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I'm an Android developer and I have a non-technical question regarding major Android version upgrades (e.g. from Android 4.x to 5 or from 5.x to 6).

Do any of the big Android device vendors offer these kinds of upgrades without wiping the data on the device?

I'm asking this question because I need to know if this kind of scenario should be supported by the app.

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Hmm, good question. I do not recall offhand whether any of the major version updates I've done have not required a wipe. – Matthew Read Mar 20 at 7:33
    
looking for some info on updates for Android devices - I could only find info on Minor version updates (like androidpit.com/…). I believe that in most cases - vendors have no incentive to prepare an update (without data wipe) for a year old device as they want people to buy a new one. – FunkSoulBrother Mar 20 at 7:58
    
There are still lots of devices that get major version upgrades, though. My Find 7 launched with 4.3 and is currently running 5.0 (with a 5.1 update also available, but it's from a different dev branch and not compatible). – Matthew Read Mar 20 at 8:50
    
I don't think many upgrades require a wipe. It's a pretty big deal to have to set up your device from scratch again. I know there have been a few in the past that require a wipe, but think they are the exception rather than the norm. – bmdixon Mar 20 at 9:08
3  
I've never seen any (really! None of my devices got one), but AFAIK all OTAs are so-called "dirty flashes" (i.e. not doing a wipe). Dalvik/ART seem to store some version identifier in their caches and thus detect whether they need to recompile some app. The bunch of issues popping up here ("after upgrade X broke") which are magically solved by doing a factory-reset seem to confirm this. I cannot remember a post like "Got an OTA, applied it, and now all my apps and data are gone". And believe me, that would have caused a sh*t-storm :) – Izzy Mar 20 at 10:50
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I must admit that I'm a bit confused by this post. Granted, I haven't been an Androider from the word go (my first device was a Nexus 7 running Jellybean), but every major update I have done has not required a factory reset (unless of course it has got stuck). This is true for all three of my devices: my Nexus 5, my Nexus 7 and my Nexus 9.

The biggest update I have done was on my Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, going from KitKat to Lollipop and that kept all my data. And of any update, KitKat to Lollipop would be the most likely to require a reset - they're very different.

Mind you, they are pure Android devices. So I'd say that if you have an official Google device (be it LG, HTC, etc.) with vanilla Android, you're pretty safe.

(Also, it would not be in the best interests of the vendor to require a factory reset before an update because then there would be less of an incentive to update.)

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I've updated an old S2 from rooted 2.3.6 to 4.0.1 via Odin flash, without a data/app wipe. So it's not just pure Android. But I'm not sure if modern devices differ. – Bob Mar 20 at 13:54
    
So all of your apps continued working without any need to reinstall/re-configure them right? – FunkSoulBrother Mar 21 at 6:59

We have had several devices from Samsung, ASUS, Sony, Motorola, Huawei etc. get major upgrades from Android I to J, J to K, K to L and now from L to M but we never had any of the data affected. Of course, all of these were non-rooted devices with manufacturer or Google provided OSes and the updates where issued/pushed by the manufacturer. This would make sense, as there may be important data stored by individual apps.

The case may be different for custom ROMs, though good custom ROMs would try to retain app data during upgrades. Having said that, it is always wise to backup your important data before performing any OS upgrades, minor or major.

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As a general rule, mobile OS updates do not wipe user data when transitioning from 1 version to the next. Such wipes would be devastating for the large amount of users that have very little tech knowledge and don't take basic precautions like backups and storing their files in multiple locations.

However, quite a few apps run into issues when upgrading the OS version. Even system apps can have this issue. For example, when I upgraded my S4 from 4.4.2 to 5.0.1, the "recommended apps" app that recommends apps to use when connecting a headphone kept crashing when doing so. That was solved after a factory reset. That's why it is recommended to do a factory reset after a OS update. A not insignificant part of the userbase does factory resets in this manner.

As an app developer, you should least prepare for the user doing a factory reset at any time. With Marshmallow, that should be easier considering google now backs up certain app data.

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