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Jelly Bean overtakes Gingerbread, but Android remains fragmented


By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 9 Jul 2013 at 11:19

The latest version of Android has finally become the most used edition of Google's mobile OS, highlighting the fragmentation in the platform.

Jelly Bean (Android 4) now holds 37.9% of the Android market, according to Google's data. However, most users remain on the first version - 4.1, released in July 2012 - with 32.3% market share, while the updated version, 4.2, holds only 5.6%.

Its predecessor, Ice Cream Sandwich, remains on 23.3%, while tablet-only Honeycomb has shrunk to 0.1% - not a surprise, as Ice Cream Sandwich essentially replaced it.

Gingerbread (2.3) remains in second place at 34.1%, while older versions total less than 5%. Gingerbread arrived in 2010 as Android's growth took off. In the fourth quarter of that year, Android saw shipment growth of 615% over the year before, according to analyst firm Canalys.

Because of Android's open platform and diverse devices, it's not simple to keep the hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets on a single version, leading to the near-three-way divide seen with Google's OS.

Apple, on the other hand, has managed to avoid fragmentation, thanks to its limited line up of devices, the iPhone, iPad and iPad mini.

Apple last month revealed that 94% of its installed base is running the most recent version, iOS 6, with 5% on iOS 5 and the remaining 1% on earlier releases.

Apple is expected to release iOS 7 later this year, and Google is thought to be releasing Key Lime Pie (Android 5) soon.

Fragmented opinion

Whether fragmentation is a serious issue for Google continues to be debated - not least because the OS continues to dominate smartphones despite it - but a report last year suggested developers prefer to write apps for iOS because of the challenges of writing for multiple versions of Android.

Security researchers at Trend Micro have also pointed out that older versions of software tend to be more of a security risk. "Leaving users on older versions of Android has two consequences: vulnerabilities are left unpatched, and new features won’t reach them," the company said.

Google's own engineers said the company is working on the issue. "This is something we think about a lot," said Android engineering director Dave Burke, speaking at Google's I/O conference, according to CNet. "And we're working internally to streamline the development process and make the software more layered."

He added that Google is looking to find ways to get manufacturers in emerging markets to use the latest versions, saying they stick to earlier editions because lower-end hardware can't support the latest features and apps.

Google also pointed out that the software skins added by manufacturers make it harder to roll out updates - one reason the company is releasing "Nexus" hardware, running a "pure" version of Android.

Google will offer versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 running pure Android - and they'll get more "timely updates" because of that.

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User comments

Still waiting....

for Samsung to update my Galaxy Ace 2 to Jelly Bean but won't hold my breath as we were also told we'd get ICS but were going to jump straight to JB instead. With the updates having to go from Google to Manufacturer to service provider i have decided that my next phone will definitely be pure Android like the Nexus 4 so this endless waiting for updates is no longer an issue.

By blueleader01 on 9 Jul 2013

Not so open is it?

Interesting how, for a company that is "open", they don't give much in the way of raw data. It is probably fair enough that they judge active users as those visiting the Play store, but how many is that actually of the many millions they say are being activated? What if only 5% of Android "users" are ever visiting the store? Could it be that the 2.3 version is 100 times more than this, but they don't go via Play?

And it neatly removes the likes of Kindle Fire, which don't have Play, and therefore their old version isn't counted, and thus disappears.

I'd ask PC Pro to dig deeper but I suspect Google are going to be as closed as usual.

By MJ2010 on 10 Jul 2013

Keep it simple

I think Apple is right in the way it controls it's OS upgrades etc. The problem with Android (And Windows Phone soon) is that there are simply too many devices so no-one knows which to buy etc. All the hardware companies providing minute changes to leapfrog the competition every month or two, makes it too dilly when the OS upgrade leaves behind the older devices.

You keep your fanbase by keeping them happy and ousting them from OS upgrades is not a good start.

By Chris_Snape on 10 Jul 2013

Android OS update

I don't quite get this! When I turn on my Nexus7, if it finds an updated version of the OS, it asks me if I want it installed; 'simples'.

By Gz_jlatty085a0e2 on 11 Jul 2013

Android OS update

I don't quite get this! When I turn on my Nexus7, if it finds an updated version of the OS, it asks me if I want it installed; 'simples'.

By Gz_jlatty085a0e2 on 11 Jul 2013


I F5'd the page so it double posted!

By Gz_jlatty085a0e2 on 11 Jul 2013

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