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Summary:

Nearly three of every four handsets hitting the Android Market are now running modern versions of Google’s mobile operating system, just as rumors begin swirling around Gingerbread, the next Android version. Between Froyo’s uptake and core apps developed as add-ons, Google is quietly reducing Android fragmentation.

android-dashboard-10-1-2010

Nearly three of every four handsets hitting the Android Market are now running the most modern versions of Google’s mobile operating system, just as rumors begin swirling around the next release of Android. The current picture, provided by Google’s own dashboard service, differs greatly from just six months ago, when only one in four Android phones were running version 2.0 or better. This adoption of the Eclair and Froyo versions of Android, combined with Google’s efforts to offer core apps through its Market, is helping to reduce fragmentation issues.

Indeed, I saw the handwriting on the wall in May as Google began to build apps that were supported on multiple Android versions and then provide them outside the operating system. Software such as Goggles, Gesture Search and Navigation originally launched on Android 2.0 or better devices, but quickly appeared on older Android 1.6 handsets. Based on the distribution of Android versions at that time (shown below), Google effectively doubled the potential user base of such apps by offering them phones running an older version of Android.

The adoption of newer Android versions comes at a time when the next iteration is likely to appear. Developers should see the SDK of Gingerbread as early as next week, says AndroidPolice. When the SDK becomes available, developers will know about, and be able to take advantage of, new Android features and APIs. Once that information hits the wild, we’ll all know what Gingerbread will bring to the dessert table, although reports earlier this summer may have tipped Google’s hand. Unlike the many new features brought by Froyo, Gingerbread is anticipated to focus more on improved design that enhances the user experience for smartphones. Industry sources tell me that Gingerbread won’t likely be the version optimized for Android tablets, however; that effort will be realized with Honeycomb, a version after Gingerbread.

As Google continues to bake Gingerbread, however, many smartphone owners are still left longing to taste Froyo, or Android 2.2. As Google’s own historical data shows, handsets started to ramp up with Froyo in August, but it has seen relatively  little uptake since then. Handset makers gained access to Android 2.2 back in May, but have either struggled to incorporate it as an update to existing phones or have waited to offer it with new handsets due to product lifecycles. Samsung’s Galaxy S class of devices that debuted in June, for example, were supposed to see a Froyo update last month. The update only arrived on time for T-Mobile UK customers, however, as Samsung has pushed back a widespread update until the end of October.

For the remainder of the year then, handset makers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung are likely to keep working on integrating their custom shell interfaces with Froyo and rolling out updates over time. By the beginning of 2011, I expect Android 2.2 to be running on more Android phones than any prior versions, as a result. Even if the Gingerbread SDK does show itself next week, manufacturers will have to take time, possibly months, to put Google’s new platform on handsets, so the march towards 2.2 will continue.

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  1. Great unbiased article! What is the world coming to??

    Many of us by the way have the Nexus One simply because we KNOW it will have Gingerbread first.

    And I so nearly bought the Galaxy S until I saw what they had done (or not done) with earlier Android updates.

    Manufacturers and operators alike are coming round, and I think we’ll see the better ones differentiate not by the UI but by the speed of upgrades.

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  2. I have the iPhone 4 and like the phone, but I also picked up the Samsung Captivate and have rooted, and running Froyo. The screen is very nice and really like the screen size of 4″. I think the iPhone 4 should have been upgraded to at least a 4″ screen. I know others won’t release Gingerbread first, but as long as we can either install it, I will keep my Samsung Captivate. I do like the Nexus One, which for a while was thinking of getting. :)

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  3. When is Google going to release Android 3.0?
    What will be the new features in Gingerbread?
    Why doesn’t Google announce the details now?
    How come no respect for tablets running 2.2?

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  4. I also would like to know when Gingerbread is due to be rolled out to phones!

    I have the Nexus One, and have been reading for months that Gingerbread was due out mid October either on the 15th or 16th. It is now the 14th, but I’ve not read any confirmation that Gingerbread will be released tomorrow, or any other updated release schedule!

    Froyo 2.2 is good, but it has some bugs on the N1, like the wifi dropping out when in sleep mode! So I’m hoping Gigngerbead has some much needed bug fixes!

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    1. Excited for Gingerbread, although I’m fairly happy with the interface as is. Integration with their VOIP would be nice, but that could also come as an app (or update to the Google Voice app if you have use it).

      For me the 2.2.1 update fixed the wifi dropping bug on my Nexus One.

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  5. [...] Market data provided by Google’s dashboard service, and found that nearly three-quarters of Android users are using Android version 2.1 or above. Let’s hope more users are able to upgrade to Froyo before Gingerbread is out of the [...]

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  6. [...] is narrowing. Froyo may even pass 2.1 shortly, given how fast the numbers have changed since the last time we took a look. The current numbers don’t reflect the flood of tablets expected to begin shortly, [...]

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  7. [...] This continues Google’s quick pace of platform updates, though it will take months before existing Android phones make the jump up. This will start the update cycle again for manufacturers and leave existing users wondering when they can get the latest software, a guessing game few consumers enjoy. Last month, Google announced that 74 percent of Android users were running 2.1 or 2.2. [...]

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