It always sucks when you have to wait for a new OTA update to finally reach your device before you can get the new features and bug fixes that come with it. For some, this has resulted in manually sideloading an OTA update or flashing system images onto devices. A software engineer at Google has just confirmed that this should no longer be necessary as long as you are on a current version of Google Play Services.
The OTA update process is generally a mystery to the average Android user. Even if they go in and manually tap the Check for Update button, they’re told their phone is up to date (even if it isn’t) because of the way Google and many OEMs handle things. Three years ago, a Google software engineer popped into /r/Android during a discussion about the Android 4.4 KitKat OTA update rollout and revealed how the company does their gradual rollouts.
Back then, we were told that 1% of eligible devices get the new update for the first 24 to 48 hours. During this time Google is busy watching the return rates and the resulting device check-ins along with the error reports (if any). Assuming nothing goes wrong, this is then expanded to 25% after that first 48 hours, then 50% and lastly 100% “over the course of a week or two.” Previously, no matter how many times you tapped that Check for Update button you would not be allowed to install it unless your device was chosen.
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There were some workarounds that people had discovered but even then it was generally best to simply manually sideload the update if you wanted it bad enough. Today, Elliot Hughes (another Google software engineer) announced on Google+ that the sideload method shouldn’t be required anymore if you are “running a current Google Play Services.” Even if Google is in the middle of a gradual rollout, if you manually tap that Check for Update button then your device is flagged as user-initiated, the usual limitations are bypassed, and should be greeted with the download and install button.