Yes, we know it’s iPhone 5 and iOS 6 week this time of year, as Apple has released its sixth major mobile OS refresh a couple of days ago which was followed by the sixth iPhone launch – currently taking place in Asia and Australia and quickly spreading to Europe and the North America. But what we’re strictly interested in today is the inevitable iOS 6 vs Jelly Bean update comparison when it comes to availability and adoption rate among existing consumers, which you know from the get go that it’s not going to be a battle Google can win just yet.

Cost and availability

Whether you’re updating your device to iOS 6 or Jelly Bean, you’ll have to know that each update comes free of charge for no matter how many supported iOS and/or Android devices you own, as soon as either update is available.

iOS 6 was demoed on stage during WWDC 2012 in June, and became available in beta version soon after that, with developers and non-developers being able to run those betas ever since. The OS has been presented one more time during the September 12 iPhone 5 event, and released to the public on September 19.

Jelly Bean was also unveiled in June during the Google I/O event and shipped a few weeks later on Google’s first tablet, the Nexus 7 that was running the OS right out of the box. Updates followed for other Nexus-branded devices, including the Google Nexus and the Nexus S, but they were not released as fast as one would have hoped for, especially for some U.S. versions of those phones.

What you get and who is involved

With iOS 6, you get mostly the same features for a variety of iOS devices, from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 5 – the list includes all iOS devices launched from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 5, except for the original iPad and iPod touch 3G (third-generation) – although there are some differences depending on what device you use and in which country.

Image Credit: Chitika

Apple is the only company in control of pushing out the updates, with carriers left at the door watching the whole thing. Crapware on the devices is not available.

With Jelly Bean, you also get the same features across supported devices. But unfortunately, in addition to Google who’s in charge of directly updating Nexus-branded devices we also have OEMs and carriers having a say in the whole thing. OEMs are interested in applying their custom user interfaces on top of Android, while carriers want to add in various apps they think the users would want to have installed on the devices they purchase. That’s why Jelly Bean updates are taking their time.

As for the smartphones and tablets that are compatible with Android 4.1, one would expect to see all the devices that run Ice Cream Sandwich to get Jelly Bean as well. But that’s not up to Google to decide.

With Android, there’s always the choice of going with Jelly Bean custom ROMs, thus getting the latest OS a lot faster and doing away with the carriers’ influence. However, while we do have plenty of How To posts that show you how to install several custom ROMs on a variety of devices, we don’t recommend you go for unofficial ROMs. That’s entirely your call to make, especially if you’re well-versed in Android customization.

Jelly Bean on Nexus S 4G (left) vs iOS 6 on iPhone 4S (right) | Image credit: ZDNet

With both iOS 6 and Jelly Bean, you can expect existing apps to run on the iOS or Android device that’s being updated immediately after performing the update, without expecting developers to release updates of their own for those apps. However, you’ll notice that a variety of apps will be updated to make better use of the features of the latest mobile OS available. And that’s probably especially true with iOS apps for the new iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, as both devices come with a larger 4-inch display.

As for future iOS devices, it’s safe to say all upcoming Apple mobile gadgets will run the software out of the box – the list is probably limited to the iPad Mini (rumored to launch later this year) and iPad (fourth generation that’s coming next year). What’s annoying for the Android ecosystem is that devices still launch with Ice Cream Sandwich on board (if not an even earlier version for certain devices) despite the fact that Jelly Bean has been available to OEMs for a few months – and yes, Motorola, we’re mostly looking at you right now.

A tale of two updates

A story on the matter featured on ZDNet comes just in the nick of time, comparing the update process to the latest mobile OS for either platform for two handsets, the iPhone 4S and the Nexus S 4G. James Kendrick writes:

Like millions of device owners, yesterday I updated my iPhone to IOS 6. Coincidentally, my Nexus S 4G update to Jelly Bean rolled out and I updated it, too. Seeing the two platform updates side-by-side reinforces the reality of Android updates.

According to Kendrick, he was able to perform the updates at the same day on those two devices, and the winner was the iPhone 4S:

Like millions of device owners, yesterday I updated my iPhone to IOS 6. Coincidentally, my Nexus S 4G update to Jelly Bean rolled out and I updated it, too. Seeing the two platform updates side-by-side reinforces the reality of Android updates.

Meanwhile, the Jelly Bean update for the Nexus S 4G – which arrived a lot later than expected for the second-generation Nexus handset – “started off nicely” but was soon hit by Google Play bugs and issues communicating with Google’s servers.

This update comparison verifies what is frequently said about iOS and Android. Apple’s devices get updates all at once with no waiting. The update process tends to go without issues, and life goes on.

Android on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Some phones still haven’t received the Jelly Bean update and perhaps never will. My experience with the Nexus S 4G shows that even going with a flagship phone for Android isn’t a sure bet for prompt updates. I have been waiting for months for each major Android update, even while Google was promising that wouldn’t be the case.

Market share

A new Chitika report reveals that 15% of eligible iOS devices have been updated to iOS 6 on the first day, compared to Jelly Bean “which only saw a 1.5% adoption rate within its first two months.” Comparatively, it took iOS 5 three days to reach the same market share, and since we’re talking about previous-generation mobile OS version, we’ll also note that some Android devices are just getting the Ice Cream Sandwich update they deserve, with ICS currently found on around 20% of Android devices.

Now, without actually trying to figure out how many devices are compatible with iOS 6 or Jelly Bean, we will say that there are over 400 million iOS devices out there and over 500 million Android devices. So that 15% share is quite impressive for a first day update.

Image Credit: Sandvine


Another report from Sandvine goes to show that the iOS 6 update generated in a spike of traffic for Apple’s iTunes stores – App Store and Mac App Store. In addition to the iOS 6 update, Apple also released a Mac OS X 10.8.2 update, while various developers have already optimized their apps for iOS 6. Venturebeat said about these traffic spikes:

As you can see from the chart [above], the surge began as soon as Apple released iOS 6, and actually increased as people got home from work in the evening. Sandvine estimates that traffic levels for Apple stores were nine times higher than average levels.

What I’m curious about is what impact this will have on app and media sales. If people are simply pressing all the new buttons and opening all the native apps to see what’s different, then the traffic boost isn’t really that big of a deal. Apple did actually revamp its digital stores, so it makes sense that people would want to spend more time browsing.

As for Jelly Bean, Google is less likely to experience similar spikes in Google Play traffic because of the way the Android updates are handled. We can only imagine that in case Google would have a stronger say in the way updates are performed, traffic to its own stores would increase at least during the updates and immediately after, which could lead to an increased number of digital content sales.

A foregone conclusion

iOS 6 beats Jelly Bean when it comes to update availability and adoption from existing user base and there’s no way around it – again, we’re not looking today at iOS 6 vs Jelly Bean features. In fact, we can already say that iOS 7 will beat Key Lime Pie, or whatever the latest Android OS version will be when iOS 7 rolls out in 2013, because that’s the nature of these two major mobile platforms that dominate the smartphone ecosystem, at least right now.

Naturally, Android fans can only hope that more Nexus-branded devices will be released in the near future, especially considering the various rumors that have recently mentioned the potential launch of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2, an LG Optimus Nexus and a Sony Xperia Nexus. And don’t even get me started on the recently announced RAZRs that don’t run Jelly Bean out of the box – it’s not like Google paid a tremendous amount of money to buy the company in order to focus more on hardware. Or was it patents?

What OS are you running on your mobile device?

Image Credit: Chitika
Jelly Bean on Nexus S 4G (left) vs iOS 6 on iPhone 4S (right) | Image credit: ZDNet
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