Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

Summary: I'm not sure when Google, the carriers, or device manufacturers are going to get that ongoing platform fragmentation and lack of user control over their expensive devices is a serious problem.

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Nobody really likes Apple's Draconian control over just about everything that relates to iOS and all things iPhone/iTunes/iPad. If we spend a bunch of money on a phone and access to a data plan, we should be able to use it however we want, right? It's not like Microsoft can tell us we can't wipe out Windows on that new computer we bought and install Ubuntu - the computer is ours. And if I want to install a Dirty Rotten Nasty Girlz app, that's my business, right?

So enter Android, where Google doesn't care what you do as long as you're seeing their mobile ads. Of course, the one fly in the Android ointment is the carriers. In this story, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are the Draconian overlords and thou shalt not enjoy the full benefits of an open, highly capable operating system on phones that look like Star Trek communicators compared to the flip phones of just a couple of years ago.

Case in point? The Android Developer blog recently released the latest statistics on Android platforms in use. Almost 13% of Android users are still running versions of the mobile OS that are several generations old (versions 1.5 and 1.6). These users will never see Android 2.1, much less 2.3, without rooting their phones, either because their carriers refuse to push down upgrades or because the device manufacturers refuse to certify their devices with newer versions of Android.

Again, imagine that you had bought a computer in the year before Windows 7 was released. What if Dell told you that you couldn't even go out and buy an upgrade for that computer and you'd be stuck with Windows Vista forever? Half your friends are talking about how great Windows 7 is and the really useful applications they've found that don't work with Vista but work brilliantly on 7. This wouldn't go over well. So why does it happen with our Android phones? And why should users often need to root their phones, potentially voiding warranties, violating terms of service, and losing carrier tech support just to make their phones work better?

As the LA Times reports,

The update rates for Android users is held back, in part, by the fact that Wireless carriers and not Google control when a specific handset can get a new version of Android. Many older handsets have yet to recieve software updates and likely won't.

On the other hand, Apple's iOS is pushed to iPhones by the company itself and not by AT&T.

CEO David Lieb of app maker Bump Technologies said last week that 89.7% of iPhone and iPad customers are on iOS 4, a far larger percentage than any one release of Android.

No, we may not like Apple's approach to app approval or their rapid hardware upgrade cycles. But iOS users can count on regular updates (even if they sometimes cost money) and developers can count on homogeneity. I'm not sure when Google, the carriers, or device manufacturers are going to get that this is a serious problem.

Topics: Android, AT&T, Security, Operating Systems, Mobile OS, iOS, Google, Apps, Apple, Windows

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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42 comments
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  • Actually, phones look more like "tricoders" rather than ST communicators

    But I digress. Fragmentation occurs because of the short life span of smartphones relative to traditional desktop computer hardware and because the price of a new phone system is much MUCH less than the price of a primary desktop computer system.<br><br>The upgrade in Phone software coincides with its "two year" hardware upgrade cycle. (On new 2 year service contract.)<br><br>However, with tablets becoming more prevalent, Android fragmentation could be a serious problem for that device category.
    kenosha77a
    • Android 2.0 has more functionality than IOS 4.3

      IOS 4.3 (the latest) equates in capabilities to Android 2.0 (which everyone got last year), but for that matter, even Android 1.6 offers much the same capability with Hotspot being included if you root your phone.

      - No High Resolution displays,
      - No SD Card,
      - No external drive support
      - Android Browser is still better
      - No Live wall papers
      - No Widgets
      - Google Navigation pretty much similar to Android 1.5

      Most capabilities offered now on IOS 4.3 (not here yet) Android had Available last MAY, and adoption was prevelant over six months ago.
      - No Flash
      - Improved JIT
      - Chrome V8 Java Integration
      - Better launcher
      - USB tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality
      - Added an option to disable data access over mobile network
      - Quick switching between multiple keyboard languages and their dictionaries
      - Voice dialing and contact sharing over Bluetooth
      - Support for file upload fields in the Browser application[55]
      - Support for installing applications to the expandable memory
      - Adobe Flash 10.1 support[56]
      - Support for extra high DPI screens (320 dpi), such as 4" 720p[57]

      When compared to Android, IOS is 6 or more months behind following Android's lead.

      So iPhone fans 3GS and above may get the latest IOS, but capability wise they are far behind anything any Android user has (3G can't do multitasking).

