Getting Samsung and the other OEMs to actually update their devices to the latest version of Android is extremely difficult. By the time the OEMs get the new version, port their skins over, ship a build to carriers, and the carriers finally push out the OTA update, many months pass. If the device isn’t popular enough, this process doesn’t happen at all. [...]
Since it’s really hard to push out an Android update, Google’s solution is to sidestep the process completely. The company stopped putting all the good stuff in Android updates. [...] The exciting features are just not being included as part of a big Android release. [...]
It’s such a simple idea: Android updates roll out too slowly, so start releasing all the cool stuff separately. The hard part is making it actually work. But the first reason this is now possible is a little app that has finally come of age: “Google Play Services.”
Calling Play Services an “app” doesn’t really tell the whole story. For starters, it has an insane amount of permissions. It’s basically a system-level process, and if the above list isn’t enough for whatever it needs to do next, it can actually give itself more permissions without the user’s consent. Play Services constantly runs in the background of every Android phone, and nearly every Google app relies on it to function. It’s updatable, but it doesn’t update through the Play Store like every other app. It has its own silent, automatic update mechanism that the user has no control over. In fact, most of the time the user never even knows an update has happened. The reason for the complete and absolute power this app has is simple: Google Play Services is Google’s new platform.