Google might be doing the best it can to combat Android fragmentation, but it’s still alive and well according to the latest statistics. The numbers on Google’s Android developers blog paint a grim portrait, in which the three-year-old Android Gingerbread is running on more than ten times as many devices as the new Android KitKat.
The data was collected over a 7-day period ending February 4. As you can see, the relatively recent Jelly Bean is running on the majority of Android devices, with a combined total of 60.7 percent. On the other hand, most of those devices are running version 4.1 of the software, which lacks many of the features and enhancements that can be found in later updates.
What’s more distressing is the Android 4.4 KitKat adoption rate. KitKat is currently running on only 1.8 percent of Android devices. That barely edges out the 1.3 percent of devices still running Froyo, an operating systems that debuted in May 2010. And 20 percent of Android devices out there are still running Gingerbread, which was released almost exactly three years ago.
Compare that to the adoption rate of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean when it was first released, and the results are about flat. Jelly Bean made it to 2.7 percent of devices within its first four months. KitKat has now been out for just over three months. Part of me suspects that people buying new devices might be a bigger reason for new software getting out there than old devices being updated.
This isn’t necessarily Google’s fault. Hardware constraints among older devices as well as software overlays from manufacturers means that updates take time, if they even happen at all. HTC made a helpful chart detailing the many steps of the Android update process, and it isn’t simple.
Google made an attempt to combat Android fragmentation with the release of KitKat, as the software was written to run better on older devices. But many manufacturers discontinue support after a certain period of time.
You can buy a Nexus or Google Play Edition device from Google if you want to keep up with the latest software updates. But even that isn’t a sure thing, as Google discontinued support for the two-year-old Galaxy Nexus, which should be capable of running KitKat (my colleague Kevin Tofel managed to get the software running on a Nexus One, which is even older).
This is in stark contrast to Apple. According to the company’s recent earnings call, iOS 7 is now running on 80 percent of all compatible devices, less than five months after it was first released.