Android fragmentation appears to be on the decline as a pain for app developers, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a panoply of different devices running Android out there. In fact, the number of different Android devices continues to grow, according to a new report from OpenSignal, which collected data from nearly 19,000 different Android devices, a jump of roughly 7,000 more devices than last year.
Compared with last year’s report, that are a lot fewer people using Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which was the second most common Android variant last year. The proportion of devices running Gingerbread dropped from 34.1 percent to 13.6 percent, which is most likely the effect of older devices getting replaced, rather than receiving updates. Out of 682,000 devices surveyed globally, nearly 21 percent are using Android 4.4 KitKat, which is currently the most advanced version of Android available to consumers.
But the report takes pains to point out that older versions of Android are much more common in poorer countries, as measured by per capita GDP. Included on the OpenSignal site is a very nifty interactive chart that makes clear KitKat has much less penetration in countries in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America than in regions like Western Europe.
This is another reason why Google’s Android One program is so important: Android might be open to any device manufacturer, but it is in Google’s interest to make sure those devices are running an up-to-date operating system with full access to Google services, even if those phones are significantly less expensive than models sold in Western Europe or the United States.
OpenSignal collected the data from its Android app, which tracks the performance of various networks around the world as well as working as pointing users to the nearest carrier cell tower. You might remember OpenSignal’s report on Android fragmentation from last year, which included a graphic on Android screen resolutions that went viral. Below is the updated version for this year.
It’s important to remember that Android fragmentation is much less of a problem than it used to be, thanks to Google’s efforts to move core Android elements out of the operating system and into Google Play Services, which updates automatically and works even with older versions, such as Gingerbread. The screen size problem, as shown by the graphic above, isn’t even that bad: Designers now know how to use high-resolution graphics and adapt for minor differences in width and height according to Google’s best design practices.
Still, the report is useful as a another sign of Android’s dominance as the top global mobile operating system. IDC points to Android having an 85 percent global market share, and the way that Android got there is through the unending number of different devices being used around the world — 18,786, according to OpenSignal’s data. Bet on that number rising yet again next year.