      Gingerbread has just been released by the development team, to compare it now to IOS deployment is foolish as it follows a different model. In a couple months, Android follows an open model, so users and companies can improve on the base code, with Apple your stuck with what you have, outdated and all

      So yeah, faster for Apple, but a lot less capable.
      Uralbas
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @Uralbas
        Being STUCK with a Android Galaxy S I can only say I miss my iPhone, not sure why I bought in to all the Android hype, now I'm stuck with 2.1 and a bunch of crapware apps I can't remove...

        Going back to iPhone as soon as I can find someone to buy this POS phone for at least 150...
        Hasam1991
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @Hasam1991
        It's not Android that is causing your problems - it's the phone manufacturer that got in the way and screwed up the product.

        Samsung phone have always, and as far as I can tell from the attitude from the company, always will suck. Their dumb-phones were POS, not sure why anyone would expect anything different from one of their smartphones.

        The company has their strengths in other products - not sure why they've never been able to carry that over to phones, but they seem to have no interrest in quality, only in quantity and blanketing carriers with their crappy phone offerings.
        DBEvans
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @Uralbas
        Android 2.2 is about two generations behind the iOS.
        - Flash on Android is crap.
        - My phone, pure manufacturer version, keeps running bloatware.
        - Android cloggs its own memory for no apparent reason as it elects to run apps on its own and there's no way to tell it to stop.
        - The way Android manages itself and the apps is laughable.
        - No coherent ecosystem. Syncing is a bad joke.
        - Apps sucks - in terms of user interface, use friendliness, usability.
        - I see no reason to use an SD card on a device that packs 16GB in the cheapest version. Practicality of an SD stuck below battery is dubious. And you can use iOS devices to store files.
        - Unless you use Dolphine, internet experience is average.
        kitko
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

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        3shao
    • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

      @kenosha7777
      To begin with, the fragmentation issue is overblown. I am the happy owner of 5 HTC Evos, and am amazed at the frequency of updates, roughly 2x to 3x more frequent, and much more significant than my iOS products (iPad and iTouch).
      3 significant updates per year is a lot, and they go through flawlessly. If you really do want to make a big deal about fragmentation, you should realize that Apple?s iOS Is The Most Fragmented Of The Leading Mobile Operating Systems???
      See http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2010/12/09/hey-did-you-know-that-apples-ios-is-the-most-fragmented-of-the-leading-mobile-operating-systems/
      Did this somehow hinder Apple? Android's growth is phenomenal, and it is that growth that will keep carriers in check. The more bloatware you put on the phone as a carrier or OEM, the farther behind you will be left in the refresh cycle. Google knows this, and the smarter carriers and OEMs know this as well. This doesn't hurt all OEMs through. HTC's Sense is literally a very material improvement to Android's GUI, as it was to Windows Mobile. Those guys know what they are doing, and it shows because they are usually 2nd only to Google when updating the OS.
      In the meantime, Apples' restrictive model allows for less flaws in deliveries, but that is succumbing to the need to keep pace with Android's development cycle. The last iPad update was rife with issues. In addition, as more people find out what can be done with Android as an actual computer vs. iOS products as consumer appliances, the draw to Android will get even stronger.
      Reference http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2011/01/13/the-iphone-consumer-appliance-vs-the-andriod-device-as-a-ubiquitous-computer/
      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate To begin with, the fragmentation issue is overblown. I am the happy owner of 5 HTC Evos, and am amazed at the frequency of updates, roughly 2x to 3x more frequent, and much more significant than my iOS products (iPad and iTouch).
      3 significant updates per year is a lot, and they go through flawlessly. If you really do want to make a big deal about fragmentation, you should realize that Apple?s iOS Is The Most Fragmented Of The Leading Mobile Operating Systems???See http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2010/12/09/hey-did-you-know-that-apples-ios-is-the-most-fragmented-of-the-leading-mobile-operating-systems/
      Did this somehow hinder Apple? Android's growth is phenomenal, and it is that growth that will keep carriers in check. The more bloatware you put on the phone as a carrier or OEM, the farther behind you will be left in the refresh cycle. Google knows this, and the smarter carriers and OEMs know this as well. This doesn't hurt all OEMs through. HTC's Sense is literally a very material improvement to Android's GUI, as it was to Windows Mobile. Those guys know what they are doing, and it shows because they are usually 2nd only to Google when updating the OS.
      In the meantime, Apples' restrictive model allows for less flaws in deliveries, but that is succumbing to the need to keep pace with Android's development cycle. The last iPad update was rife with issues. In addition, as more people find out what can be done with Android as an actual computer vs. iOS products as consumer appliances, the draw to Android will get even stronger. Reference http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2011/01/13/the-iphone-consumer-appliance-vs-the-andriod-device-as-a-ubiquitous-computer/
      Reggie Middleton
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @Reggie Middleton How can you possibly draw the conclusion that iOS is MORE fragmented than Android based on this: [i]Well, I can feel comfortable in assuming that Apple 4.x does not run on 83% or more of the Apple mobile devices sold. That makes Apple the ?Fragmentation Title Holder?! That?s right, Apple?s iOS is more fragmented than Android.[/i]? And given that you do not have ANY data on iOS version usage on your page as you do Android then I'm calling BS on your conclusion.

