Jelly Bean fragmentation

The first time we saw Jelly Bean in any kind of official capacity was back in August of last year. The new Android iteration (4.1, to be exact) made a subtle appearance, popping up on less than 1% of Android devices. What it represented was an incremental step forward from Ice Cream Sandwich, with a bevy of little tweaks and improvements. The UI was enhanced, and Chrome replaced the “official” Android browser. Aside from those two changes, not much was notable. Incremental changes were made until October 9 of 2012, which would be the last update for 4.1 (4.1.2 officially, by that time).

Android 4.2 was the serious upgrade we’d been hoping for, and it didn’t disappoint. Photospheres, gesture typing, and Miracast were the powerful jabs this time around, and we all ate it up. Of course, we were all concerned Google hated Christmas, but they added December to Jelly Bean on November 27th, so all was well in the world.

Now that Jelly Bean has become the most used Iteration of Android, let’s take a look back at its rise to the top. Overthrowing the Gingerbread king wasn’t easy, but Google had a little help from their friends. If nothing else, Jelly Bean represents a major shift in Android hardware, and how devices are able to support newer versions. More importantly, it represents how OEMs are supporting Android.


The beginning

Debuting with 0.8% of devices running Jelly Bean, we had yet to see the true implementation of the new version. Two months later, We saw the first significant improvement to adoption, as Jelly Bean was now showing up on 1.8% of devices. This was the beginning of October, and a few weeks away from the Nexus 4 launch.

Let’s also give Google credit for not pushing out another Android version, which only serves to complicate the fragmentation discussion.

About a month after the Nexus 4 was launched amidst Hurricane Sandy and a botched event in New York, Jelly Bean took a big step forward. By the end of November, Jelly Bean 4.1 would see another 1% increase. At 2.7%, it was catching on pretty quickly, and outpacing Ice Cream Sandwich which came before it.

Now that December had made a home in Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean took another step forward. December 4th was the first time we would see the new Jelly Bean 4.2 listed, clocking in at the familiar 0.8%. Just as curious was the increase 4.1 was seeing, this time with nearly 6% of Android devices running the now older Jelly Bean. that number would remain in place until four days into 2013, with 4.1 showing up on 9% of devices, and 1.2% for 4.2!

Jelly Bean October 2012 to January 2013

By early 2013, the Nexus 4 kluge was in full effect, and other devices were starting to see Jelly Bean. The Galaxy S3 had been getting the Jelly Bean update for quite some time, and the RAZR lineup joined the Droid DNA in the land of Jelly Bean. Each month would see a remarkable improvement in Jelly Bean implementation, growing to nearly 14% combined in February, and nearly 17% by the end of March. In the span of three months, Jelly Bean had gained roughly 7% in Android market share, while Gingerbread fell 4%.

Since that time, Jelly Bean has skyrocketed, surpassing Gingerbread to take the Android lead. At 38% compared to 34% for Gingerbread, Jelly Bean has turned tide for Android. But where did this come from?


A little help

Android survives on its devices, just as those devices survive on Android. A large part of the reason we weren’t seeing Ice Cream Sandwich overcome Gingerbread was hardware, as the older phones simply didn’t have the guts to effectively run the latest version of Android. Now that hardware has caught up a bit, and become more cost effective, what were once considered premium devices are now easily had on a larger scale. With the push HTC made with the One, and the Galaxy S4 from Samsung steamrolling, it was really only a matter of time before Jelly Bean took the lead.

Android has come a long way since Gingerbread, and so has the hardware running it.

Let’s also give Google credit for not pushing out another Android version, which only serves to complicate the fragmentation discussion. Had we seen another Android version at I/O, the water would once again be muddied. Jelly Bean is shaping up to be that fragmentation conquering hero we so desperately want, and it shows no signs of letting up. With a strong Nexus lineup, and Google Play Edition devices starting a new trend, Jelly Bean is set to conquer.

Android fragmentation

Fragmentation still exists, but now that we have hardware which is as mature as Android Jelly Bean, updates become less of an issue. We can also look to the Motorola X Phone, a mid-range device running the latest version of Android. Over time, those lesser devices running older versions of Android become obsolete. Users upgrade, which gets them an improved Android. If we can look to the X Phone as the new mid-level phone, we can see where fragmentation starts to diminish.

Android has come a long way since Gingerbread, and so has the hardware running it. At the time, Gingerbread was as good an OS as the hardware could reasonably handle. Now, we have hardware that is effectively a PC in your pocket. What was once a discussion about whether or not a device could handle the newest Android has turned into a query as to why the device hasn’t been upgraded yet. Soon, these charts and graphs could start to be a lot less fragmented over time, and that is good for everyone.

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