Google Plans for Android to Use the Regular Mainline Linux Kernel

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By: Anton McClure;
Tags: Technology; Google; Android; Linux;

Google announced they will start bringing the Android kernel back to the mainline.

Photo by Dele Oke (dele_o). Image licensed under the Pixabay License.
Photo by Dele Oke (dele_o). Image licensed under the Pixabay License.

At this year’s Linux Plumbers Conference, Google talked about getting Android to work with a generic Linux kernel, rather than the custom ones they use now, and showed an Android phone running a generic Linux kernel.

Currently, the Android kernel is a fork from the Long-Term Support (LTS) version of the Linux kernel and is given Android-specific patches, first by System on Chip vendors, and then the device manufacturers for anything hardware-specific. This leads to devices shipping with a unique device-specific kernel, that is virtually incompatible with any other device. The version of the Linux kernel that ships on most Android phones is already old. For example, the Google Pixel 4 from 2019 ships with the 4.14 LTS kernel from November 2017, and will always run kernel version 4.14 since Android currently doesn’t receive kernel updates.

Google, however, is still committed to providing security patches for older Android systems with older kernels.

In 2018, Google announced they will start "bringing the Android kernel back to the mainline" or start making the Android kernel more like the upstream Linux kernel. Tom Gall, director of the Linaro Consumer Group said that "There are major, major props to be given to the Google Kernel Team in particular for getting their code upstream so that we can boot devices with a mainline kernel."

This kernel change will let Google provide updates a lot easier, and would hopefully get up-to-date Android and Linux kernel versions to market faster and more efficiently. What do you think these changes to Android and it’s kernel would mean for the phone market and Android OS in general?

More information will be given on these changes as it becomes available.

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