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Summary:

One of Google’s biggest Android challenges has been devices running various versions of the software. But two things have happened that are helping the issue disappear as 1 in 4 Android devices now run the Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean versions of Android.

Android-Ice-Cream-Sandwich

Since its first software update in 2009, Google Android has been spread out across multiple old software versions, causing challenges for consumers and developers alike. As of Oct. 1, however, adoption of Android version 4.0 and up has crossed the 25 percent level according to Google’s own Android device targeting dashboard: The data is tabulated by looking at software versions on devices visiting the Google Play store  over a two-week period. After long last, Google’s fragmentation issues could be quickly melting away.

October 2012 Android versions

Clearly, a large number of devices are still running Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread. I can think of two reasons. First, the software arrived in Dec. 2010, with new handsets launching in 2011 using the software; some consumers that bought those phones haven’t yet upgraded. Second, handset makers have been slow to push out updates to Android 4.0 for these devices as the hardware has cycled since then. We’re now in the midst of higher-powered, more capable smartphones with faster dual- and quad-core processors. These phones are starting to launch with Android 4.0 or 4.1.

As an Android user for the past three years, I won’t try to defend the software version fragmentation issues that has affected Android to date. Simply put: I can’t. And I’ve called for the parties involved to fix the problem. But Google is closer than ever to resolving or minimizing the issues. Why? Because Android 4.0 — and its follow up, Android 4.1 — is, at least in my opinion, up to par with Apple’s iOS software. The user interface is now intuitive, the software is more stable than ever, and it performs well on quality hardware.

At this point, the amount of change in Android going forward is likely to be far less than it was while Google played “catch up”: Version after version of tweaks that brought constant change for all involved. That change is slowing down and both hardware makers and developers can take advantage of the more relaxed pace of change. My guess: In four to six months, the majority of Android devices are running on Android 4.0 or better. And I anticipate the next version of Android to introduce far less change and be easier to get on more devices.

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  1. Having the most updated version doesn’t matter for most people. As long as they can get on Facebook, they’re happy. More important, are choices on prices, carriers and phone forms.

  2. Older, less powerful devices will not be able to upgrade to Android 4.x.x. They will continue to run Gingerbread until the end of their hardware life-cycle. Motorola Mobility recently announced that they would not be pushing ICS to 3 devices formerly on the upgrade list due to hardware restrictions. I bought my HTC smartphone last Christmas, because it was on the ICS upgrade list. I didn’t get the upgrade till early June when it was originally promised in late February, but I did get it and it has made a huge difference. Google, the manufacturers and the carriers need to coordinate and plan for more timely and pain-free upgrades for Android devices.

    1. “Older, less powerful devices will not be able to upgrade to Android 4.x.x.” I agree with you there. But I also think that many customers with those devices will be upgraded in the near future. Certainly not all, so the problem won’t go away completely.

  3. Given that Mobile OSs are maturing it will be interesting to see what’s store in for future.
    http://www.asksarayu.com/android-vs-iphone-wars/

  4. All of the phones we sell at work are powered by Android 2.2 or 2.3.

  5. This is how I see it: As Android change slows, 1 in 55 phones run latest version.

  6. Jelly Bean was released over 2 months ago and less than 2% of Android users have it. iOS 6 was released less than 2 weeks ago and more than 60% of iPhone users have installed it. Just another misleading GigaOM headline?

    1. Valid point but your numbers are not completely fair. Jelly bean 2.7% was from 2 week period of users logging into Google play not all devices may have logged changing the percentages. I’m sure apple releases updates through Itunes by passing slow carrier updates that android is currently dealing with

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