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Is there any reason to update Android firmware (5.1.1 -> 6.0.1) via PC using software like Odin, rather than just doing an OTA update? Is there any difference between the two methods in terms of performance, battery life, etc.?

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Flashing stock firmware will void the warranty while OTA doesn't – Suici Doga Feb 27 at 13:33
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@SuiciDoga no it doesn't. If You have signed official binary that is. – JustMe Feb 27 at 14:32
    
@JustMe Unlocking the bootloader does – Suici Doga Feb 28 at 2:05
    
@SuiciDoga My android phone has an option to unlock the bootloader in the setting app... – Rahul Basu Feb 29 at 11:23
    
Then you use fastboot which gives you a warning screen about your warranty. Even mine has one in developer options – Suici Doga Feb 29 at 11:39

Is there any reason to update Android firmware via PC using software like Odin, rather than just doing an OTA update?

Yes.

  • Since Android Lollipop, Google has moved to block based OTA updates which means if the system partition is tampered with (often done when rooting the device) the OTA upgrade would and should fail. How would you update the OS then?
  • In Android versions prior to 5.0, OTA update still fails sometimes because checksum for a file in system partition doesn't match. How would you update the OS now?
  • During OTA upgrade, some users report the device being stuck in recovery mode. How would you update the OS now?

Note: I've never found an incremental update that can be flashed via fastboot and I'm not familiar with Odin or the likes of it.

Is there any difference between the two methods in terms of performance, battery life, etc.?

I can't give an objective view but note that there are multiple reports on this site where you would notice that OTA (it usually do a dirty flash) upgrade caused performance issues, such as sluggish animation, frequent app crashes (result of dirty flash), automatic reboot and issues with functionality of some apps. Often, a fixes them.

In the case of flashing the OS from PC, you're most likely going to clear the data partition as well so the resultant, once the flashing is completed, would be equivalent of buying a device with OS shipped from a vendor. If the OS isn't faulty, you shouldn't be having major issues.

I speak from experience with OnePlus One. OTA never worked for me. They either caused overheating or radio issues.

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Odin is similar to fastboot, it doesn't do incremental upgrades. – Matthew Read Feb 27 at 9:57

It depends.

It depends on how the full flashable tar/kdz was obtained. If it was obtained from an OTA capture, what difference does it make? Just doing the OTA would then be the most direct from the manufacturer. Capturing is a popular deal, because big companies don't do free hand outs. The more experienced (ex. Sammobile) actually build their own tar files that are independent flashables using a combination method (OTA + live system pulls). As anyone can see, it's all still based off the OTA.

Your question could then be a) whether wiping data after an OTA makes it "run smoother" and have better battery life. And that answer is definitely yes, because certain old files (like app data) is converted to run on the new system, but can cause problems and complicated interpretation. And b) if AOSP/vanilla/slim roms would be a better option, and that also depends. They will usually run better, but you may get more bugs/crashes.

The bottom line is you have to do your research, and probably rom testing. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

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Thank you for the comment. So companies like Samsung do not release official full firmware files, like Apple does, for instance? – Marko J. Feb 27 at 18:36
    
I don't think this is official initiative but sammobile releases quite a lot of official roms. – JustMe Feb 29 at 9:49

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