        Now if you can come up with comparable data on iOS version usage and prove that iOS is more fragmented, knock yourself out. Here are some figures [i]I[/i] found:

        http://www.journaldugeek.com/2010/07/27/50-diphones-sous-ios-4/

        The page is in French but the pie chart is in English and the breakdown according to that is iOS4 - 50%, iOS3 - 49%, iOS2 - 1%...

        http://www.journaldugeek.com/2010/07/27/50-diphones-sous-ios-4/

        This breaks it down even further - and also includes Android fragmentation data and iPad specific fragmentation data.

        But usage data ALONE cannot give a true picture of the fragmentation - one also has to look at the hardware specs. There are 30+ Android OS device models on the market right now with different processor speeds, screen sizes, screen resolutions, ram vs. 5 iOS device models with different processor speeds, screen sizes, resolutions... etc. With the screen sizes/ resolutions for the iOS devices the screen sizes and resolutions for the first 3 model of iPhones and all of the iPod Touches are the exact same. The iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch are the exact same size and resolution. So really 3 different screen sizes/ resolutions with iOS.
        athynz
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @athynz
        You referenced "The page is in French but the pie chart is in English and the breakdown according to that is iOS4 - 50%, iOS3 - 49%, iOS2 - 1%... "

        Which backs the point that iOS is more fragmented than android which has over 80% of its devices running the 2.x versions. As I said, this argument is overblown, but let's move forward for the sake of argument.

        You also said, "
        But usage data ALONE cannot give a true picture of the fragmentation - one also has to look at the hardware specs. There are 30+ Android OS device models on the market right now with different processor speeds, screen sizes, screen resolutions, ram vs. 5 iOS device models with different processor speeds, screen sizes, resolutions... etc. With the screen sizes/ resolutions for the iOS devices the screen sizes and resolutions for the first 3 model of iPhones and all of the iPod Touches are the exact same. The iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch are the exact same size and resolution. So really 3 different screen sizes/ resolutions with iOS."

        But how does hardware configurations denote fragmentation? Does that mean that Apple's notebook and desktop systems are highly fragmented? Look at the myriad screen resolutions, processor speeds, memory configurations, screen sizes, not to mention different OS versions. There are only 3 maybe 4 screen sizes for the Android, and one of those sizes is native to just one product, the Droid X. Android apps run smoothly across all of the 2.x devices that I have used, which is over 80% of the population. Given the meteoric growth of Android, this is commendable, indeed. Reference the growth here:
        http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2010/11/15/as-forecasted-by-boombustblog-research-android-surpasses-all-os-but-nokias-and-apple-and-android-displace-research-in-motion/

        These numbers are dated, and the gap with Nokia is even closer. I will be posting the Q3 numbers in about 24 hours.

        A more practical discussion to have (honestly, fragmentation is geek speak) is whether Apple is pigeon-holing itself as a consumer appliance vendor or will it replace Microsoft as a new computing standard. Apple's sticky consumer loyalty is well known and document, but 8 out of 10 iPhone or Blackberry users that have seen how flexible the high end Androids actually are have jumped ship and not one of them have complained about the decision yet. Google's leverage of the open source platform was ingenious, and it would have been nearly impossible to uproot Apple with a traditional closed end, proprietary business model that has been commonplace, at least in the near term:
        http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2011/01/13/the-iphone-consumer-appliance-vs-the-andriod-device-as-a-ubiquitous-computer/

        I actually have an awful lot to say on the topic, but I rarely post on these comment forums. Maybe I should start!?

        See my opinions from the beginning - http://boombustblog.com/reggie-middleton/2010/06/01/3883/
        Reggie Middleton
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @Reggie Middleton

        Welcome to the ZDNet blog talk back section. I was just a little taken aback by your link that stated iOS was the most fragmented of the mobile Operating Systems in use today.

        Of course I disagreed with that opinion but I did follow the link you supplied. On the top of the web page was a bold face statement that stated your cited iOS fragmentation assertion. However, as far as I could tell, that was a statement without any collaborating facts to back it up. (I did look.)

