Gingerbread remains majority share holder for Android OS
Another report of the state of Android Fragmentation has come out and Ice Cream Sandwich is now at 23.7% and Jelly Bean is at 1.8%. The two combined have finally broken the 25% barrier and are going to continue to rise. But that rise is dependent on new devices being purchased to make that shift. The Galaxy S3 has done a lot to move the percentages higher with its great sales. But that is only one device among the large number of phones and manufacturers in the market. While we are now approaching the 1 year mark for Ice Cream Sandwich being available, being at only 23.7% is not speaking volumes for the version of Android. Even the recent Jelly Bean seems to be growing faster an Ice Cream Sandwich did.
Android Fragmentation has been a topic of conversation for the past few years. And it is not going to go away. It will continue to be discussed for many years, primarily because of the market place that it supplies the Android OS to. Unlike Apple, which controls both the hardware and the OS, Google must handle many different layers in order to provide their Ice Cream Sandwich and of late Jelly Bean to new phones. Apple is in control of the process and can chose to bypass wireless carriers in order to maintain a level of control not achieved by Google or even Microsoft with the Windows Phone OS. For Google, there are just plain too many layers they have to go through to get a phone updated with the latest OS.
One of the other big problems is that many of the phones which are able to support Gingerbread cannot support Ice Cream Sandwich, limiting the ability to reduce the fragmentation which is going on. And that is going to continue to be a problem until those phones limited to Gingerbread are retired. But that is not going to happen any time soon. Gingerbread OS phones are still being sold today and that does not look like it is going to be altered. Cheaper mobile devices will not support Ice Cream Sandwich and that is a fact.
Is there a solution for Google to try and resolve the adoption of Ice Cream Sandwich? There may be, but it will take far more effort that Google is probably willing to do. The current process works with Google releasing a new version, such as Jelly Bean. That version is then released to manufacturers who then test it on their mobile phones and add their pieces to it. Once that is done, the manufacturers turn it over to the wireless carriers who then add their pieces to the OS until it is finally ready to be released to owners of a particular phone. It is not in the best interests of wireless carriers to keep putting out updates. I have been with Verizon for a number of year and can expect to see only 1 significant update to the OS. For the Galaxy S3, that will be Jelly Bean. I would like to see what comes after Jelly Bean, but past history says that will probably not happen.
The solution for some of this may be to cut out the addition of all the pieces to the Android OS. The Nexus phone is pretty much a pure Android OS and Google could go down the path of trying to implement the idea of a pure OS being distributed to the owners of mobile phones. But doing that is going to take a lot of effort from Google to get those agreements from manufacturers and wireless carriers. That entails a lot of discussions and negotiations.
It is doubtful that we are going to ever see the Android Fragmentation issues ever be resolved as some hardware is never going to support the current Android OS, what ever it is. The goal should be to see a majority of the Android devices being on the latest OS within 1 year of its release. For Ice Cream Sandwich, that is not going to happen. And for Jelly Bean, it does not look likely right now.
Until Google alters the current working model for distribution of updates, Android Fragmentation will continue.