On Android’s Software Fragmentation

We’ve expressed our opinions on Android software multiple times here on iDB. You can imagine that, as an iPhone blog, we are a little biased towards the iOS platform, but our issues with Android don’t come unwarranted.

One of our beefs with Android is that its apps seem to lack the polish that iOS apps have — even in software that is available on both platforms. Why is that? Well, not only do developers have to worry about multiple screen sizes, they also have to worry about multiple versions of Android…

Sure, iOS has a lot of versions out in the wild. But studies have shown that above 90% of iDevice users are on iOS 4.0 or later. Android software, however, is a different story. And Michael DeGusta decided to investigate the phenomenon.

DeGusta took a look at 18 popular Android handsets and their support for the most recent versions of Android OS. The results show a platform that is devastatingly fragmented. Here are some of his findings from the research:

  • 10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
  • 11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
  • 13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
  • 15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December of 2010
  • In a few weeks, when Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, every device on here will be another major version behind.
  • At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

How do Android devices get left out of software updates? For starters, when Google releases a new version of Android, not all devices get it right away (as you can see above). The manufacturers and carriers have to get ahold of it first.

Manufacturers get the update and have to adjust their software accordingly (Samsung has it’s TouchWiz and HTC has its Sense flavor of the OS). Then it’s pushed on to carriers for beta testing. And since all of these companies move at their own pace, customers get screwed.

DeGusta also constructed an infographic of the above info, which you can view here.