        I also noticed that your web page cited was posted around August, 2010. It might be a bit dated. As far as iOS is concerned, all iOS devices that are two years or less old are using the same "most current" version of IOS. Of course, there are some devices that can't use the current iOS system. (For example, the iPhone 3G) because of hardware restrictions. And because of that, I have to explain the following opinions.

        I don't quite know how to state the following concept but I have a problem with grouping mobile devices which are incapable of being updated to the latest OS version with devices that can. And counting that as an OS fragmentation example.

        In other words, in my viewpoint, "Fragmentation" should only be applied to devices that COULD be upgraded to the highest version of any particular mobile OS but are not.

        I believe that was in the spirit of this Blog post by Chris Dawson where he was stating that mobile Android devices in use that could be upgraded to the latest version of Android and were not. (For "any" reason given.)

        That, to me, is an example of fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.
        kenosha77a
  • Or maybe it's out of choice?

    Android users choose if and when to upgrade their phones. Alot of people I know can't be bothered upgrading a phone that is working just fine.

    I don't believe iPhone users have as much choice about if or when their phone OS is updated.
    iTeaBoy
    • Re: or maybe it's out of choice.

      @iTeaBoy. Not if the update is not available they don't. This is just. The point phones that are selling now will not be upgraded.past 2.2 and many recent phones are stuck on 2.1 and below. Check link below.<br><br><a href="http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=7346" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=7346" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=7346" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=7346</a></a></a>
      A Grain of Salt
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        Please excuse the grammar of my above post. The site is changing it. I try to correct it and the post gets reported as spam. Hopefully the message is still understandable.
        A Grain of Salt
      • Did you read that link you posted?

        @A Grain of Salt
        That link you provided says nothing about phones not being updgraded past 2.2

        In fact I have a Samsung Galaxy S and upgraded it from 2.1 to 2.2 a few months ago (an officially supported upgrade).

        There are already unofficial 2.3 updates available for the Galaxy S so I'm hopeful of an official 2.3 being released in future. But, I'm not hanging out for it. The phone works great, and as someone alluded to above... I'll be due a free upgrade in about 12 months so I'm not fussed if the phone isn't able to be updated to the latest OS 2+ years after I purchased it.
        iTeaBoy
    • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

      @iTeaBoy Sure we do - we do NOT have to update the OS on our devices if we do not want to. The issue with that is that - like the people running Android 1x - we'd be stuck using an older version of an app and would not be able to use apps designed for the newer versions of the OS. But there IS the choice.
      athynz
      • Sorry but...

        @athynz

        I'd be missing Flash and a few enhancements to the GMail app, and maybe a few other google services (Earth/Maps?).

        You'd be missing, sort of multitasking, cut/copy/paste, tethering, MMS, Stereo Blootooth / A2DP, Web Mail integragtion, voice dialing, and video calling....

        There may be others but that's already more than I'd like to be waiting for an update to provide.

        ;-)
        iTeaBoy
      • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

        @iTeaBoy

        Not accurate. On my 3G (2nd model to be released and my prior iPhone) running the stock iOS I have cut/copy/paste, MMS, core apps multitasking, and Stereo Bluetooth. Jailbroken I have all of the features you mentioned with the exception of voice dialing and video calling.
        athynz
    • RE: Only half of Android users are running Froyo and Gingerbread is MIA

      @iTeaBoy
      I would like Gingerbread but my carrier has me on 2.1 with crapware apps I can't remove. I miss my iphone badly...
      Hasam1991
  • Minor vs major updates

    Comparing Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) to Windows 7 hardly seems fair. Gingerbread is a minor update to Android 2.
    Also remember that roughly half of Windows users are still running Windows XP, a version that is 10 years old. Compared to that, few people are running a version of Android older than 2.

    And for the iPhone comparison, had there only been one Android handset in the market, close to all phones would be running the same version as well. Non-synchronized updates is the price you pay for hardware options.

    I do however think that all phones should be unlocked and that there should be a binary version of stock Android distributed by Google that users could install on their device. Without handset manufacturers testing the new version you can never be sure that it will work 100% though. Just like you can never be a 100% sure that installing Windows 7 on your old Windows XP machine will work out.
    Theli
  • Normal users... Don't need to upgrade

    I don't see why this is really an issue... When you think about it, a regular user only calls (that's is possible in previous versions of Android), sends text (that's also possible)... and maybe play with their apps.

    As iTeaBoy said, even if an upgrade is available all don't really upgrade. It's working fine and an upgrade might mess it up...
    tpiom