You don't often hear what goes on in the background to make sure that your smartphone software updates work the way they should. Here's how we make sure they do.
Love them or hate them, software updates are an inevitable part of owning technology these days. Manufacturers regularly update their phone software to add new features, fix bugs and issues and occasionally, a full new software version.
Not all manufacturers work in the same way when it comes to updating their devices. Some write a generic update that can go out to all their devices at once. Others will tailor an update for each of their handset models and another will not only tailor it to each device but then additionally for each network provider.
Occasionally providers can find issues with their specific versions that they've rolled out, so additional patches may be rolled out at a later date. Other providers' versions may not require these, this explains why occasionally some networks have different release versions of the same update.
Even small changes to a software version can affect how your phone works with a mobile network. To make sure that everything goes smoothly, we have an ever-growing team who work tirelessly to ensure that any changes made have no negative impact on how your phone behaves on a day-to-day basis.
Here is a run-down on what happens when a software update is planned and released:
Software testing equipment
A manufacturer will decide that they need to make a change or update part of their software. This can be anything from small updates to fix bugs that have been reported to them by users, to add or remove features on the device or to give the software version a complete revamp and update to a brand new version. Sometimes an update will have a variety of changes bundled together rather than them having to roll out multiple changes individually.
The manufacturer will contact us and make a plan to test the update thoroughly alongside our team. We work closely with them to ensure that, all being well with the update, this is as close to the actual release date as possible. Sometimes this can run a few weeks behind as some manufacturers release their own generic build for open market devices prior to building network specific versions.
We are given the first version of the software by the manufacturer. Generally there are between two to four versions in total, depending on if there are any serious issues found with the initial version.
The first version will be thoroughly tested by both parties for around a week and fed into our bug-reporting tool to make sure that there is nothing that could cause problems. If anything is found, the manufacturer then normally needs a week or two to fix these and provide us with the next version to re-test.
To make sure you always get the best out of your phone our testing has to be very thorough. We make sure that the new software works with every part of the network (2G, 3G, and 4G) and that every feature you use on a daily basis is not impacted by it.
We don’t want you to run into any issues further down the line and want to make sure that devices perform optimally on our network. How devices interact with a network is just as important as spectrum and the number of masts a network has in terms of customer experience.
We take the software on a ‘drive test’, where we take to the road and monitor the update’s performance against its previous version from a wide range of locations on the EE network. And we test every feature to make sure that they have not been impacted by the changes including Bluetooth, calls, SMS, MMS, voicemail, streaming, email, battery life and application stress, the list goes on.
This process repeats until a version has been produced that meets the high standards of EE, the manufacturer and, if it is an Android device, Google. As you can imagine, if issues have been found this can sometimes take a little time as occasionally updates go through this process multiple times before they are able to be passed. Once the update provided by the manufacturer is given the all-clear it will then be rolled-out to devices.
Putting software through its paces
Once an update has been given the OK by everyone involved, approval to launch and deploy is given. The update is then added to the supplier's servers for rolling out over-the-air.
The update is released in small batches to begin with; which allows the manufacturer to monitor for any unexpected problems. Once running smoothly the update is then scaled up to all customers with the relevant compatible phone, and this is when you will get a notification that there is an update ready for you. The new software is also installed on any new devices coming out of the factory.
So the next time you see "Software Update Available" pop up on your phone, you know our team, working with the manufacturer, has done all the hard work in the background to make sure it works just the way it should.