Android updates are occurring much faster than they once did. And 7.1 has arrived with many features you will probably want sooner, rather than later (such as improved battery life and data saver mode, app shortcuts, and more). Although the updates are being delivered at a much quicker pace than they once were, how quickly you receive said updates will depend upon your device and carrier. Some updates are seriously hindered by carriers.

In many cases, you can get around that by side loading a new image on your device. Believe it or not, some devices make this task easier than you might think. In fact, I’m going to demonstrate just how easy that is by side loading Android 7.1 onto my OnePlus 3.

To be fair, OnePlus does make it easier than many devices with a couple of helpful additions:

  • They make the latest beta versions available to the public
  • They include an “install from adb” option in the boot loader menu

I will be demonstrating this with the help of Elementary OS Loki. This can be done as easily on Windows or Mac, you will only have to modify the process by installing the correct version of adb and OpenJDK on your platform.

One word of warning

If you do flash this beta version of 7.1 onto your OnePlus, you will no longer receive official OTA updates, but will receive Open Beta OTA updates. If you need to get back to the receiving the official OTA updates, you can always do a factory restore.

You should also note that this process shouldn’t erase any of your data. Even so, make sure you have backed up everything before you proceed with the sideloading of 7.1.

With that said, let’s get to work.

Download 7.1

The first task you must undertake is downloading the 7.1 image for your OnePlus 3. I’ve found the download site to be rather slow, so it’s best to kick this off first. Download the file from the official OnePlus download page and save it to ~/Downloads. The file is in .zip form and you’ll want to leave it as such.

Installing adb

While the image is downloading, let’s install adb. We don’t need the entire Android SDK, so this is actually quite easy to do (at least on Linux). Open up a terminal window and issue the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
​sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot

Allow that installation to complete.

The next step is to install OpenJDK, so that adb will function properly. Before you run through these steps, check to make sure you don’t already have this package installed. Issue the command java -version. If you see a release number for OpenJDK (Figure A), the package is already installed.

Figure A

If OpenJDK is not install, you can make that happen back in your terminal window by issuing the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:openjdk-r/ppa
​sudo apt-get update
​sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jdk

Once you have both of those packages installed, you’re ready to go.

Installing 7.1

Shut down your OnePlus 3 and then restart it by pressing the Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously. When the splash screen appears, release the buttons. You will then be asked to choose a language. Tap the volume down button twice to highlight English and then tap the Power button to select. In the next screen, tap the volume down button to highlight Install from ADB and then tap the Power button.

Plug your phone into the machine containing the downloaded 7.1 file and then go back to your terminal window. Issue the command:

sudo adb sideload ~/Downloads/

Where XXX is the release number.

At this point, adb will begin transferring the image to your device. This process can take over an hour, so don’t bother watching the progress. When the transfer completes, your device will reboot and you’re ready to rock Android 7.1 on your OnePlus 3.

Pleasantly surprised

I was quite pleased with the results of upgrading to the beta 7.1 on my personal OnePlus. I’ve noticed a slight improvement on battery life as well as performance (not to mention the new features to be found in 7.1). If you’re anxious to get the latest version of the Android platform, this is one of the easiest paths for those who don’t want to wait for their carrier to release the upgrade.