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.
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.