Project Treble in Action: Google Pixel 2’s Graphics Drivers come Pre-Installed as an App

One of the biggest new Android-related features announced this year wasn’t even announced at one of Google’s traditional hardware or software events. Called Project Treble, it’s the biggest change to Android’s low-level system architecture to date. It modularizes the operating system so it is kept separate from vendor components, hopefully reducing the time it takes for OEMs to release a new Android update as they no longer have to wait for silicon manufacturers like Qualcomm to update their code. Project Treble may make porting newer versions of AOSP onto Treble-enabled devices easier, which is why we find it so fascinating. Another interesting tidbit about Treble is that it can allow for things like updating graphics drivers from the Google Play Store.

This was announced during a talk at this year’s Google I/O, which you can view here:

And with the new Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, we finally have devices that are taking full advantage of this. While I was digging for interesting apps on these devices at the Verizon store, I came across a couple of interesting things: first, the hidden dark theme and second, an APK file for the graphics driver.

The app is installed as “Pixel 2017 Graphics Driver” with the package name com.google.pixel.wahoogfxdrv. It is installed in the directory /vendor/app/wahoo_gfxdrv/wahoo_gfxdrv.apk meaning it is part of the vendor partition and thus updates would likely be handled by the vendor (Qualcomm in this case) rather than Google.

Since nobody has owned a Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL in the long-term, we don’t know if this app actually shows up on the Play Store for these devices. But since it’s an app, that means it shouldn’t need a full OTA for it to be updated. Updating graphics drivers through the Google Play Store is exclusive to devices with support for Project Treble—meaning any device that launches with Android Oreo as well as some devices that are updated to it such as the Huawei Mate 9.