One thing I love is statistics proving a point or an argument. Of course it can be argued that statistics can be used to prove any side of an argument but this time what has been known for some time (that there’s serious fragmentation in the Android market) is shown to us thanks to the hard work made by Michael DeGusta at theunderstatement.com.
Michael was went back and found every Android phone shipped in the United States up through the middle of last year and tracked down every upgrade that was released on each device, comparing the dates and versions to the currently shipped version of Android at the time. The resulting chart is a timeline graph of phones and what you can see immediately is that Android device makers (with the exception of the plain vanilla Nexus One) aren’t running the latest version of Android and in some cases never were (Looking at Motorola and Samsung).
Other than the original G1 and MyTouch, virtually all of the millions of phones represented by this chart are still under contract today. If you thought that entitled you to some support, think again:
- 7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
- 12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
- 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 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.
Also worth noting that each bar in the chart starts from the first day of release – so it only gets worse for people who bought their phone late in its sales period.
This is just proof that in order to keep Android owners interested (Look at the looming exodus to iPhone 4S and 5) the release method is going to have to change. Google is going to have to become the only over the air source of Android updates. This is going to require a major change in how carriers and manufacturers operate and I seriously doubt they will give up control.
So what if carriers and manufactures don’t cooperate?
The only solution is for Android to be distributed directly from Google straight to phone just like Apple does iOS now. Of course, this will only happen if Google becomes a phone manufacturer, or controls a manufacturer directly (Motorola Mobile?). Let’s hope Google has the guts to take on the entire mobile space with a move like what’s required to keep the fragmentation down.