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How to install the Android 15 Developer Preview on Google Pixel

android 15 developer preview

Another year, another Android version. Today, Google has opened up the first developer preview of Android 15 which can now be installed on Google Pixel devices. Here’s how to install it, and why you might want to wait a little while.

What Pixel devices are compatible with Android 15?

While Google now has an industry-leading software commitment on the Pixel 8 series, older Pixel devices still only get three years of major Android updates. As such, the Android 15 Developer Preview marks a preview of the end of life for a few Pixel devices. Specifically, Pixels released in 2020 and early 2021 are dropping off including the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, and Pixel 5a.

As for what Pixel devices are compatible with Android 15, the list is as follows:

  • Pixel 6
  • Pixel 6 Pro
  • Pixel 6a
  • Pixel 7
  • Pixel 7 Pro
  • Pixel 7a
  • Pixel Tablet
  • Pixel Fold
  • Pixel 8
  • Pixel 8 Pro

By the time Android 15 formally debuts later this year, Google will likely have also added Pixel 8a, a Pixel Fold sequel, and the Pixel 9 series to that list, but that’s all a long way off.

Should I install the Android 15 Developer Preview?

Realistically, most people shouldn’t install a developer preview.

This initial release of Android 15 is designed for developers to test their apps on the updated OS version. New features may be live, but most things won’t be, and the experience will likely be fairly unstable. Unless you’ve got a second Pixel kicking around to test it out, just wait for the Android 15 Beta program.

Speaking of…

When does the Android 15 Beta start?

Yearly Android releases typically begin with a couple of developer preview releases. This year, Google says there will be two previews released in February and March. Then, in April, the Android 15 Beta program will officially begin.

Google estimates there will be five Android 15 Beta releases in April, May, June, and July leading up to a final release soon after. Android 14 launched unexpectedly late in October 2023, so it remains to be seen if Android 15 will follow suit or move back to its September slot.

How to install the Android 15 Developer Preview on Google Pixel
How to install the Android 15 Developer Preview on Google Pixel

How to install the Android 15 Developer Preview on Pixel

During the developer preview stage, you can only sideload Android 15 builds on Pixel devices. The update is not available through over-the-air updates. That functionality is reserved for the later beta releases. If you are not familiar with sideloading updates manually, we strongly encourage you to wait for the final release. But if you just can’t wait to get your hands on the latest and greatest, here’s how to install it.

  1. Download the needed files
  2. Boot into Recovery mode
  3. Navigate to ADB sideload
  4. Connect the handset to a computer with ADB tools installed
  5. Enter the sideload command
  6. Reboot your phone

The following process explains how to install the OTA update, not a factory image.

Download Android 15

The first step in how to install the Android 15 Developer Preview on your Pixel is to get the files.

There are two ways to do so. First, you can install a Factory Image, which wipes your phone and starts everything from scratch. Alternatively, there’s an OTA file, which installs over your current version of Android without wiping your phone.

When installing a developer preview, it’s actually good practice to install a factory image rather than an OTA, as you’ll see fewer issues with that. Google even directly says it could cause issues this year.

An issue with sideloading the Developer Preview 1 build can sometimes cause the device to show a “Device is corrupted” message after sideloading is completed. To work around this issue, we recommend that developers flash a factory image to test devices whenever possible instead of sideloading an OTA system image.

However, the process there is a bit more complicated, including unlocking your bootloader, resetting you device, and more. If you want to go down that route, Google has instructions available.

For the faster method with an OTA, here’s how to do it.

You can download the OTA file from Google’s Full OTA Image hosting site. That site contains OTA downloads for sideloading different updates, including Android 14, on every Pixel and Nexus device ever made, so you’ll need to scroll down to ensure you are downloading the file that associates with your device. OTA downloads are available here.

For the Android 15 Developer Preview, only Pixel 6/Pro, Pixel 6a, Pixel 7/Pro, Pixel 7a, Pixel Fold, Pixel Tablet, and Pixel 8/Pro are available. Basically, you won’t be able to install it on any Pixels not running a Tensor processor, including the original Pixel/XL, Pixel 2/XL, Pixel 3/XL, Pixel 3a/XL, Pixel 4/XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, or Pixel 5a.

Set up ADB tools

The next thing you’ll need to do is prepare your computer for ADB tools. To do this, you’ll want to download ADB drivers from Google through Android Studio or through the SDK tools independently. Personally, I usually go with the latter on Windows.

The video below explains how to install ADB on your machine.

Note: This process won’t wipe your device, but it’s good practice to back up any irreplaceable data in case something goes wrong.

Boot into recovery mode and navigate to ADB sideload

Next, you’ll boot your Pixel into Recovery mode. To do this, fully power down your handset. Then, hold down on the Power button and the Volume down button at the exact same time until you get to the Bootloader page. You will know you’re in the right place when you see an Android figure lying down on the screen.

Using your volume buttons, scroll down to Recovery mode. Select this by clicking the power button.

Alternatively, you can do this directly from your computer. Once you’ve set up ADB tools, you can enter the command adb devices into your command prompt to ensure your device is connected. From there, use the reboot recovery command to get to recovery mode without pressing any buttons.

Now, you should see a smaller Android lying down with an exclamation mark over it. From here, press the Power button and the Volume up button for about a second to fully enter Recovery mode. Releasing the Volume up button will send you into Recovery.

Using the volume buttons, scroll down to Apply update from ADB and select it with the power button. This will launch a mostly blank screen with text near the bottom directing you on how to sideload an OTA, such as this one for the Android 15 Developer Preview.

Start the sideload process

As long as everything is in place, you can now sideload the OTA file. On Windows, ensure your Command Prompt is directed to the ADB tools folder and type in adb sideload. If you’re on macOS or Linux, do the same thing in Terminal (use “cd” and “ls” commands to make sure your Terminal is pointed at the right folder – google it if you need help) but type in ./adb sideload. You’ll then need to insert the file name of the .zip folder you downloaded from Google and hit enter to start the process.

If everything is working properly, you should see some dialog on your computer and handset that shows the process of the sideload and installation process.

Reboot your phone

Once the OTA is done installing, you will be taken back to Recovery Mode. The last step to jump into the new update is to select the Reboot now option with your power button.

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