blame. However, it’s unlikely that they start working on fixes for all their devices.

If you’re affected use Chrome or Firefox, since they don’t use WebView. Also, only use apps you trust.