Lollipop statue Android Google logo cover

Back in January, the news came out that after just three months, the brand new Android 5.0 Lollipop was installed on roughly 1.6% of active Android devices. Since then, it has been slowly but surely climbed upward. In the latest distribution numbers, Google’s tasty sweet treat has reached 9.7 percent market share.

To little surprise, the most common Android version is currently KitKat with 39.8 percent of the market, followed by Jelly Bean with 39.2 percent. Both of these OS versions have seen a drop however, down 1.6% and 1.5% respectively. As for the rest: Ice Cream Sandwich now sits at 5.3%, Gingerbread at 5.7%, and Froyo at .3%.

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While Lollipop is on the rise, and ancient versions of Android like Gingerbread and Froyo are almost finally falling off the radar for good, the reality is that many users are still very much on older versions of Androd. The problem of fragmentation is something that Apple and even Microsoft likes to call Google out on, and while the issue is greatly exaggerated, there is some true to the matter.

The Android ‘fragmentation’ issue

First, there’s the fact that Google and other OEMs only offer 18 month recommended support for all devices, and many OEMs fall short of this mark, especially when it comes to mid-range and low tier devices. Another issue is with carriers.

When Apple releases a new version of iOS, carriers don’t have much say in what to change. That’s not the same with Android. Some carriers will install bloatware, or demand that the bootloader is locked, and due to the nature of the relationship, the carriers play a big role in how OTAs are handled. All these things slow down the update process. Finally, there’s the fact that there are so many different devices out there with different skins, different hardware, and the list goes on.

The reality is that this perceived fragmentation issue will likely never fully go away, barring massive changes in how Google, OEMs, and carriers handle the update process. But does it really matter? With Google and carriers pushing many of its apps and services to Google Play, even devices running on much older Android versions can still receive plenty of new features and will likely be able to handle the majority of Android apps and games without major issues as long as their hardware is up for the job.

In contrast, Apple somewhat forces folks to upgrade to the next version by phasing out app support for older versions. Bottom-line, running on an older version of Android doesn’t necessarily translate to an “inferior” experience. Though if you are running on anything older than Jelly Bean, it’s probably time for a new handset.

So what do you think about Android’s ‘fragmentation’? Is it an accepted concession of Android’s openness or is it unacceptable? Let us know down below.

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