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Android’s fragmentation woes aren’t going away

Android’s fragmentation woes aren’t going away

Take a look at Google’s latest Android usage numbers and you could be forgiven for thinking that everything is looking rosy when it comes to the thorny issue of fragmentation.

Users of Android 4.x top 60% and Jelly Bean adoption is zipping along nicely, up almost 5% in the past month alone.

Fans and supporters of Google’s platform will argue, with some semblance of truth, that Mountain View has begun to turn the tide.

Listen to them and you’ll believe that the days when phones were all using different versions of its operating system are long gone.

But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that things aren’t moving as fast as they really could be.

Android 4.3, Jelly Bean, is now over 12 months old.

That it’s taken this long to get two-thirds of the install base singing from the same hymn sheet is criminal.

Android Jelly Bean generic banner

The vast number of manufacturers combined with the slew of skinned Android versions means that Google will never be able to match Apple for speedy OS installation.

But even so surely 59.1% using Jelly Bean shouldn’t really be considered impressive?

Likewise, Android 4.4 KitKat is only sitting pretty on 1.4% of devices.

Digest that for a second. That’s a pitifully small number for an OS that is nearing two months old.

It’s only out on Nexus devices and the latest Motorola phones, but still.

Yes, HTC and Samsung have promised updates for (very) early 2014, but it’s unlikely we’ll see that number reach double figures in the next couple of months.

It all means that come summer, we’ll be looking at the OS becoming fragmented again, as more manufacturers roll-out updates or release Android 4.4 phones.

Throw in the expected launch of Android 5.0 and the whole thing will look messy once again.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Lite

Things aren’t being helped by manufacturers either. Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy Note 3 Lite is expected to use Android 4.3 from the start.

Sony’s newly launched Xperia Z1 Compact will too, although there are assurances it’ll have an ‘almost-instant’ update to KitKat.

Surely, with the system now two months old and counting, it should be included from the word go?

Apple would hardly launch phones using iOS 6 so long after the launch of iOS 7, so why should those who don’t want a Cupertino-made phone have to wait for device makers to pull their finger out.

For big players like Samsung and Sony, Android is essentially a means to an end. A free ride that can be slathered with bloatware and sold on.

It’s time Google got serious and stopped trying to play nice with its partners. Because six years on, Android is still in a parlous state.

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