A recent op-ed in Tom’s Hardware takes the view that, well: “Google Can’t Ignore The Android Update Problem Any Longer.” And this comes out concurrently with the latest Android Developers Dashboards numbers on the distribution of everybody’s (barring a few lunatic-fringe Apple cultists, etc…) favorite mobile OS, tracking “data collected during a 7-day period ending on May 4, 2015.” So it’s a good chance to see how well that claim really stands up.
There is the odd curious misreading here and there in the article. For one thing, the writer claims that “As we can see in the distribution numbers chart, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which was released just about three years ago, still only has 15.6 percent of the market.” Well, that’s true, for Android 4.1 – however, as the chart also makes clear, Jelly Bean has been through 4.2 and 4.3 iterations as well, and those account for a further 18.1 percent and 5.5 percent respectively. And pre-4.x distributions are now down to just 6 percent of the Android market tracked by the Dashboards. Add in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and we’re still looking at only 11.3 percent of the Android ecosystem still running on versions prior to Jelly Bean. That hardly sounds like a big adoption problem to me.
Yes, Google probably would like to see faster takeup of Android 5.x Lollipop than the 9.7 percent achieved so far. And I fully appreciate the article’s points about Google’s difficulties corralling its herd of OEMs. However, as others including me have pointed out time and again in the past, too much focus on the OS itself is missing the work that Google gets done through Google Play Services and updates to the core suite of apps. This gives users an experience closer to the latest OS version without having to worry about OEM distribution at all. So the headline figures, even when interpreted straight, are hardly that scary. Case most likely not proven.