What happens when Google bakes a new Android treat

3rd April 2019

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Seven months after Google rolled out its Android Pie mobile operating system, Kai Ma, an Android engineer at Starling, looks ahead to the next version - Android Q.


Here at Starling we want to provide a better bank for everyone. This includes technology updates and security. As a tech company we want our users to be able to use the latest and greatest features their phone offers, while knowing that their money and personal data are all safe. So what happens when Google or Apple release a new Operating System (OS)?

New dessert, new recipe

A new version of an OS means many changes. As well as offering new features for users’ phones, an update can often result in changes in how the underlying system works. Old, buggy code might be removed, existing ways of displaying things on screen can be replaced with more efficient methods and so on. While a majority of these changes are supposed to be transparent to app developers like us, this is not always the case. That’s where the beta releases come in.

Many months before Google officially releases a new OS version, its developers will make widely available betas. These versions are a ‘work in progress’ of their next OS and as such will have known issues and can contain bugs or be unstable.

The beta phase serves several purposes as it:

  • allows developers like ourselves to test our app to see if any changes need to be made as a result of changes to the OS
  • enables early adopter users to preview new features and give feedback
  • exposes the OS to a wider pool of users for testing and bug finding

Google will typically release several beta versions over the six months leading up to their official release with each iteration refining their new features and fixing identified bugs.

What’s cooking at Starling

At Starling we test our app with each OS beta as soon as it is released with the aim of making a compatible release as soon as possible. However, Google makes the beta available to their OS to developers and early adopters alike at the same time, so there is no way for us to make sure that our app will work beforehand.

For the most part there are very few changes we have to make, as Google does do a good job of ensuring the changes are transparent. However, there’s one area where we have to take extra care and that is security. And indeed, the changes we made to ensure the app works with Q were largely related to security.

To make sure our users can have peace of mind in knowing that their money and data are safe, we check the integrity of both our app and what it’s running on. We don’t want our app to run on unknown systems that may have been modified or potentially contain security flaws. As such, we only allow our app to run on a known, vetted list of official Android operating systems. Unfortunately there is no way for us to add an Android beta to this list before it is released, so invariably there’ll be a time when our app won’t run on a freshly released beta as we verify the security of the new OS.

Throughout the beta phase you may notice odd issues (such as if there is a known issue that Google is intending to fix), but rest assured, we will always endeavor to make a working release as soon as we can for each beta and certainly be compatible in time for the official release.

What to do if I want to eat the new Q treat now?

Fortunately we have a compatible version for the current Android Q release (Beta 1).

In general we would recommend that you try Q on a secondary device if available. Should our app stop working on a new beta release and you don’t have secondary device available, then reverting back to Android P while we make our fixes will get you back up and running again.

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