For right now the sad truth for Android fans is that their fragmentation persists, while Apple customers needn’t worry this will ever be an issue for them.
A Little History
Apple is great at building operating systems. They have a long history of creating robust products like Mac OS, originally introduced in 1984 as System Software to run the first Macintosh computers. Fast forward 23 years, and Apple reinvents the smartphone and the mobile operating system with the release of the iPhone and iOS.
Apple updates iOS each year. In the scant weeks since it was released on September 18, it’s been adopted by almost 60 percent of iPhone users, 45 percent of iPad users and 39 percent of iPod users. Was a big marketing pitch behind it? No. Apple just rolls out the update and politely tells users it’s available.
Can Google do the same thing? No.
Google and partners released the Android OS in September 2008 as an alternative to iOS. The first versions were so ugly and sluggish you couldn’t even compare them with Apple’s product. And though Android’s improved, an ecosystem of dozens of devices made by dozens of manufacturers, each seeking to differentiate itself, led inevitably to fragmentation and compatibility issues cropping up. Although its interface was revamped with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and Jelly Bean 4.1, fragmentation remains Android’s biggest problem.
Since Android is Google’s brainchild, can we blame it for this? Yes, but not entirely.
When Google promised to deliver an open source mobile OS, its partners rapidly adopted it, but soon decided Android in itself wasn’t enough and its interface needed improvement. They may have been right, but their buggy, sluggish and ugly solutions like Sense UI and WizTouch soon divided the landscape.
You don’t have to be a tech guy to understand that it takes time to modify an open source OS and put your own interface on top of it. This is what Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and others are doing. The real, untouched version of Android runs perfectly fine, but only on Google devices: Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 Tablet.
And what happens when a new Android version is released? Devices that use untouched, original Android get it in just a few weeks or less. Other manufacturers, the ones that like to put their own interface on top, update their devices months later — five or six months later, if not more.
Taking this approach with an open source platform isn’t normal. That’s some why users end up hating Android devices. Meanwhile Apple users are happy to use their perfectly optimized OS, which doesn’t seem sluggish and receives updates fast.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is a about year old, and stats from the Android website show that nearly 24 percent of Android devices use it. The Jelly Bean update runs on less than 2 percent. So almost 12 months after a major update, 74 percent of Androids run older versions.
Google unveiled its solutions during this year’s Google I/O. Without mentioning “fragmentation,” the company said a Platform Development Kit for chipset vendors and other hardware partners would be available two to three months ahead of each major Android release. This way, OEMs would have access to updates version months before it’s even announced. By providing the PDK early, OEMs should be able to focus on testing and updating their devices, and eliminate the need for all of their customization.
Of course the key phrase here is “should be.” Now, we’ll have to see how they do.
- Android Current Distribution [Google Android]
- 60% of iPhones on iOS 6, iPad and iPod Touch Close Behind [Chitika]