Finally! More devices using Android 4 than older versions

Credit: Louis Gray

It has taken since the introduction of Android 4.0 in Dec. 2011 until now, but there are finally more devices running Android 4.0 or better software than those that run older versions of Google’s platform. On its Android Developer Dashboard, Google notes that 45.1 percent of Androids hitting the Google Play store of late use Android 4.0 or better. That compares to the 44.2 percent that still use Android 2.3 Gingerbread software.

The uptake of Android 4.0 and its sub-versions of late has been quick. In October, I saw that 1 in 4 devices visiting Google Play used Android 4.0 or better. At that time, I suggested that we’d see half of all Androids use recent versions of software within four to six months. We’re not at the halfway mark yet, but it’s only been four months. With the acceleration of phones and tablets running newer software, I won’t be surprised to see us reaching the tipping point next month.

Android versions Feb 2013

Clearly helping this phenomenon is Android’s changing pace. It has slowed over the past year or so, and that’s a good thing. It means that Android is more on par with iOS and other platforms than ever before. That’s part of the reason some prominent long-time iPhone users are now checking out Android — listen to our latest podcast to hear more on that topic, because there are other reasons as well.

Hardware makers have also “caught” up to the software changes. Even after Android 4.0 arrived in late 2011, it took a good six months for phones to ship with a recent version of Android. By and large many of these now ship with Android 4.1 and not Android 4.2, but the differences between the versions aren’t that great. If the average consumer were to compare an Android 4.1 phone to one with Android 4.2, it’s safe to say they’d be hard pressed to tell the two apart.

The feature differences brought by distributed Android software updates has been a key target for iOS users when looking to criticize Android. These points have definitely had merit; particularly early on in Android’s life-cycle. But I’d argue that Google’s issue has largely diminished and it’s really not that different on iOS; it’s just handled differently.

Some iOS features found in software aren’t applicable to older devices and yet, these are reported as having the same version of iOS as devices that can use the new features. The last three iPad models Apple has produced can run iOS 6, which includes Siri, for example, but only Apple’s third- and fourth generation iPad’s can actually use Siri; different code is actually pushed by Apple to different devices, yet all have the same public version number.

Regardless of which platform you use, this should help Android developers target more devices for mobile apps. And they shouldn’t have to worry as much about version numbers or supported API levels as more Androids run newer versions of the platform.

This story was updated at 2:18 pm to correct the point about iOS 6 compatibility with iPads. Originally, the post incorrectly stated that all iPads can run it.

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