The not-gaming-but-marketed-at-gamers smartphone from gaming hardware company Razer Inc. was announced back in November. Called the Razer Phone, it hits most of the right marks when it comes to hardware specifications with its large 5.7″ 1440p 120Hz LCD panel (the first of its kind in western markets), the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 8GBs of RAM, 64GBs of internal storage expandable via a microSD card, and a 4,000 mAh battery. One of its biggest shortcomings is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack, though its best-in-class speakers may somewhat make up for that. Software-wise, the phone launched with a near-stock build of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but many owners have been wondering where in the world the Android 8.0 Oreo (or even Android 8.1 Oreo) update is.
The Razer Phone’s support page states that the phone will receive an update to Android Oreo in Q1 2018, which means the company plans to release an update by the end of March. It’s entirely possible that the first Android P Developer Preview may land on the Google Pixel and Pixel 2 before Razer releases Android Oreo, but if it’s any consolation it appears that the Razer Phone’s Android Oreo update may be based on the Android 8.1 Oreo release rather than Android 8.0.
While we don’t have direct evidence for this (à la firmware files such as in our recent leaks), the evidence that we have is pretty strong since it is based off of code submissions from Razer engineers.
These three code submissions all come from Razer engineers, but it’s not the code itself that is interesting here. In fact, they’re not something that the vast majority of you will care about—they’re just routine bug fixes for Google’s Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), the tool that Google uses to certify that a particular Android device is compliant with the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for a particular Android version.
What is interesting is the version of CTS that these Razer engineers state they are testing the Razer Phone against. The branch of the CTS that the engineers submitted bug fixes for is “oreo-mr1-cts-dev.” In other words, this is the Android 8.1 Oreo CTS. What this means is that the Razer engineers, presumably while testing Android 8.1 Oreo on the Razer Phone, encountered bugs that caused their devices to fail CTS.
This is significant because it signals that the Razer Phone will indeed likely jump straight to Android 8.1 Oreo rather than Android 8.0. Engineers from Razer likely wouldn’t be testing Android Oreo Maintenance Release 1 (Android 8.1) CTS if they weren’t planning on having their device pass CTS for this version of Android. Considering the fact that the device hasn’t even received 8.0 yet, that means 8.1 is the update that’ll likely be coming soon.
This wouldn’t be the first device to skip 8.0 in favor of 8.1. On the contrary, this actually seems to be a growing trend among manufacturers. Nokia skipped 8.0 with the Nokia 8 and plans to do the same with the Nokia 2, Essential skipped 8.0 for the Essential Phone after encountering unspecified issues, and the BQ Aquaris X/X Pro also seem to be going straight to 8.1 Oreo.
So what difference does going straight to Android 8.1 make for Razer Phone owners, exactly? Admittedly, there aren’t many new user-facing features in 8.1 compared to 8.0 to get all that excited about. Sure, there’s a fancy new power menu, the ability to hide that annoying persistent notification without a third-party app, Bluetooth battery level indicators, and some under-the-hood tweaks, but the main benefits such as notification channels, picture-in-picture mode, the Autofill API, and more are staples of Android 8.0.
Ultimately, though, having the phone be updated to the latest SDK level is still a plus. It means that Razer may have a bit less work to do when they eventually re-base on Android P, though the question of whether or not the Razer Phone is Project Treble-compatible is still up in the air. Regardless, with the availability of kernel sources (which we hope are updated for the Oreo release!), official TWRP, and factory images, the phone is likely to have a long life ahead of it.