In October, Google revamped Android with the KitKat version, but few devices run the newest software yet. In fact, web traffic data in North America suggests the update for KitKat is even slower than it was for the prior version of Android, Jelly Bean.
According to a report from Chitika Insights published Friday, around 10 percent of Android smartphones and tablets in the study are running Android 4.4 or better. In the six months following the release of Android’s Jelly Bean software, that figure was 14 percent, Chitika says.
Chitika’s data is taken from websites in the U.S. and Canada that use the company’s ad platform, so this information isn’t an exact detailing of the entire market. However, Chitika’s data pool is large; this report was captured from tens of millions of ad impressions using Chitika’s network between March 31 and April 6.
In terms of device types, the data suggests that both Android phones and tablets are getting updated or sold with KitKat at the same pace. Handsets running Android 4.4 accounted for 10 percent of measured web traffic in the study, while 10.6 percent of tablets used KitKat during the measurement period.
I was a little surprised by the data, given that we saw some software updates available for Android 4.4 recently. Motorola has generally led the way, offering KitKat for both its Moto X and Moto G handsets as early as November. At this point, the four major U.S. carriers have all pushed KitKat to the Moto X. But one phone doesn’t make for a whole market, meaning there are plenty of devices from Samsung, HTC, LG and others that are still running Android 4.3 or older.
Google’s data gives credence to the Chitika report, showing even fewer devices are running Android 4.4.
For the period ending April 1, Google’s own dashboard shows that just 5.3 percent of all Android devices visiting the Google Play Store are running the latest software. That too is a proxy for the information as devices could be running Android 4.4 and not hitting the Play Store. Additionally, Google’s data is global, not regional. It’s interesting, however, that Google shows 17.8 percent of Android devices are still running the old Gingerbread software, while Chitika’s numbers suggest that figure is 20.3 percent.
Is this a huge issue or challenge for Google? Not any more so than the company has faced with prior versions. From a consumer standpoint, there won’t be much of a front-facing difference if devices are running Android 4.3 or Android 4.4. Developer frustration, however, could be a factor. Why create or evolve apps with some of the newest features available in KitKat when millions of devices can’t yet use them?