Google’s monthly Android usage figures always make for interesting reading. And March’s figures, just released, are no different. Froyo is now the number one version, sitting on 61.3 per cent of all Android devices, compared to 29 per cent using Eclair. That at least shows that upgrades are finally happening, with Eclair down from 31.4 per cent in February.
But what’s truly fascinating is the fact that Gingerbread is only on 1.7 per cent of Android phones, while Honeycomb is only on 0.2 per cent of devices. This is largely down to the lack of blowers on the market the software. Only the Nexus S and Nexus One can handle Gingerbread right now, with phones revealed at MWC using that version of the OS yet to be released.
The Motorola Xoom is the only Honeycomb slate currently available, with many more to come in the next few weeks. But such low uptake must surely be a worry for Google, especially when it comes to Gingerbread. The fact that upgrades from OEMs seem to be non-existent, with only vague promises emanating from Samsung and HTC, is troubling for Mountain View.
The length of time it’s taken Froyo to take hold is also a worry. It was first unveiled way back in May last year. By the time Gingerbread phones (and software updates) start rolling out, Google will be releasing its next-gen smartphone edition, Ice Cream, making phones with Android 2.3 outdated.
So, what can it do to ensure Gingerbread catches up and take a decent chunk of Android share before it releases its new version? It can’t hurry OEMs along, it’s their prerogative to use the open source operating system as they wish.
What it can do is hold off on releasing Ice Cream. Not just until May, but until much later this year. It would mean handing the initiative to the forthcoming iOS 5. But it would also means fragmentation would at least be tackled partly and more phones would be using Gingerbread than not.
If it does choose to release Ice Cream early, it will only serve to confuse consumers and create resentment among those who’ve just shelled out for a Gingerbread phone. After all, any software boost will be a long time coming, if it comes at all considering Ice Cream is supposed to be a major overhaul along the same lines as Honeycomb.
Gingerbread’s numbers will be boosted in the next two months as MWC phones hit shelves. But perhaps a bit of breathing space is what Android needs, otherwise 2011 will be another year of customers suffering lengthy waits for software upgrades and quickly outdated smartphones.