KitKat and Lollipop running almost half of all Android devices

Almost 50 percent of Android smartphones and tablets accessing the Google Play store are running Android version 4.4 or 5.0.

Almost 50 percent of Android smartphones and tablets accessing the Google Play store are running Android version 4.4 or 5.0.

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The data, which is based on smartphones and tablets accessing the Google Play store over a 7-day period ending on April 6, 2015, shows that Android 4.4, codenamed KitKat, is installed on 41.4 percent of devices, with Lollipop climbing to 5.4 percent.

Android 4.4 was release on 31 October, 2013, and first made its public appearance on the Nexus 5, but it now powers a whole range of smartphones and tablets, with Lollipop first being offered as an over-the-air (OTA) update to devices in November 2014.

On the downside, that still leaves the aging Jelly Bean (first released mid 2012) powering over 40 percent of devices, and even older versions powering another 10 percent.

The problem with getting users up to the latest version is not down to a lack of interest. Indeed, the speed and ferocity with which iOS users upgrade to the latest version shows that users clearly are interested in new versions of operating systems. The problem is that Google is the beginning of a long system that updates have to go through.

Whenever Google releases a new version of Android, device OEMs have to then customize the release, add their own tweaks and personalizations. Then, for smartphones and tablets that are hooked to a carrier contract, the carriers have to add their own branding. The problem is made worse by the fact that neither the OEMs nor the carriers feel there's much of a benefit in pushing free software updates to customers, and would rather focus on selling owners a new device.

Another problem with such fragmentation and slow pace of updates is that users stuck on older versions of Android are being left vulnerable to malware and data theft as a result of bugs in the code. Take, for example, the recently-discovered Pileup bugs which leaves every Android-powered smartphone and tablet - more than a billion devices in all - vulnerable to malware thanks to privilege escalation issues.

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