ICS numbers increase from 1.6% to 2.9%.
Since Google announced their most recent version of the Android OS, the numbers do not seem to reflect what one would expect to see given all the features which are included in Ice Cream Sandwich. In the latest report from the Android Developers site, they are providing the current distribution numbers for all Android versions as of April 2nd and represent the previous 14 days of active mobile devices running which version of the Android OS. You can view the information for yourself at Android Developers site
Last week, I talked about the Android fragmentation which continues to be a problem with Google and all the various version of the Android OS which are operating out there in the world. The numbers are staggering when you look at Android 2.2 and 2.3 with an understanding that Ice Cream Sandwich has been out since October. That 5 month window makes things questionable regarding the roll out of Android 4.0. That is even if you assume that it really was not moving to market until the end of November because of delays.
While the increase from 1.6% to 2.9% is a notable increase, it makes one wonder what those numbers really represent. Given that Google has announced Android 4.0.4 last week, we can assume that things may not be all that great. It seems that there are a large number of Galaxy S2 owners who are unhappy with having to wait to see Ice Cream Sandwich released 3 months after the Galaxy Nexus arrived. Some are still waiting while some are getting the upgrade.
So what do this numbers actually represent. With all the new phones which are being purchased, in particular the Galaxy Nexus, how many are new phones versus upgrades to existing phones. We know that the Galaxy Note is still waiting for Ice Cream Sandwich and it is supposed to arrive in Q2 after previously being promised in Q1. Obviously the collection method is not breaking out the actual devices and if they did, might reveal a much different picture than what this looks like on the surface. If this is 50% new phones, then the upgrades to existing phones is very poor.
Another question is whether this is an official release from a manufacturer or instead a rooted upgrade from leaked source which people are using. While a lot of Android users have the ability to install an unofficial version of Ice Cream Sandwich, there is a good size group who do not have the ability or do not want to take the risk. There is no way to know at the moment just how much of the numbers represent mobile devices running an unofficial version of Android 4.0 on a manufacturer’s device. That will probably never be known. But for many, it is the only way to get Ice Cream Sandwich installed in a timely manner. For some, they may never see an official upgrade to Android 4.0.
All of this is troubling to see and is what I would consider a very slow roll out of Android 4.0. Google’s model of Open Source is a good one, but the time to get an upgrade to smart phones is one that has people complaining about the longevity of their phones. If we assume that recent reports of it taking up to 8 months to get a complete roll out, it potentially means some people will only see a single upgrade of Android before they decide to trade in the phone. That is because the requirements for newer OS’s from Android require much better hardware which quite often is not supported. That is the case right now for a large number of mobile device owners.
Google is approaching a cross road where they are going to have to make some decisions as to how they are going to improve the roll up of updates so they happen far more frequently than they do. If we assume the 8 month roll out being reported, a new Ice Cream Sandwich phone purchase in April is not going to see Android 4.0.4 for potentially 8 months. With the rumors of Jelly Bean coming out in Q3, that would mean they potentially would not see Android 5.0 until 2013. That is just too long and if Google cannot resolve this situation, they are going to lose market share to other phone OS’s who can roll things out much faster.