While i understand that the patches needed to "support" Android operations aren't in the mainline kernel distribution, I don't understand why it isn't being ported to newer kernels.

Newer kernels come with a load of improvements in a lot of architecture-independent areas, as well as in a lot of architecture-dependent areas.

FWIK, I see almost all Android distros, starting with Google's, are sticking with kernel v3.4. Yes, v3.4.112 is an LTS kernel, but so are v3.10, v3.12, v3.14, v3.18, v4.1 and v4.4! (source: kernel.org).

So, what is holding Android back to v3.4?

  • Simple. It's because Android doesn't require features added since Linux Kernel v3.10, atleast until now (till Marshmallow).. Android just uses Linux Kernel with its own modifications and additions; it has no restrictions to update itself synchronously to the latest Linux Kernel.. It just uses what it needs.
    – Gokul NC
    May 29, 2016 at 11:46

2 Answers 2

  1. Google's Android specific features were not included in the mainline Linux development. So they took the then LTS branch and added their own code.
  2. Android does not use or include the native GNU C Lib, it uses Bionic.
  3. OEM specific changes could not or were not included in the mainstream branch.
  • 1. Almost all the "Android specific features" are now in mainline, the rest are not that had to forward port. 2. What does the c library have to do with the kernel? 3. Is mostly correct, as SoC vendors not OEM/ODMs are writing out of tree drivers against ancient kernel versions.
    – Maks
    Jun 25, 2017 at 9:55
  • 1. Not sure about it, will have to dig a little deeper.2 Google used GPLv2 licensed Linux header files, claiming that it cleaned the header files frok copyrightable work, reducing them to non copyrightable files. Linus did not like it.
    – ThorX2
    Jun 25, 2017 at 10:33
  • Source for point 2.
    – ThorX2
    Jun 25, 2017 at 10:39

As of mid-2017 this should finally have landed (example)

You can read more about which version is where here

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