Google has just released a new chart with how much market share each Android version has. This is to help developers figure out what are the platforms they should be developing for. For example, the Android 1.5-1.6 versions have less than 3% of the market now, so most developers would probably consider it safe to move on from supporting those users, and save development time and money. It’s understandable.
But what is surprising from this chart is that even after 10 months since Gingerbread first appeared, the majority of Android phones are still not using it, with only 1/3 of them running Android 2.3 and above. I expect that after one year since launch we’ll still see less than 50% of the phones using it. That’s not good. Google needs to get the manufacturers, first, to update all their devices, at least a few Android versions down the road, and second, to update them relatively fast.
Benefits of faster updates
Google has a lot to gain from this, because if most phones aren’t updated or are updated too late, then their browsers won’t be able to run the new HTML5 webapps from Google. Google wants to push the web, including the mobile web, forward, so it makes sense for them to want to keep the browsers as updated as possible and as fast as possible.
The manufacturers probably don’t find a direct benefit from maintaining their phones up to date for years to come, and doing it as soon as a new Android version is available. But this can certainly be used as a competitive advantage over the other Android manufacturers. If one manufacturer is known as the one to always bring updates to their phones, and in a timely fashion, their phones will be recommended a lot more by early adopters to their friends, because of their long-term support.
The Android Alliance
Google promised us that all the major manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson), and also all the major US carriers will join together in an Android Alliance to make updates more reliable and bring them faster to the Android phones. However, they didn’t give any details, and I assume they were talking about starting that from Android 4.0 and forward. So far I’ve noticed that manufacturers update their Honeycomb devices a lot faster than they usually do. That’s promising, since Android 4.0 will be based on Honeycomb.
How it should be
Ideally, I’d like to see the manufacturers offer updates for at least 18 months (3+ major Android versions) after the phones are launched, and all manufacturers should update their high-end flagships from the past 12 months within 2 months of the latest Android version. Also more than 75% of their phones should be updated within 6 months, which is basically when a new version will show up, so I’d like to see most of the phones having the latest version by then. Finally, 95%-100% should be updated within a year. Taking our example, I would’ve liked to see 95% of phones having Android 2.3 after 10 months, not just 31%.
Plus, no “new” phones should be launched 2 months after a newer Android version is released, while still running the previous version. It’s horrible to see Google announce a new version of Android, and then 3-4 months later you see a new “high-end” phone with the old one. For us early adopters, it makes the phone look half as good as it should be.
I know it’s costly for them to update their phones over-the-air, especially since they keep releasing model after model with little differences, but I think what I’m asking for is pretty reasonable, and it’s giving their customers what they want.