ZTE is Giving Developers a Head Start on LineageOS 15 for the Axon 7

One of the biggest attractions to the XDA forum is the plethora of custom ROMs available on many different Android devices. These ROMs are painstakingly made by independent developers on our forums, often with little to no aid from the device makers. Sometimes development efforts are actually hindered by device makers when they take their sweet, sweet time to release the kernel source code. Only a few device makers release their device trees and kernel source code immediately after launch, but one company is looking to outdo them all. ZTE has apparently provided pre-release firmware to the official maintainer of LineageOS for the Axon 7 to help bring LineageOS 15 to the device.

The official maintainer of LineageOS on the ZTE Axon 7 is XDA Recognized Developer Unjustified Dev. The Axon 7 currently has a stable, official build of LineageOS 14.1 based on Android 7.1 Nougat available for it. Android 8.0 Oreo was released a few months back, but the LineageOS team is still working on bringing up their code base to the Android Oreo (now 8.1) release. Thanks to some assistance from ZTE, the Axon 7 may be seeing a stable release of LineageOS 15 within a short time after the official Android Oreo update for the device.

That’s because, according to Unjustified Dev, ZTE has shared the kernel source and the official Android Oreo ROM with the developer. According to the developer:

We do have an official Oreo update I’m running it now and I also have the kernel source. That’s what Lineage 15 is using so there’s no old bootstack or anything it’s all 8.0. Official O for 8996 is still 3.18 for all 820/821 devices there’s no reason to even port 4.4 it would only prolong how long it would take before it’s released. Treble also has nothing to do with 4.4 our device doesn’t have a vendor partition so proprietary goodies are in system/vendor/ linked to /vendor. So if you flashed a generic system.img you’d lose all your proprietary goods and your device wouldn’t even boot due to the lack of hardware support. If our device had a vendor partition, I’m most sure they would have enabled treble. Not many devices pre-O have vendor partitions like google devices which is how google did it for the pixel.

The first part of their comment mentions the fact that he has access to a pre-release build of Android 8.0 for the ZTE Axon 7 as well as its kernel source. The rest of the comment touches on a topic many people are interested in: Project Treble support. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Axon 7 will support Project Treble as it lacks a dedicated vendor partition (and the company likely can’t risk re-partitioning users’ devices via an OTA update).

But the fact that the developer has access to this build itself is incredible. This gives Unjustified Dev a head start on building LineageOS 15 for the Axon 7, since he will have access to the updated binaries from the official ROM weeks in advance. Having the kernel source available is a boon, too, as the developer will not have to spend as much time updating their kernel to the latest CAF kernel source.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about it. I was sent the build and kernel source early to adapt to Lineage for 8.0

According to the developer team, LineageOS 15 is ready to be released once ZTE gives the okay to do so. Since the binaries in the LineageOS 15 ROM are proprietary, the developer can’t release them until ZTE approves of it.

We won’t release LineageOS 15 with the Android Oreo blobs until ZTE allows to do so. This could even take until they release their official build.

Given the developers’ comments in that thread, it really does seem like ZTE cares about the developer community. According to Unjustified Dev:

Keep in mind I didn’t sign anything. I’m just a random guy they trust and I’d like to keep it that way. All I can say is just hold off until things are settled. Everyone made it through the wait for N I’m sure everyone can make it again for O.

ZTE gave the LineageOS maintainer access to their kernel source and ROM without requiring that he even sign an NDA. This has allowed the developer to share frequent updates with the community and get them excited for what’s to come when the official release of Android Oreo arrives for the Axon 7. And furthermore, it means that Axon 7 owners will be able to enjoy a stable release of LineageOS 15 faster than would normally be possible.

This behavior from ZTE isn’t something we really see from OEMs all that often. There are a few OEMs that provide free devices to select developers (OnePlus and Honor have done this in the past), but this action takes it to another level. Releasing kernel sources and device trees on day 1 is one thing, but giving developers a head start by providing access to pre-release firmware is a whole different ballgame.

So kudos to ZTE for giving their dedicated community that level of support. Unjustified Dev has also posted a few comments in that thread which suggest that ZTE is ditching its MiFavor UI in favor of a more stock Android look and feel, which I’m sure that many of our users would appreciate. So regardless of whether or not you care about custom ROMs, ZTE is apparently looking to satisfy both its customers. Let’s hope they continue listening to the community and providing support in this manner.

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