Google is now enabling developers to flash pure stock Android to Pixel devices via a dedicated tool. That's according to a recently reported announcement made by the company regarding the Android Flash Tool. The tool works directly via the browser and with "recent" model Pixel-branded devices. As a developer tool, it will also function with "the HiKey reference boards with builds based on aosp-master."
What that means is that Android developers will be able to quickly and easily switch their phones over to AOSP. From there, they'll be able to easily test that the experiences and apps they're creating continue working with the latest features and updates to Android OS itself.
That's as opposed to the more device-specific testing that's often utilized while sidestepping the work usually required to implement the purest form of Android.
Using the new Android Flash Tool has some prerequisites
Now, the requirements for gaining AOSP on a Pixel device using Android Flash Tool, while easier, aren't nonexistent. The tool works with Pixel 2 or newer devices from Google or the developer boards mentioned above. It also requires a web browser that's compatible with WebUSB standards.
For the time being, that's only going to include Chrome, Microsoft's Chromium-redesigned Edge, and Opera.
Windows users will need Android USB drivers and, as is hinted by the WebUSB compatibility requirement, anybody looking to move to AOSP will require a USB cable. Android Debug Bridge (adb) is not required here, so Google's Chrome-based operating system — found on Chromebooks — can be used too.
From there, developers need to connect their device via USB and access the Android Flash Tool — discoverable via the link below. Once the gadget has been authorized to connect via WebUSB, the tool will present options in terms of AOSP builds fromÂ the search giant's continuous integration (CI) dashboard.
Selecting a specific build will prove most useful if there's a bug with a specific variant of AOSP. If that's not needed, developers can simply choose the latest version. That's presently Android 10.
Finally, clicking the flash option will take over the process from start to finish.
Going back to stock firmware isn't going to be quite as simple
As noted above, the primary purpose of the Android Flash Tool is to give developers access to a pure Android. That's the less-pretty variant that runs underneath the overlays and extra code put in place by OEMs. And that includes the pure experience on offer via Google devices.
So flashing over to AOSP is not something that every user is going to want to try out. Or something they should try. Instead, it's intended to ensure that the apps everyday users download continue to work with new versions of AOSP underpinning the above-mentioned overlays.
That's accentuated by the fact that getting back to the Pixel gadgets stock software requires the use of the Google Pixel Repair tool. The caveat to that is that the tool isn't available in every region. For some users, a more grueling adb flash is going to be required to return to the factory firmware.