Jelly Bean Market Share Low
October 2, 2012

Google Slow To Get Android 4.1 Into Users’ Hands

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

It´s a familiar argument against the “free and open” world of Google´s Android operating system: When you buy a new Android phone, (save Google´s own Nexus) it´s likely your phone will be obsolete sooner than if you had purchased an iPhone.

Google releases new updates to their phones regularly, but rather than just push out an update to every device, they have to bring the phone manufacturers as well as the carriers on board first before anyone gets their upgrade. Meaning, users can buy the latest and greatest phone and never know if, or when, they´ll see an upgrade.

Even Samsung´s popular Galaxy S III is still running a one-year old operating system.

Apple, on the other hand, announces an OS upgrade, ships it out in the week leading up to a new iPhone launch, and millions install it straight away.

Some of these millions are still using 3- or 4-year old devices, meaning even more people are able to take advantage of any new iOS update.

Android 4.1, or “Jelly Bean” as it´s commonly known, has been available since July on a limited number of handsets and tablets. So, how has it done in the roughly 2 months since its release?

According to a report from Google and based on the amount of devices accessing their Google Play app store, very few people are actually running their latest and greatest OS, only 1.8%. In fact, according to Google´s data, more than half of all Android users (55.5%) are running the 2-year old Android 2.3 and 2.3.2, known to the Android set as “Gingerbread.”

In fact, when compared to Schmidt´s claim of 1.3 million Android activations a day, this 1.8% seems small, if not paltry.

There are very few devices which are currently capable of running this latest OS which is largely touted as the one version of Android which can beat Apple´s iOS. Google´s Nexus devices (the smartphone and 7 tablet) are capable of running 4.1, as these Google-branded devices will likely be the first to receive any OS upgrade.

Even the Samsung Galaxy S III, largely seen as the best Android handset on the market and the one true rival to Apple´s iPhone, still runs the one-year old Android 4 as users anxiously wait for their carriers to decide to ship the over-the-air update to their devices. Android 4.1 is expected to be available for these S III owners sometime this month.

Looking back one year, the 2011 released Android 4, (or Ice Cream Sandwich, ICS in the forums) has now reached 23.7% of Android market share. This means more than 25%– or one in 4 Android users– are running an operating system at least 1 year old.

Android 4.1 is expected to narrow the gap between the Apple and Google mobile OS, such as improve the slow, stilted lag when using Android (thanks to a software tweak they call “butter”) and limit the fragmentation of the Google ecosystem which has plagued Android since the very beginning. However, with so little market adoption of this new software, the gap remains.

In contrast, Apple released their latest iOS 6 2 weeks ago and has already been adopted by a majority of iPhone users.

Within the first 24 hours of availability, research firm Chitika found that 15% of all their web traffic came from Apple devices running iOS 6. Android 4.1 only saw 1.5% of the same traffic from the same time period.

According to analytics firm Apsalar, iOS 6 has already soared beyond Android 4.1 in terms of adoption, as some 20% of all iOS upgraded their devices within the first 2 days of availability.

As for iOS 5, the one-year old Apple update, 2.2 million users, or 5%, are running this OS, either because they haven´t upgraded  or because their device is more than 3 or 4 years old.

As it stands, it´s likely one in four of every Android and iOS user are running a one-year old or newer OS. However, if iOS 6´s adoption rate continues to climb as fast as it has, (and it will as more and more iPhone 5s are sold) this will not be the case for much longer.