Google is consulting with Android smartphone manufacturers to get support for the Dynamic System Update feature. In addition, a phone can run a beta via a virtual partition without users having to reset their phone.
The function is intended, among other things, for developers to test apps without having to flash a beta on their phone and thus lose all their user data, various Google people say in an interview with Ars Technica. The feature allows users to put a second operating system on the /data partition, with separate user data and accounts. Google does not oblige manufacturers to implement the system, but does consult with them to get them to do so.
Users can boot into the second system, but a reboot will bring them back to the regular operating system. As a result, it is not a dual-boot system, but more of a variant of a virtual machine, they say. At the moment, only Google’s own phones support this. Manufacturers can choose to put users on a phone only by their approved builds as a second OS, making this no way to enable custom ROMs without unlocking the bootloader.
The feature is possible because Android Q requires manufacturers to enable dynamic partitions. As a result, ota updates can resize and shrink partitions, something that is not possible now. The function is also made possible by Treble, the separation of Android into various parts that can be upgraded separately from each other. Google allows users to run a GSI on the Pixel 3 phones in addition to the regular firmware via Dynamic System Update. That is a build for Android smartphones without any modification from the manufacturer.