It’s now two years since Google said it would work closer with its mobile-making partners to tighten up increasing fragmentation across its Android platform.
At its 2011 I/O event, the search giant said it was aiming to bring the latest software to all phones released in the 18 months prior to that iteration’s release.
But now that promise is looking somewhat optimistic. To say the least.
New figures released by Android developers show that 2010’s Gingerbread version of Android remains the most popular on Google-backed smartphones, at 36.5 per cent.
2011’s Ice Cream Sandwich is on 25.6 per cent of devices, while the current, 2012-released Jelly Bean on 33 per cent.
That’ll make worrying reading for the Big G, which has been trying hard to bring its updates to all Android phones where possible.
Its Google Editions of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One show that it’s desperate to ensure that whatever manufacturers do, handset-owners can experience the latest tech the moment it’s released.
Now it’s clear that either users are simply not updating their phones, or, more likely, key manufacturers are taking an eternity to bring software bumps to devices.
HTC, Samsung and Sony have all been guilty of this in the past. Custom skins are known to slow down changes, hence the Big G’s drive towards bringing vanilla Android to more smartphones.
There are, of course, mitigating circumstances. Many phones out there will be years old and unable to handle Jelly Bean.
But what about phones packing Ice Cream Sandwich, released early to mid-2012? Surely they should all be rocking that version by now.
The sluggish approach, which Google was apparently desperate to bring an end to in 2011, seems to be continuing apace.
Getting round this is hard. Google doesn’t like to dictate too much to its partners and custom skins are just about the only thing that help mobile-makers differentiate their Android wares.
Perhaps it’s time they focused on really great hardware and left Google to do all the software work.
Or maybe Google should really clamp down and explain that is stymying app development on its platform.
What’s likely is that little will change. Apple manages to get the majority of its users onto new versions of iOS within a couple of months of a major update.
The vertical approach it has helps, so surely Google can learn from its biggest rival.
Otherwise, people who’ve paid handsomely for the best smartphones will continue to miss out.